Gad Zouks! Essence of Chicken, You Say?

Essence of Chicken

Will someone please explain what the health benefits of Essence of Chicken are?

I’ve often wondered about those little yellow and green boxes available at our local 7-11. They claim to increase your virility, strength, and overall health with a single jar.

I had my first taste today in Chinese class after my Chinese teacher told me I looked tired and sick. He suggested I try this and practically bounded out of the room to fetch me a bottle.

Without a doubt, Essence of Chicken is one of the most vile tasting things I’ve ever had in my mouth. It’s as bad as the name suggests. One sip and my mouth and tongue were completely coated with a slick, oily burnt chicken taste that I couldn’t get rid of for the rest of the day.

I thought I’d be able to get away with having a little taste, but he insisted I drink it all. I barely managed to choke it down and made a desperate grab for my water bottle as soon as I finished.

Apparently, whole chickens are cooked down into liquid form and then bottled. He had given me a special treat, as it was Essence of Silkie Chicken…not just regular old Essence of Chicken. I listened in horrid fascination as I tried not to turn a lighter shade of green, scarcely believing that people drink the stuff on a daily or weekly basis to boost the immune system.

So am I correct in assuming that ingesting Chicken of Essence promises the energy and vitality…….of a chicken?

It didn’t make me feel strong or any better than how I had started my day. This is another quack health remedy that should be avoided.

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READ:  Learn Chinese with Peggy Lee (6) - Excuse Me, Sorry, It's OK.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carriekellenberger/.

38 thoughts on “Gad Zouks! Essence of Chicken, You Say?

    Stevo

    (June 1, 2008 - 10:14 am)

    Thank you for answering a question I have always had. I’ll try to steer clear. Chinese medicine is hard enough to choke down, I don’t need anything optional. A prescription I had one time featured dried seahorses. “It’s fish,” said my wife.

    Ai ya!

    kim

    (June 2, 2008 - 12:00 pm)

    Hehehe, that’s funny and gross. Now I have visions of chickens being boiled and reduced to a single bottle of liquid, it cannot be anything else but vile.
    I’m guessing you won’t take these bottles home as souvenirs for friends 😀
    I don’t know if you have/had this custom in Canada too, but older generations in Belgium sometimes took ‘Levertraan’ (literally ‘liver tear’) which is Cod liver oil. My mom was a bad eater as a kid and pretty tiny, so she was considered ‘weak’. Her parents forced her a spoon of that stuff every day to gain strenght. She tells me it was pretty gross too.

    Carrie

    (June 2, 2008 - 3:31 pm)

    Steve,

    Ewwww…..that reminds me of my first night in China. I was taken to a local restaurant and at the end of the meal, the girls insisted on eating deer embryo because it’s supposed to have some sort of medicinal benefits for women. Again…Ewwww…..

    Carrie

    (June 2, 2008 - 3:34 pm)

    Kim,

    I know! I keep getting the same image. It didn’t help when a co-worker told me it wasn’t just one chicken, it was a whole mess of chickens. It just keeps getting worse and worse! 🙂 A small part of me kind of wants to take a few bottles home to see what people say. Usually the first things folks ask about when I go home is what weird things I’ve eaten since my last visit.

    I’ve heard about cod liver oil and thankfully, have never tried it. It sounds perfectly horrid!

    Glanies

    (November 28, 2008 - 2:12 pm)

    Hi! i was just googling “essence of chicken” and i found your post! so i thought it’d be useful to add a little Asian insight on the health benefits of essence of chicken. Well.. the idea of condensing chickens into a liquid form can be quite warped.. but this is asian food culture.. we are really quite daring in our food choices and this results in quite a bit of amazing health discoveries supported by research on complementary and alternative medicines..

    well anyway, most chinese love the taste of essence of chicken. its really popular among students especially. the best tasting ones are by the brand name Brands. and empirical research do support its health benefits.. check it out here http://www.brandsworld.com.my/cms.www/main.aspx?sid=214

    cod liver oil isn’t all that yucky.. really! 🙂 life’s not very long.. so if you have the chance to try these foods, do try them!

    btw, i’m from Singapore. 🙂

    Pinky

    (December 15, 2008 - 1:45 pm)

    im from singapore too … i kinda LOVE brands essence of chicken … i can drink it like soup. lolololol. i know you will say EWWW to it …. lots of my friends hate it too. i guess its like the aussies loving vegemite …. its an acquired taste. :p it does help with alertness though! but you have to drink it like a bottle for each day for 1 week in order to feel the difference.

