Meat doesn’t sound like a great ingredient for desserts, but that’s probably because you’ve never tried ‘tavuk göğsü’, a creamy, sweet pudding with chicken breast as its main ingredient.
Legend has it that tavuk göğsü was invented centuries ago, when one of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire got a craving for something sweet in the middle of the night and cooks at the Palace of Topkapı had to work with the only ingredient left in their kitchen – chicken. That’s just a legend though, and even in Turkey, a country so proud of its rich culture, there are those who claim there isn’t any chicken at all in tavuk göğsü. It certainly doesn’t taste anything like chicken, but Turkish cooks specializing in this unique dessert say it’s because the meat is pounded into small bits and boiled until it dissolves in the pudding. Its main purpose is to give tavuk göğsü a different texture than regular puddings.
Photo: YouTube screengrab
To find out the best way to make Turkish chicken pudding, Munchies France traveled to the Özkonak restaurant in Istanbul, where Hamdi Bey has been preparing it for the last five decades. He was kind enough to share the recipe and making-of process, while adding that this is the type of dessert one cannot make at home. “Basically, to fill up a tray, you have to boil three liters of milk and half a kilo of sugar. Then, you grab the chicken breasts—nice ones, too! Not the ones you buy at the store; you have to go to the farm! And you put them in a large pot of milk, after it’s cooled down, and pound them with a large wooden ladle so they break into pieces and dissolve,” he explains. “Afterward, you heat that up for 20 minutes on the stove, and pour it into the metal trays, where it is cut into pieces.” Hamdi adds that the amount of sugar added depends on the material you’re working with, like the milk fat or the texture of the chicken.
One of the servers at Özkonak claims getting tavuk göğsü just right at home is almost impossible. “It’s very physical and very long, and you need special equipment. It’s almost impossible to make a good one at home, so people come buy it here and take it to go,” he says. “Try to make one at home, you’ll see! You’ll be back here in no time!”
Even though it’s been around for a very long time, tavuk göğsü is regarded an an unusual dish, even by some Turks. Eating a dessert made with chicken meat is probably universally unappealing, but most say that after you’ve mustered the courage to try it, it’s easy to ignore the unusual ingredient. “Of course it’s weird at first, but you need only taste it to forget about that,” says Volkan, a Turkish-American raised in the United States and now a regular at Özkonak.
But what if you don’t know there is chicken in tavuk göğsü? Apparently, a popular prank among foreigners living in Turkey is to invite friends to tavuk göğsü, and conveniently forget to reveal its secret ingredient until they’ve gobbled up at least half of it. Even though they initially enjoy it, once they here it’s made with chicken, some will just put down the spoon and act all disgusted.
via VICE Munchies