These Dim Sum Chicken Feet are a true, authentic Chinese dim sum dish. Keep reading for step by step instructions on how to cook chicken feet at home.
I think we may be entering new territory, ya’ll. The most unique dish to ever grace the pages of The Foreign Fork (to date, at least). In May, I visited my best friend in San Francisco for memorial day. She let me choose whatever I wanted to do, and we spent a long weekend in the Bay Area playing tourist in her town.
One of my requests was that I wanted to go to Chinatown and see the Fortune Cookie Factory. We traveled down to Chinatown, and saw the little tiny factory where so many fortune cookies are made. I watched them roll the hot cookies up into their signature shape, filling each with a fortune; we even custom created one for our friends!
After the fortune cookie factory, we decided to create our own little food tour around Chinatown. Every time we saw an interesting dessert or other food item in the window of a shop, we would walk in, buy it, and split it! By the end of the day, we had tried a few really yummy desserts, appetizers, and snacks. I was in heaven.
My First Time Trying Chicken Feet
My friend started talking about dim sum and the many times she had had it– both in San Francisco and otherwise. It was in this moment that I realized I had never experienced the beauty of Chinese dim sum before.
My friend immediately walked me over to the first dim sum restaurant we could find…. And promptly asked the waiter for an order of chicken feet.
I must admit, if I didn’t run a food blog called The Foreign Fork about the importance of keeping an open mind and experiencing the cultures and cuisines of other countries, I might not have tried the feet. But, experiencing the world is important and exciting and sometimes scary or outside of what I am used to as a 23 year old white female from the suburbs of Detroit.
So…. I put the toes in my mouth (this makes me both LOL and cringe). They weren’t bad! I’m not sure I’d eat dim sum chicken feet regularly, but I am happy to try them, and experience them, and advocate for other people to experience them as well.
Why do the Chinese Eat Dim Sum Chicken Feet?
There have been plenty of time periods in Chinese history where much of the country experienced poverty. Thinking of these times the familiar phrase comes to mind: “Waste not, want not.”
The Chinese have made a habit of eating every part of an animal possible so as not to waste anything that could be of use. Birds’ nests, pigs’ tails, chicken feet. They are all common foods in China so as to make the most of the animals that they kill.
Chicken feet are cheap. Buying a package of them costs me roughly $3.13, meaning that I can make a meal out of them for a lot cheaper than most other meats.
What Ingredients are In Chicken Feet?
Distilled white vinegar
What Ingredients are In Dim Sum Chicken Feet Sauce?
How Do I Clean Chicken Feet for Dim Sum?
The main step to cleaning your chicken feet for your dim sum is to cut the toenails off of the feet. This part affected me a lot at first, but once I got into the motion of cutting the toes off, it became a lot easier.
The chicken feet have three toes with 2-3 joints on each toe. The easiest way to get the nails off of the feet is to simply cut off the tips of the toes at the first joint.
The bones in chicken feet are difficult to cut through with a knife and require a lot of force in order to push the knife through the entire bone. However, cutting the toes off at the joints is different, and much easier.
The toes are the weakest at the points that the bones come together at a joint. Pushing the knife between these two bones allows the knife to slice through easily.
The easiest way to find the joint is to flip the toe over and look at the underside of the foot. Each toe has a pad on it, similar to where your fingerprint would be on your own finger. Right below this pad sits a horizontal line, indicating that the joint rests below the skin (again, similar to your own fingers).
Position your knife on this horizontal line and push through. There should be some resistance but not a lot. The toes will come off easily.
Safety When Cooking Your Chicken Feet
The most dangerous part about cooking your chicken feet, by far, is frying them. Frying the chicken feet causes them to pop and boil, spraying oil across your kitchen if you’re not careful.
To fry my chicken feet, I made sure to fry them in groups of two. I use a frying spatula that is made of metal with a wooden handle so that it is safe to leave in the oil without fear of it either melting or burning my hand.
I position two chicken feet on my frying spatula and then place them in the oil. Then, immediately cover the wok with a lid, so that the oil can’t spray out.
When checking to see if the feet are done, I life the lid only enough to peek in and see the color of the chicken feet. When they are a golden brown color, they are done.
How to Eat Dim Sum Chicken Feet
Once the feet are fried, soaked, steamed, and coated in sauce, it’s time to eat them. Eating the dim sum chicken feet is surprisingly similar to cutting the toes off at the beginning.
To consume the chicken feet, you must eat them joint by joint. This means that you choose one of the toes to eat first. You put this toe in your mouth and use your teeth to bite through the next joint, just like how you did while declawing.
When you bite through the joint, keep the now detached section of the toe in your mouth and suck all of the meat off of it. Then remove the bone and discard. Easy peasy!
Would you ever try chicken feet?! Did you like this recipe for them? If so, please leave a comment on this post letting me know!
If you enjoyed reading this article about how to make this uniquely cultural dish, you might also like:
Dim Sum Chicken Feet
Chicken Feet Ingredients
- 1 1/2 lbs Chicken feet
- 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Sunflower oil to fry
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 1/3 tsp garlic chopped
- 1/2 tsp ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 4 tbsp water
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp chili paste
- ½ lime for juice
- In a large pot, boil water. Once boiling, add distilled white vinegar and honey. Add the full chicken feet into the water and blanch for about 3 minutes. You know it is time to remove the feet when they turn gray and begin to curl into themselves a bit.
- Remove the feet from the water and place in a strainer. Run them under cold water for a minute or two and then pour back into an empty, large pot. Add soy sauce and stir to add some color.
- Cut the toenails off the chicken feet by following the above section for “How Do I Clean Chicken Feet for Dim Sum?”
- In a wok, heat enough oil to deep fry the feet. Once heated, cook two chicken feet at a time. Place the chicken feet in the oil and immediately cover with a lid. This will keep the popping oil from hitting your kitchen (or you!).
- Fry the feet until they turn golden brown and then remove. Continue frying until all feet are cooked.
- Place all fried feet in a large bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak about one hour.
- When chicken feet finish soaking, fill a large pot with about 2-3 inches of water and steam the chicken feet for an hour. I used a vegetable steamer covered with parchment paper to steam my feet, but if you have bamboo steamers you can also use those.
- When chicken feet are done steaming, combine all sauce ingredients except for cornstarch and water in a small pot on the stove. Heat until bubbling.
- When sauce begins to bubble, combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl and pour into the sauce. Stir the sauce until it begins to thicken. Pour over your chicken feet and enjoy.
- For instructions on how to eat the chicken feet, read the How to Eat Dim Sum Chicken Feet section above.