Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to Cook and Steam a Caponised Chicken for the Emperor Ti Kong

I doubt if anyone today is able to buy a capon in Singapore. I am cocky sure that many young Singaporeans even know what a capon is. Well, I'll save you the trouble to google for it. A capon is a castrated rooster or is known in Hokkien as "Yam Kay" (阉鸡) which the bird's testes are completely removed by a surgical procedure. As a result of this procedure, it changes the way in which their meat matures.Caponized roosters grow more slowly than normal roosters and accumulate more body fat. They also tend to taste less gamy, because they do not develop sex hormones, which can impact the flavor of the flesh. The meat of uncastrated cockerels tends to become rather coarse, stringy, and tough as the birds age. This is not the case with capons as they have more tender, fatty flesh because they are not as active as roosters are.

In my childhood, capon had a role that was more ceremonial than culinary. It was offered on the altar table on the night of eighth day of the Lunar New Year to pray to the Emperor of Heaven (Pai Ti Kong). I remember watching this surgery been performed by an old uncle doing his round in the neighbourhood, where roosters were kept in the backyards specially for this sacrificial role. In exchange for this sacrifice on the rooster part, the castrated roosters were pampered and given the best table scraps until their fateful day. My mother took this annual ritual seriously and always saw to it herself to raise the fattest rooster in the neighbourhood, perhaps because it was her family's favourite dish but also because it was an important dish for Pai Ti Kong.

How to Cook A Caponised Chicken.

Rub plenty of sea salt well into the chicken inside and out. Rinse the chicken thoroughly with water. Put the chicken into a large stock pot and pour in enough water to cover it by about 2 inches. Remove the chicken and bring the water into a rolling boil. Place two cloves of slightly crushed garlic, two slices of ginger and a stalk of spring onion in the cavity of the chicken. Put the chicken into the pot and heat until the water returns to a boil. Reduce the heat so that water is at a very low simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Cover the pot with a lid and turn off the heat and let the chicken poach for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and plunge it into a large bowl of ice water- this stop the cooking process and tighten the skin. Take the chicken out of the ice water and remove the herbs in the cavity. Lightly sprinkle the chicken with sea salt and gently massage sesame oil into the skin.


  1. phil, i blogged about this in 2007.
    the caponised chicken was much bigger than the normal chicken. the 'drumstick' was really huge.

  2. Hi YG,
    Thanks for vivifying the the surgical procedure. It could be the same old uncle (travelling vet) plying his trade in Singapore at that time. I remember he also desexed other animals.
    Yes, the prized 'drumsticks' were given to eldest grandson and other drumstick to the best performing sibling in the final school examination. :)

  3. where to find this chicken in sydney??

  4. Hi BY,
    Not available lah. Maybe I should start a market for it. RSPCA will be knocking at my door. :0