    Silkie

    (December 18, 2008 - 1:26 pm)

    Brands essence of chicken is rather nice. and i dun care whether its the entire chicken put to boil or not…come on, what about beef patties they serve at burger joints? Dun you noe they grind the entire cow to produce such patties you westerners think are oh-so-delish? Oh, I’m from Singapore too!

    cindy

    (September 28, 2009 - 6:35 pm)

    anybody know where I can buy Essence of chicken…. what stores sell it????
    Thanks

      Carrie

      (October 7, 2009 - 1:58 am)

      Hi Cindy,

      In Taiwan, you can buy Essence of Chicken in convenience stores everywhere.

    Ondrej

    (March 2, 2010 - 3:15 am)

    My take on the Essence of Chicken (currently on discount at 7-11, Taiwan) is I’d rather have another cup of coffee, thank you.

    I just happened to try it today since I’m down with a cold, and although it wasn’t the “good tasting” green Brands bottle, the liquid clearly rated as slightly disgusting to me. Considering I can have a cup of fairly tasty caffeine for the same price as one of these, I’ll stick with western style when it comes to “boosters”.

    Btw., although the Essence of Chicken wasn’t my cup of tea, “Cod liver oil”, or simply fish oil, as we call it in Czech republic, is pure vileness in a category of its own.
    .-= Ondrej´s last blog ..Čínský nový rok =-.

      Carrie

      (March 8, 2010 - 3:41 am)

      Ondrej,

      I’m 100% in agreement. It’s foul and nasty, isn’t it? You can’t deny the health benefits of fish oil. I take it every day, but I get around the gross-out factor by taking capsules. 🙂

    Chris

    (April 23, 2010 - 6:42 pm)

    I don’t know what you are trying to actually figure out if Essence of Chicken is healthy for you or just trying to pass on your ethnocentric views on food. It kind of funny how you immediately buy into the fish oil trend but dismiss essence of chicken. Just because one is more widely accepted by Western media.

      Carrie

      (April 24, 2010 - 1:07 am)

      Chris,

      I can’t figure out if you’re actually interested in offering your opinion or if you’re just someone who likes to pass judgement without bothering to delve deeper into a site. Either way, I don’t care.

      Just because I tried something and didn’t like it doesn’t mean I’m being ethnocentric. Meatloaf is a Western fish and I neither like it nor understand why people eat it.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. If you don’t like mine, don’t read My Several Worlds. It’s that easy.

        Chris

        (April 24, 2010 - 3:31 pm)

        On what you said before, it’s not like I wanted to read it. I was looking up essence of chicken, just trying to find some quantitative assessment of it. First site pops up on google. And the introduction matched what I was looking for. Then after reading it and comments, nothing about the actual product other than the fact that it tastes bad.

        I guess I don’t have any problem with you’re blog. It’s just disappointing because I expected answers and facts but what I got was commentary on the basis of taste. Most things we eat that are healthy do not taste good, thats pretty much a given. So at least write a little bit about the benefits before dismissing it. I apologize if it seemed mean, but from my perpective, it was a very deceiving introduction.

          Carrie

          (April 25, 2010 - 3:26 am)

          Chris,

          The opening sentence says, “Will someone please explain what the health benefits of Essence of Chicken are?” What is misleading about that introduction?

    Anna

    (April 25, 2010 - 4:16 am)

    Lol, well I was also just googling ‘essence of chicken’ and came across this site.. I wasn’t planning to leave any comments, but then found your conversation with chris quite interesting as he echoed the same thoughts I was experiencing whilst reading down the discussion! Anyway, I agree that you’re entitled to write about whatever you like on your own site, just thought I’d add my thoughts as well.. I’m a caucasian australian & I haven’t grown up with essence of chicken but it doesn’t gross me out at all (although there are definitely foods that do!), I just find it fascinating that they can get all the benefits of a chicken down to just a little bit of liquid, and wondered if it loses much of the nutritional value through the process.. hence why I was googling it!
    Btw, I find a nice way to drink it is to mix it in with a chicken flavoured cup-a-soup, the flavours go well together 🙂

    Carrie

    (April 25, 2010 - 5:08 am)

    Anna,

    That’s an interesting way to drink it. I haven’t seen any of my friends mixing it with soup. I’m not sure if Taiwanese vendors mix essence of chicken in with medicinal hot pot. You can buy it on the streets here and it’s quite inexpensive. Normally I love hot pot, but the medicinal broth really turns me off.

