Dong Tao chicken in Dong Hoa

Updated 11:37, Tuesday, 14/02/2012 (GMT+7)

Dong Tao chicken which in the past was used as a delicious food offering to Kings, has risen to fame during the recent Lunar New Year as people sought them to use for gifts and meat. The stock of chicken is well-known for its awkward-looking, bulky legs.

Khách đến tìm hiểu và mua gà tại trại gà của anh Tuấn.  Ảnh: V.N
 Tuan's chicken farm in Dong Hoa

Even though it’s price is hefty, specialty restaurants in HCM city ran out of stock. Although the chicks originated from Hung Yen province’s Dong Tao commune, the current largest purebred Dong Tao chicken farm is located in Dong Hoa commune, Dong Nai province.

Dong Tao chicken in Dong Hoa

With 400 pairs of breeding stock, each day the farm sends dozens of Dong Tao chickens to the market. Vu Ngoc Tuan’s rare chicken farm in Dong Hoa is becoming a supplier to many restaurants in HCMC serving wealthy customers.

Tuan says during a trip to the North at the end of 2004, he came across an article on Dong Tao chicken with their strange, big feet. He then bought 10 chickens as breeding stock from Tich, who was previously known as the Dong Tao chicken King.

“At first, seeing chickens with rough feet, and red, ugly skin fascinated me, I just wanted to raise them for fun”, Tuan says.

That day, on his way from Hung Yen back to Dong Nai, Tuan planned to raise the chickens the industrial way. However, on arrival, the poultry refused to stay in captivity and fought each other wildly.

Gà giống Đông Tảo.
Grown-up Dong Tao chicken

Tuan sought advice from chicken experts and learned that Dong Tao chickens were a picky type. The chickens were not used to staying in cages, but preferred running around. In order to accommodate this, the farm needed to be spacious, giving room for them to exercise and produce especially tasty, firm meat.

It takes a year of free-range farming and eating organic food for the chicken to mature. A grown-up Dong Tao chicken can weigh between 3 and 6 kilos.

Besides, they tend to lay fewer eggs than normal chickens, with their unhelpfully big feet making the hatching even more difficult. So difficult, in fact, that Tuan had to find a manual way to hatch the eggs.

Tuan’s current chicken farm is the product of years of hard work. According to him, unlike other types of chicken, the older Dong Tao chickens are, the thicker their skins, and the firmer, crispier and sweeter their meat.

Currently, each kilo of Dong Tao chicken meat is priced at VND350,000-400,000 (US$17-19) depending on the type. Breeding stock costs VND100,000-120,000 per chicken. Roosters, of a fine appearance, with big, strong feet can be worth up to VND5-6 million ($238-286) each.

Out of stock

A chicken farm owner in Thong Nhat district says humorously that during Tet, apart from the dragon, the most talked about animal is the Dong Tao chicken.

During the recent Lunar New Year, suppliers ran out of stock, as a great deal of people wanted to buy these purebred chickens that were both strange and tasty.

Moreover, as customers have started to learn more about Dong Tao chickens, restaurants have taken the opportunity to offer new dishes served as specialties.

Nguyen Tat Han, general manager of Non La restaurant in HCMC says in the run-up to Tet, diners repeatedly ordered Dong Tao chicken but the restaurant did not have enough to offer; whilst after Tet, there was no stock left as suppliers did not have anything to deliver.

Those in the restaurant industry say there are many dishes that can be made from Dong Tao chicken, each with distinct taste - such as stewed chicken with mushrooms, and stewed chicken feet with Chinese herbs.

Meanwhile, at Hang Duong restaurant in District 7, staff say even though demand is high, supply is still short.

The price per kilo for Dong Tao chicken is sold at restaurants around VND650,000, which tend to sell the meal as a whole chicken. Thus, only well-off guests would order this type.

Many people sell Dong Tao chicken on the internet, too, but normally price is not clearly stated until someone makes a contact.

For the southern market, a newly hatched Dong Tao chicken as breeding stock is worth VND110,000; a one-month-old VND250,000 (weighing 350 grams) and a half-kilo VND600,000-700,000.

Chicken for royalty

According to Dr. Vo Van Su, head of the Department of rare animals and diverse biology (Institute of Farming), Dong Tao, or Dong Cao, chicken is a unique Vietnamese breed.

It is a traditional chicken breed in Dong Tao commune. People used to raise the chickens to use the meat in ritual offerings and summer festivals. Some even say the chicken used to be a dish for kings.

Dr. Su says there is a trend to raise Dong Tao chickens because of their high economic value. Some other countries, such as England and Japan have considered importing this breed for research.

(Source: TTNews)