How can a post about chicken feet not mention the Fountain Lakes diva – Kath Day-Knight? She’s a woman with many talents, not to mention exceptional taste! One thing I have in common with Kath is our rather refined taste/appreciation for gourmet chicken feet/legs. B’kerk! Although, my speed reading skills are still not quite up to scratch.
— Kath Day-Knight (@Kath_DayKnight) October 21, 2011
All jokes aside – chicken feet are a true delicacy! They’re a semi-delicate and tender chicken part/meat that are slightly rubbery/leathery (all in a good way), meaty, fatty, chewy and slightly tendon-y/ligament-y all in one. Put quite simply – chicken feet are damn delicious! They’re an underrated/unappreciated chicken part that I will fight for. They’re often over-looked and/or thrown away – placing them in the off-cuts/scrap (“too difficult to deal with”) box/pile, along with the other cool offal crowd.
Chicken feet are not often seen on the menu of “western” restaurants, or in butcher windows – this makes it not only difficult to find/enjoy them, but also a real shame because they’re truly an excellent/delicious “novel/different” chicken cut/meat part.
Understandably so – because as much as they’re a delicacy, they can also be a real pain in the backside to prepare. Not only is the prep process time-consuming and laborious, it can also be extremely fiddly/annoying – making it a real work out for the fingers/digits – more so than typing on your smartphones.
Luckily, we can thank our many different Asian communities (and perhaps other communities too that I’m not aware of) who appreciate this rare cut of chook. They’ve helped continue the tradition/celebration, and in turn the survival of the magical “who would have thought,hey?” cut of meat – that is, the humble chicken feet/chicken legs in our diet.
Asian food is all around us – you can’t really miss/deny it, no matter where you are. And if you’ve had the pleasure of enjoying yum cha with some yum cha experts who’ve showed you the art/ropes – there’s a good chance that you’ve sighted and perhaps even tasted/tried the prized/beguiling/beloved braised/steamed chicken feet (aka “Phoenix Claws”) in the steamer baskets before?
They taste amazing, and I’m a huge fan! If you haven’t yet done so, you really must book yourself in for some yum cha therapy sometime soon to order/try them. Not only are they tenderly soft/almost melts/dissolves in your mouth (when they’re prepared to perfection), they’re also a unique and joyful experience to eat! 1
Chicken feet in all its glory are popular in Asian cultures and a versatile ingredient too. They appear in many classic dishes and are an excellent example of the Asian “nose to tail” eating/cooking philosophy. If it looks and feels like meat/fat – it’s edible – shut up and eat it! It makes sense to me and I agree with the idea totally, because why let good food go to waste? Food is precious/a blessing, and so are animals.
Besides being tenderly delicious braised/steamed for yum cha – another classic way to enjoy chicken feet is to incorporate them in a classic slightly spicy Lao/Thai yum salad. You need to prepare them first though – by cooking/boiling the feet, and then de-boning them. But seriously, the combo of flavours and textures (and a cold beer), and the novelty of eating them make the effort worthwhile!
Yum (without the cha) chicken feet are enjoyed in Laos and Thailand, Lao and Thai communities, and I have no idea where it originated from. And to be honest, I have no time or interest in getting into any heated argument about it here either. All I can say is that I’ve enjoyed (and helped prepare [with my sister, mainly]) this dish with my family many years ago (when I was a spring chook). So, we can agree that it’s a Lao dish also.
And if you’re aware of the views/arguments about the differences and similarities between Lao and Thai cuisine/food and the crossing/sharing/mixing of cultures/borders/people, etc. – it can all be quite mind boggling and really do my head in too. Anyhow, did I mention that this is a modern Lao-Australian dish, as well?
As you can imagine, this yum salad recipe is very delicious and adaptable! The secret is in the sauce/dressing mix, which you can tailor to suit your mental state. But once you’ve prepared/mastered this spicy yum salad dish, you can swap the cooked chicken feet for other meats (shredded chicken/shrimp/prawn/squid/tripe are all good examples – yumo!) or tofu, or mock chicken feet, or whatever you like.
Furthermore, you can combine different types of meat to create a flavour/taste power sensation beyond word’s description. Clear/glass/mung bean/cellophane noodles also add a lovely touch/twist/twirl to the dish too. Likewise, other of your fav herbs and veg/ingredients. Watch out cucumber, cherry tomatoes, nuts, etc. The possibilities are quite limitlessness. Yikes!
Anyhow, bon appetit and sern saab everyone! I hope you’ll give this dish/recipe a go. Enjoy your weekend, and remember, variety is the spice of life. Cockadoodledoo!
