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Chicken feet at a Chinese restaurant -- I don't get it

I'd never gotten up the nerve to try chicken feet at a Chinese restaurant until recently, when I found some on a weekend Chinese buffet at a place in Woburn, MA. Got one to try, and couldn't get anything edible off it -- it seemed to be all rubbery and tough skin surrounding a little bit of bone. I couldn't even bite into it -- seemed like trying to tear a hunk off a tire or something.

Were these badly prepared, or did I just not get it here? Comments and assistance welcome.

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  1. BBQ chicken feet in the Philippines and chicken feet in the Andes are boiled until the meaty bits are tender. The filipino version is then BBQed, resulting in a few bites worth of flavor. Feet in soups in Bolivia were likewise flavorful but, again, not all that meaty. Most of the meat comes from the lobes around each toe. And if you get bored, find the tendon at the elbow and pull: you can make the toes move up and down, open and close.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Had chicken feet at dim sum at Kam Fung decades ago in Montreal. Soft and gelatinous and lightly seasoned (I think hoisin was the main seasoning). Luckliy my girlfriend had a good sense of humour when I pinched a foot between my thumb and forefinger and held it aloft, intoning, "ET go home." Sometimes it pays to play with your food.

      1. re: mrbozo

        I hold 'em in my chopsticks and intone "It's the CRAW, not the Craw"

        And bachslunch, done properly they are sublime...all gelatinous and tender... Spitting the bones out is a bit of an art, but 1/2 the fun, too.

      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

        haha sam. You crack me up.

        I've seen them so many times pass by on the cart but could never get the nerve. Interesting also are the duck feet! Reminds me of an old Dr. S. book..."I wish that I had duck feet...and I can tell you why" I have spent time stealing a few glances here at there at the people eating those chicken feet. A whole lot of sucking going on..it seems to me. Reminds me of The Griswold family Christmas dinner when the turkey collapses when they try and carve it.

      3. Most dim sum places in the LA area have two different chicken-foot preparations, one just boiled and served cold, one cooked in a sauce (the kind mrbozo had) and served hot. The cold ones leave me cold, frankly, but the warm ones are very chickeny-tasting, and although a bit of work to eat I enjoy the gelatinous flesh. I don't get them all the time, but once in a while I'll have two or three.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Will Owen

          At a dim sum place yesterday, the Chinese couple at the next table had a platter piled high with battered deep-fried objects that could only be chicken feet.

          1. re: Sharuf

            Never have I seen deep fried chicken feet??? Could it have been something else? Feet is not usually deep fried.

        2. As an avid dim sum eater, I tried this once when out with a friends Chinese family for Dim Sum in Queens. I found the texture very off putting, and could not understand the fighting between my friend and her sister about who got to eat mine.

          A few weeks ago, we shared dim sum with a random woman and her daughter who happened to be at our table, and I tried them again, and loved them. I'm thinking the difference must have been the preperation, though it did take some bravery to get over the texture.

          Also, as I understand it, you don't really bite, you sort of suck on it, and on the ones I liked, the meaty parts (not much) came off, then you just suck the flavor off the rest...

          but that's just my white girl version of things...

          1. All the good chicken feet I've had, both in California and Hong Kong, were very tender. In fact, the skin was bordering on mushy. Like Will Owen, I only like the warm ones with the sauce, but it's a matter of opinion. My parents and grandparents will eat the cold too.

            As for how to eat them, the most common technique I've seen is to break off the bones into your mouth and suck off all the skin and meat. Then spit out the bones, which should be completely devoid of any meat.

            1. It's an acquire taste for sure.

              Sort of like pig's feet.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                Mmmm, sult (Estonian headcheese)!