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Aug 30, 2013 10:49 AM

Live and Freshly Killed Chickens at King Poultry & Produce in San Francisco Chinatown

Thanks to little big al’s tip , on Tuesday morning I found the time to stop by the new poultry shop on Broadway (@ Powell) in Chinatown. It’s spic-and-span with a small display of fresh produce, a self-serve cold case I didn’t investigate, giant bags of rice, a windowed room with live chickens in cages, and a meat case with a limited amount of dressed birds of display.

At 9am, there were three different kinds of whole chickens (with heads and feet) neatly packed in open end clear plastic bags in the refrigerated case, including black skinned silkies, priced per bird rather than by the pound. They’re $10 to $12 each, which is the going rate for Chinese heritage breeds. My language skills weren’t up to the task of finding out many details for when and where the birds are slaughtered. I asked the friendly counter man whether the birds were killed that day and he nodded. He handed me one of the dressed birds that was sitting on the stainless steel back counter ready to go into the refrigerated case. It was warmer to the touch than room temperature and soft of flesh and skin, presumably because it had been sacrificed and dressed shortly beforehand.

I bought one of the black silkies, $10, to make soup. This was thoroughly chilled coming out of the case, but had not gone into rigor. The plastic bag had no condensation or liquid seepage from a water bath. The bird had a fresh aroma with no off odors. It also looked to be bigger than the ones I buy at the Chinese supermarkets for $10 to $12. I weighed it at home. Packed without giblets, it was three pounds and three ounces vs. the usual two and a half pounders. The bird was blemish free with very few pin feathers.

This looks to be my new poultry supplier in Chinatown. I asked for parts, and the only thing besides whole birds for sale seems to be giblets. Ducks were listed on the sheet. I didn’t take photos of the interior or the price sheet, not wanting to alarm the shopkeeper, but I hope others can fill us in on the inventory.

King Poultry and Produce
758 Broadway
San Francisco, CA

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  1. Thanks for the post Melanie. Look forward to trying this place out on Sat. morning.

    Any idea what the other breeds were, apart from the Silkies?


    1 Reply
    1. re: osho

      The types of white skinned chickens that you'll see in Chinatown are the standard brown chicken, yellow-haired chicken, wai hong (aka Vikon), and loong kong chicken. I did not see the yellow tufts on the head (the butchers leave them on for ID) of the yellow-haired chicken. I think that one of the types in the case might be loong kong, judging from the elongated legs.

    2. Thanks for posting, I moved from NYC 3 years ago and constantly lamented at the lack of super fresh poultry for medicinal soups, especially the black hens! Can't wait to drop by for the next pot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MotMot

        Please let us know when you try it. Any add'l intelligence on this place would be welcome.

      2. In the last week or so, I've been here twice to get freshly killed chickens to make medicinal tonics. The first of the white skinned chickens was wong mo gai (yellow feathered chicken) for $9.50. Very fresh, leanish and with a minerally flourish to the clean and direct chicken flavor. The second one was called gui fei gai, which I think of as a style of prep rather than a breed, for $10.50. From heft it seemed a little bit larger and had more yellow fat deposits. This tasted like loong kong gai to me with richer, deeper flavor. Both made wonderful stock.

        And I forgot to ask how much the live chickens might be.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong


          Sure you have mentioned before, just to reiterate. On Stockton st., within the fish arcade (between Pacific/Jackson). Live fowl market... guinea fowl, peasants, chickens (various), etc.... you may have mentioned before, I think.

          1. re: FoodTrippin

            Peasants? Just kidding, same outfit (as Melanie pointed out) has an operation on the east side of the last block of Dupont Gai (Grant Ave.). Look for the place that looks like a laboratory. Sometimes there are rabbits.Guinea fowl mmmmmm.

            1. re: little big al

              Peasants? Shucks, my simple heritage shows thru ;)

              1. re: FoodTrippin

                You are talking about the home of "Never Ending Quails."

                1. re: soupçon

                  The wayback machine found this post about Never Ending Quails.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I think Never Ending Quails is still inside the mall; just not on the awning.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                Melanie.- wondering if I will be able to get one of these chickens there. I love fresh chickens, but I have live chicken phobia. I'm really afraid of the feathers (please don't laugh!!) so I can never get near these live chicken stores. I'm also veery scared of picking up a bag that has the head attached. Advise?

                1. re: fayewolf

                  Then you'd best stay away from this spot. The times I've been in, most customers are buying live chickens. You might try one of the other poultry stores in Chinatown, such as San Francisco Poultry on Grant Ave. that looks like a laboratory. Be advised that chickens are sold with head and feet on. I have no idea if you can ask to have the head removed before purchasing. It probably depends on whether you can speak Cantonese or if a staffer understands English to make the request.

              3. The live chickens, do they give eggs? Are they vaccinated? Thank you!

                1 Reply
                1. re: diana1

                  The live chickens available at this store are raised and sold for meat consumption.

                  If you are looking for laying hens or pets, this is not the place. I've recently learned that animal shelters often have laying hens that have been turned in when their former owners learn it is more work than expected to keep chickens at home. You might try there first.

                2. I missed this thread the first time around, but am excited to have a good place to get super fresh chicken.

                  I have a question: several of you mention medicinal soups and tonics for which you prefer fresh chickens. What do you mean by 'medicinal tonics' here? I always make a big pot of chicken soup when I or a loved one is sick; I say that by the time you finish the pot, you'll be better. But do you mean something else? If so, care to explain?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pauliface

                    There are several tonics that have bone broth as its base.

                    Such as, steaming a silkie chicken for 24 hours into a dark broth and cooking it with a certain type of tree bark, dates and ginseng to treat immunity problems or respiratory complications. This usually is a pretty small yield, but is particularly potent.

                    Many other chicken soups are considered medicinal based on the ingredients. You'll find a lot of chicken soups made with lotus seeds, lotus roots, wood ear mushrooms, daikon radish, goji berries, dried jujubes, dried lily buds, dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger... Definitely not your classic Western chicken soup. All of these ingredients have medicinal properties.

                    Tonics and soups have the similar preparation, and sometimes similar ingredients, but the tonics are heavily concentrated, prepared anywhere from 4 hours to 2 days, and often it's only the broth is consumed.