Update 02/11/14: Like I said in the photo below – with this recipe, I made enough yum tien gai salad for an army of about 10 people, so I had a lot left over which I packed in a container and kept in the fridge. I enjoyed a portion of the (cold) salad again today (overnight), which I served with slivers of anchovies and a drizzle of anchovy infused (sunflower) oil, and it tasted Amazing!! Just wanted to share this delicious combo/info with you, and the fact that the salad kept very well in the fridge overnight, and hopefully for a few extra days too. Ciao!
- 1 KG of chicken feet
- 2 TBSP of fish sauce
- 2 TBSP of fermented fish sauce
- 2 TBSP of Shaoxing wine (optional)
- 2 TBSP of raw sugar
- 2 TBSP of dried shrimp (optional)
- 1 red/Spanish onion
- 4 chilies
- 1 lemongrass
- 2 spring onions
- 2 capsicums (1 red and 1 yellow)
- 5 Chinese celery
- 5 stems of mint leaves
- 2 coriander
- 1 lemon
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
- First, prepare the chicken feet. Wash and clean the chicken feet. Remove loose outer skin if necessary.
- In a saucepan, add 2 Litres of water and 1 tsp of sea salt. Bring to a gentle boil. Add the cleaned chicken feet and gently boil/simmer until they’re cooked. The chicken feet will firm/fatten up and turn slightly pale yellow/white. This should take about 10-20 mins. When they’re done, drain the chicken feet and let them cool down completely.
- When the cooked chicken feet have cooled down completely, it’s time to surgically de-bone them with a very sharp kitchen knife and scissors. Be extremely careful when doing this. Take your time, concentrate and watch your fingers!
- De-bone 1 chicken foot at a time. First, with a sharp knife or scissors, cut off the toenails/claws. With the sole of the chicken foot facing upwards, cut a deep straight line (all the way to the bone) from the middle of the sole to the top of the leg/knee joint. Then, cut from the middle of the sole up each toe to the tip of the toe. Then, with your fingers, gently move the chicken foot/toes around to break the joints. Then, with your clever fingers, carefully peel/remove the large/long leg bone through the cut opening. Retain as much meat as possible. Then, carefully peel/remove the individual toe bones. Be careful to not damage the chicken skin too much when doing this. Tra-da! Congratulations on your perfectly prepared de-boned cooked chicken foot, now ready for consumption. But wait - contain yourself. Put it aside and repeat the process for the remaining chicken feet.
- When all of the chicken feet have been perfectly de-boned, give yourself a pat on the back and then cut them up into edible sizes/pieces - about 5 cm long pieces or so. Cover and put aside.
- Prepare the salad dressing. In a small mixing bowl, add the fish sauce, fermented fish sauce, Shaoxing wine and raw sugar. Stir/mix together well until the sugar is dissolved. Cover and put aside.
- Place the dried shrimp into a mortar and pound to a finer consistency. Retain some texture. Cover and put aside.
- Prepare the herbs and vegetables. Peel the red/Spanish onion, cut off root, and then thinly slice. Wash the chilies, remove stems, and then thinly slice diagonally. Wash and then thinly slice the lemongrass diagonally (white part only). Wash the spring onions, cut off roots, and then thinly slice diagonally. Wash the capsicums, cut in half, remove seeds, and then thinly slice. Wash the Chinese celery, cut off roots, and then roughly cut diagonally. Wash the mint and then remove leaves from stems. Wash the coriander, cut off the roots, and then roughly cut diagonally. Wash and cut the lemon into quarters, ready for squeezing.
- Make the salad. In a large mixing bowl, place the sliced chicken feet pieces. Add the red/Spanish onion, chilies, lemongrass and spring onion. Gently mix/toss together with a spoon or tongs. Add the capsicum and gently mix together. Add the sauce/dressing. Squeeze in the lemon juice. Add a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. Gently mix together. Add the Chinese celery, mint and coriander. Gently mix together. Add the dried shrimp. Gently mix together. Taste, and adjust the flavour to suit. What you aiming for is a delicious balance of flavours - salty, savoury, sour, spicy and a little sweet. The natural flavours of the chicken feet, herbs and vegetables should also shine through!
- Voila! Your yum tien gai is now ready to be served and enjoyed. Serve immediately on a large plate or bowl, with steaming hot sticky rice and an icy cold beer. Sern saab!!
- You can easily pout and make normally questionable/bizarre mouth/lip movements as you eat/de-bone the chicken feet in your mouth without being judged, or anyone looking at you strangely. Then, to finish it off – you can ritually return/empty/gently spit the bone pieces back into your bowl/plate. Seriously – so much fun with just one food, and there’s no other sophisticated/lady way about it! Perhaps, if you chew and eat/swallow the bones as well, but I’m not too sure how many people do it this way all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind a few chicken bone pieces now and then, but those big long leg ones especially can be seriously tough/hard work to chew! Moving right along. ↩