    As I mentioned in my last reply to Chris, there are plenty of foods in Taiwan that have medicinal properties. I take advantage of a wide variety of teas, fruit juices, and even the licorice and herbal throat lozenges and cough syrups that are offered here. I don’t think I’ll ever develop a taste for Essence of Chicken though.

    Dan

    (June 1, 2010 - 4:27 am)

    Thanks for this blog post, Carrie, and thanks for the link, Chris. Based on the Google Doc link, essence of chicken does seem to have very significant health benefits, especially for stress. I only took a bottle once, right before taking a day-long exam (which I passed :). The taste wasn’t that memorable. Since I work in Binondo (the Chinatown capital of the Philippines), I will definitely look for a supplier and try a bottle again.

    Chester

    (June 17, 2010 - 2:48 pm)

    According to what I know and reaffirm from the websites, Essence of chicken actually started in England.. Its not so much an Asian thing.

    Tara Brown

    (June 22, 2010 - 1:00 pm)

    I’m a fellow Canuck from Vancouver although I’ve been living in the US for 10 years.

    Currently in Singapore for a month as part of a 7 month trip between here and Europe.

    I came across Essence of Chicken in a convenience store in Singapore and was quite amused by it. I actually picked up the box because I thought it had to be something else.

    I like your blog post heading because I was essentially going to write a similar piece. 🙂 I’m vegetarian so there is absolutely no appeal to me at all. If I did eat chicken it seems like the healthier choice would be to I dunno, eat chicken? If they are boiling the chicken down then that means that liquid includes bones and all sorts of other bits. Too hard for me to fathom.

    I’ll stick to essence of strawberry or something that sounds, smells and tastes much more appealing!
    .-= Tara Brown´s last blog ..GTFO 2010: Episode 3. Still in Singapore. =-.

      Carrie

      (June 24, 2010 - 9:25 am)

      Hi Tara,

      Thanks for stopping by! Your comment makes sense to me. I just didn’t find it all that appealing, but I know some people absolutely love it. To each their own I say!

    John

    (July 29, 2010 - 3:40 pm)

    Hi Carrie

    I was browsing the web trying to find the health benefits of chicken essence as I’m a sceptic for most Chinese herbal things (and I’m English born-Chinese). My wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and grandma (my mother-in-law) insists she drinks chicken essence to help with the after effects of pregnancy, My wife isn’t that keen and I’m not encouraging her to drink the stuff either. Hard to prove to the mother-in-law that there are little benefits though. I did quite a thorough search on google and wasn’t able to find that magical supporting paper on the myths of Chinese herbal remedies including chicken essence.

    VD

    (August 3, 2010 - 12:11 pm)

    Hi Carrie,

    first time I drop by your blog, googling chicken essence 😛

    For me, I never like the taste of the chicken essence, tried it once in my childhood (I’m an Indonesian chinese btw) and never want to try it again.

    However, later on I tried the one with cordycep. And I really like it (my suspicion is that the cordycep makes the chicken essence taste different). Served warm, sprinkle with a bit of (sea salt) for me taste really nice. So, I don’t know, maybe you want to try chicken essence with cordycep? For surely, cordycep has some health benefits.

    Greetings from Singapore:)
    .-= VD´s last blog ..Maxim of the Day 12 =-.

      Carrie

      (August 27, 2010 - 11:31 am)

      Hi VD,

      Thanks so much for stopping by! To be honest, I’m done with essence of chicken. I won’t ever be able to get past the taste and I don’t think the addition of cordycep will make it taste any better. Thanks for making the suggestion though. 🙂

    Porsche

    (January 16, 2011 - 6:26 pm)

    Hey Carrie, I googled essence of chicken, and like most of the people here bumped into your blog. I’d drank the essence of chicken and Cod liver oil since I was a kid without knowing what it is and grown to love it. My intake of Cod liver oil has always been the soft pills one, and i always bite it to squirt the ‘juice’ out.

    Quite interesting to bumped into your blog and read all these interesting comments from people that come from all walks of life. Haha

    sunni

    (February 7, 2011 - 7:07 am)

    hi.. like the rest of those above me google led me to you. my daughter-in-law just bought me a green bottle of Brands essence of chicken and I thought of looking it up in the Net before opening the lid and taking a swig. so it’s the whole chicken with claws, beak and feathers. i might as well try it… not for the promised increase in metabolism but just to be able to consume a whole chicken in one gulp. I just hope I can keep it down.

