I haven't ate chicken feet for almost 10 years now. It used to be one of grandma's favorite food and she makes a really good chicken feet dish. However, the preparation work for this dish can sometimes be painful, literally. To make this dish, the chicken feet are cleaned, pat dried, fried in hot oil and then soak in cold water. Chicken feet have a tendency to splatter when fried so I'd suggest frying them in a covered pot. Some Chinese believes that eating chicken feet enhances their joint due to the food's gelatinous properties. Some, like my grandma, just likes how it taste. This used to be a pretty common dish served during Chinese holidays but I have a suspicion that it's probably losing its appeal among the younger generations. I can already hear a few "EWWWWWWW"s behind me as I update this blog.
Chicken feet can be easily purchased in Asian grocery stores. Don't forget to cut the nails off the feet if they haven't done so. Biting on chicken nail is not cute or tasty ;) To those that doesn't know what "bruised ginger" means in culinary lingo, it's when you use the flat side of the knife to press down on the ginger so you "bruise" it but doesn't break it apart. When using dried shiitake mushroom, reserve the liquid you soak them in. This impart tremendous amount of flavor when used in the dish. Using rock sugar makes the chicken feet and shiitake mushroom more tender, at least that's what grandma told me. This dish can be served with white rice or eaten with wonton noodle (a common dish in Malaysia).
In memory of grandma, I made this dish yesterday. Here is grandma's braised chicken feet with mushroom or "Dong gu gai geok" in Cantonese.
For chicken feet prep:
2 lbs. chicken feet
5 cups oil
5 cups of shiitake mushroom (soaked in 10 cups of water for about 2 hours)
10 cups shiitake mushroom liquid (from soaking the mushrooms)
3 inch ginger (cut into pieces and bruised)
6 cloves garlic
8 star anise
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
Salt to taste
Small handful of white rock sugar (optional)
Scallions and/or cilantro for garnish (optional)
We'll start with the chicken feet prep work. Chop off the nails on the feet if they haven't done so. Just cut past the nail so you don't throw away half of the feet. Clean thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. It is important to make the chicken feet really dry before you fry them to minimize splattering. On medium flame, heat oil in a pot with a see through lid (so you know when the feet are turning brown). Add chicken feet in small batches into the oil. Cover immediately. Fry for about 5 minutes or you see that the feet are turning brown and stopped splattering.
Turn off the fire and wait for another minute before opening the lid. Do not open the lid in between or you'll have some nasty oil splatters on your hands. Remove the chicken feet from the oil and soak in a bowl of cold water for about an hour.
Drain the chicken feet and set them aside.
In a separate pot, heat oil on medium flame. Add garlic, ginger and star anise. Fry until garlic starts to brown. Add in oyster sauce and shiitake mushroom. Cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly. Add in chicken feet, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, white pepper, salt, sesame oil, white rock sugar and mushroom liquid.
When it comes to a rolling boil, turn the heat to low. Cover and let it simmer. Stir occasionally. If it gets too dry, add more water. Braise for an hour. Top with scallions and/or cilantro.