Spicy Braised Chinese Chicken Feet

I first tried Chinese chicken feet decades ago at a dim sum restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve since ordered them at other dim sum venues in various cities, and have found that my favorite preparation is twice cooked – first fried, and then braised. I’ve never cooked them myself, so I decided to give them a try since they are so readily available here in Belize. (Surprisingly, Belize has a very high percentage of Chinese residents and most of the grocery stores are owned and run by them. This makes it fairly easy to find ingredients for Chinese cooking.)

Before I get into my recipe I should probably say a little about eating chicken feet in general, regardless of the preparation. If you ever order them in a restaurant, hopefully the toenails have been removed. If they have not been, do not eat them. You also do not eat the bones. What’s left is a delightful combination of skin and cartilage smothered in a luxurious amount of sticky and glossy collagen.

Chinese chicken feet

These are my chicken feet after the toenails were removed and the feet were washed well and drained. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

There is no polite way to eat Chinese chicken feet but you do have two options. 1) You can bite off one joint at a time, chew off all the yummy parts and then remove the bone from your mouth with a spoon and place it on your plate. I find this method too time consuming. 2) Bite off a significant sized piece, chew it all together swallowing the good bits as you chew them off, and then remove all the bones at one time. Again, it’s not necessarily pleasant to watch, but it gets the job done.

I urge you to not let the eating process deter you from trying this authentic Chinese delicacy. They are very interesting and flavorful, but more importantly give you an authentic taste of Chinese culinary tradition.

Chinese chicken feet

Once you have par boiled and marinated your Chinese chicken feet they will appear puffier and smell delicious! Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Spicy Braised Chinese Chicken Feet Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 12 to 15 chicken feet
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet yellow onion
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 2 star anise, broken
  • 2 tbl. soy sauce
  • 1 tbl. Sriracha sauce
  • Enough water to cover chicken feet in braising pan
  • Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)
Chinese chicken feet

Your finished Spicy Chinese Chicken Feet should look something like this. They are spicy and sticky and delicious! Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Directions:

  • Wash chicken feet well under cold running water. Using kitchen shears, cut off toenails and any discolored areas.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and add the vinegar, salt and sugar. Add chicken feet and bring back to a boil. Continue boiling for about five minutes. (This step removes the impurities from feet.)
  • Remove to a colander, rinse and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and add the 1/4 cup soy sauce and garlic powder. Stir and marinate for one hour, stirring occasionally.
  • In a heavy saucepan, add enough vegetable oil to cover chicken feet. Over medium high heat, bring oil up to frying temperature. In small batches so as not to crowd them, fry chicken feet until medium brown. Stir after adding each batch to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • As each batch is done, transfer them to a large bowl of ice water. Place bowl with feet in the fridge and leave for three hours. (This step help set the skin for appearance and texture.)
  • Combine the remaining ingredients (except for garnish) in a heavy-bottom sauce pan with a lid and set aside.
  • At the end of three hours, transfer the chicken feet from the ice water to the braising pan with liquid. Stir well to coat.
  • Bring pan with chicken feet and braising liquid to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove lid, turn heat up to medium high and reduce sauce to thicken. Stir often to keep from sticking.
  • Remove to serving platter and garnish with sliced green onions (optional). Serve immediately.