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The most popular is the Brand's Essence of Chicken, but there are also other products that are "essence", like "essence of fish" and even "essence of beef". There are also other terms that seem to mean the same thing like, "extract of something" and "essential oils".

What exactly are these essences and extracts? Where do they come from? How are they processed?

Edit: Chicken essence recipe

  • I hadn't heard of this stuff. According to Brand's website, "Essence of Chicken is an all natural extract from quality chicken in concentrated form." Huh. That said, this does not appear to be an ingredient in cooking but a nutritional supplement and may therefore be off topic for Seasoned Advice. We're good at answering questions about food and food preparation, not so good at answering questions about supplements. – Preston Feb 14 '15 at 1:15
  • AFAIK, this product is popular in Asia and it is possible to use this to cook broth and stir fry foods. I suppose there are equivalent in the western world? – Jake Feb 14 '15 at 8:47
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    Based on your comment, it suddenly occurred to me that Asian food preparation often emphasizes on the "healing" 补 value, and in some way, there is always some "nutritional supplement" in a traditional meal, usually in the form of a "herbal soup" or some ingredient that is supposed to give the supplementary boost. So in our context, the distinction between food that we just eat for pleasure and nutrition intake is much less than in western context. – Jake Feb 14 '15 at 8:58
  • Reminds me of Ajinomoto aka MSG. I would have guessed that a "fond of X" is meant by "essence of X". – Ching Chong Feb 14 '15 at 11:20
  • @Jake Very interesting. I guess maybe there is a gray area there in between what we'd consider a supplement in the west (essentially medicine and decidedly not food) and in the east. – Preston Feb 14 '15 at 14:08
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Based on the recipe you provided, it's kinda like concentrated broth. It's produced by cooking the chicken covered in a double boiler, effectively steaming it and collecting the drippings.

I have no idea if that's exactly what's being sold in those nutritional supplement bottles, but given that people think the homemade version is, well, the homemade version, it must at least be close.

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