    Qin

    (March 6, 2011 - 11:27 pm)

    Hey Carrie,
    I suggest trying the Brands version of Essence of Chicken, although more expensive, tastes a lot better. That’s the one my grandmother used to buy for me in Taiwan. I’ve always liked that brand the most.

    Dody

    (July 21, 2011 - 4:18 am)

    Just recently taking it and now feels the benefit 😀

    Actually my mom taught me a trick to have this potion drinkable. Pick the one that contain cordyceps. Dilute it with half bottle of hot water (if you are hardcore, you can just heat it to warm, but dillute it with a li’l water will do some trick) add a bit of salt & pepper to taste!!

    Will taste like a nice chicken broth!!

      Carrie

      (July 21, 2011 - 11:52 am)

      Hi Dody,

      Now that’s a good idea. I never even thought of watering it down or adding salt and pepper to taste!

    Wendy

    (July 30, 2011 - 2:57 pm)

    I also stumbled on this site while googling essence of chicken. I am Chinese but I’ve never had it my entire life. To me, it tastes VERY much like Bovia (England’s version of Beef concentrate). I remember Bovia has a lot of vitamin B and I would be so alert after drinking it. Unfortunately after mad cow disease, England banned Bovia from using real cow and it became just a flavoring ingredient. So to be honest, I’m so excited to find essence of chicken tasting similar. It tastes gross because it’s concentrated and it’s not seasoned. If you dilute it and add some salt, it’ll be just like soup. And now I’m off to drink my other bottle of organic chicken essence.

      Wendy

      (August 1, 2011 - 3:27 am)

      Btw, I just learnt that essence of chicken was invented in England in 1820 s. No wonder it tastes like bovia!

    Patrick

    (August 11, 2011 - 6:26 am)

    Concerning cod liver oil, Scott’s Emulsion (orange flavored) tastes quite nice.

    red

    (October 10, 2011 - 3:37 am)

    hello there,

    I saw ads of this everywhere in Singapore, purportedly improving mental functions.

    As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see any connections whatsoever of the product to it’s claimed results– if SIngaporean kids are smart, it is because they study a lot, and not by any other means. I think the product is riding on the PLACEBO effect it brings, which is misleading ^^

    Anyhow, I never dare try taste, and thank you for your blog, I just found a deeper reassurance not to taste it XD

    Misabi

    (November 15, 2011 - 11:44 pm)

    I’ve seen little jars of this for sale in Asian supermarkets many times and wondered about it, then yesterday someone at work had a jar. He added a little hot water to it and drank it, with the hot water it just smelled like chicken stock to me…

    Googled it today to see what it was made of (apart from chicken, obviously) and how it was made, and found these instructions on how to make your own: http://neckredrecipes.blogspot.com/2007/07/homemade-pure-essence-of-chicken.html

    Might give it a go myself this week 🙂

    Fred

    (February 22, 2012 - 12:46 pm)

    I like the taste of it but I suspect that, like certain other Asian health gimmicks, it’s surrounded by a mystique that overrates it’s health benefits, and it’s way overpriced. Still business is business, and the sexy little glass jars would probably sell well whatever their contents.

    Lee

    (March 21, 2012 - 5:48 am)

    Hi Carrie, this is Lee from Singapore! I think you might know it already, but Brand’s Essence of Chicken is also available in tablet and capsule form! Haha, just thought this piece of info might be useful to everyone, since you’re also passionate about your health. Cheers!

    J H

    (October 4, 2012 - 1:46 am)

    Hello,

    Found an experiment on the effects of taking essence of chicken, “Effect of Taking Chicken Essence on Stress and Cognition of Human Volunteers”.

    http://nutriweb.org.my/publications/mjn009_1/mjn9n1_art3.pdf

    Since it seems to me like most of the people who stumble across this blog are also looking to find if there is any beneficial effects to taking the tonic, you might find the results interesting.

    Jens

    (January 5, 2013 - 3:48 am)

    I was just googling the same thing and came her. I’m in Chiangrai Thailand atm and tried my first essence. very interesting, seems that someone is making money out of it. It was Brands branded and not too bad but did taste a bit burnt. My belief is that one does not need to rely on ‘tonics’ and other traditional medicines or remedies but live a healthy and balanced life and your body will fix itself. I am taking the Yong Heng drink though for a short while to try it but am not a firm believer.
    I think that Asians rely on too much hocus pocus in all aspects of life and try to get ‘LUCKY’ rather than thinking and working hard. Seems to me that lazy way out. But, if it needs to be essence of something then so be it. Essence of dog anyone?
    Back home to AUS soon and a normal life……. cheerio

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