A few years ago, I was in Madhya Pradesh as part of a food trail. We were invited to the palace of the Maharaja of Dhar for dinner. Among the elaborate menu was a curry made with a curious version of chicken with a dark black tinge to its meat. We were told that this was the famous Kadaknath Chicken, a type of fowl, which is available mainly in parts of Madhya Pradesh. This was supposed to be one of the handful species of black chicken breed found in the world.
Kadaknath Chicken has come into the limelight recently, but it was traditionally reared by the Bhil tribe of Madhya Pradesh for the past few decades. This country fowl is completely black, including the feathers, the bones, the beak and even the meat, mainly because of its high melanin content. The breed is native to the Jhabua and Dhar regions of Madhya Pradesh, where it is locally called Kali Maasi. The locals feel that the chicken has high therapeutic capabilities by virtue of increasing the body resistance.
The chicken and its eggs have high protein, iron and vitamin content, and are supposed to be beneficial for those suffering from asthma, anaemia and heart diseases. There is also a school of thought believing in the chicken’s aphrodisiac qualities. The meat is sold around `1,000 to 1,400 per kilogram, and is also known for its taste, which has attracted many food lovers to it.
As the nutritional value of the chicken became known, many breeding centres came up in the state, providing income to hundreds of tribal families. The Madhya Pradesh government has even applied for Geographical Indication (GI) status for this breed. With the demand spreading to neighbouring states, a few hatcheries even in the Telugu states have now started breeding the bird.
If you want to taste this chicken in Hyderabad, Jivati restaurant in Jubilee Hills is possibly the only place where it is available. Known for sourcing rare organic ingredients, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, the restaurant brings in the bird from Madhya Pradesh and offers two different preparations of this chicken breed, including an Andhra style pulusu and a Kashmiri gravy preparation.
Typically, the chicken is cooked with its skin, the way it is usually done with country chicken. Mahendra Bharadwaj from the restaurant stresses that the size of the Kadaknath breed is smaller than the usual chicken, and it has a low fat content. Hyderabadis have started liking the taste and the restaurant has also started to offer a biryani from this breed on prior orders.
Sabyasachi is a food explorer and blogs at www.foodaholix.in