Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of one, or maybe just a downwind whiff. They’re New York City’s live poultry shops, catering to immigrants from Asia and Latin America, and they dot the urban landscape, mostly in outlying parts of town.

Joe MacBu, shopping for a holiday feast, heard the call of the live turkey at Bismillah in Queens—and didn’t heed it, at first. But a pang of chowish conscience and a check of Bismillah’s recent state inspection results (it passed) brought him around: “The inner hound in me demanded that I get over my insecurities and not settle for yet another cold turkey.”

To cut to the chase, this bird was extraordinarily delectable and would never be mistaken for your supermarket Butterball. For $32.50, it weighed in at 16 pounds live, or 12 1/2 pounds cleaned and dressed. After chilling for a spell in a well-seasoned brine, then air-drying in preparation for its turn in the oven, it roasted evenly at 425 degrees and came out clad in gorgeous bronze skin. The meat was moist, somewhat chewy, powerfully flavored, agreeably gamy in the legs; “it was the turkiest turkey I’ve ever had,” Joe marvels.

But half the fun was hunting it down. It was a true Chowhound adventure, which began with a nighttime foray to a warehouse quarter of Woodside, home to the Bangladeshi-owned Bismillah Live Poultry. Led past tall stacks of cages populated by chickens, Joe chose his turkey out of a flock of around 30, and off it went in a shopping cart to be slaughtered, scalded in hot water, and plucked by the staff. Fifteen minutes later it emerged in a bag, warm to the touch, its fat tail sticking out. Next stop was home, where, Joe writes, “My cat went nuts.”

The turkey’s head remained proudly attached. “I had visions of how cool it would be to present it at dinner with the head on … then thought better of it. Perhaps next year, to more adventurous guests.”

Bismillah Live Poultry [Woodside]
37-15 55th Street (near 37th Avenue), Woodside, Queens

Board Link: Help! Turkey from the live poultry places?

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