Chicken Feet in Vancouver’s Chinatown
I was served the Chicken Feet (鳳爪) you see above somewhere in Vancouver’s Chinatown, but due to sloppy note keeping, I don’t have any record of which restaurant it was. I introduced this Dim Sum specialty in my post on the Chicken Wings at the Hum Sung Restaurant, which were, as I mentioned, the best I had had thus far. Unfortunately, the particular ones featured here didn’t quite rise to that level.
The Chicken Feet you see here appeared on the menu as 豆豉鳳爪 (dòu chǐfèng zhǎo), meaning that, in addition to Garlic, they are prepared with Chinese Salted Black Bean. This is probably the most common mode of preparation in Dim Sum Restaurants, in my experience, though some rely on the savory flavors of these ingredients, whilst other make things a little sweeter with bean paste, sugar, or other additions.
Actually, very few beans were apparent in this particular version (you can just make out a couple), and the usual black bean flavour didn’t come through very well. They were quite garlicky, which is a plus, and the sweetness was very subtle and understated. Generally, the flavor was pretty decent, but the taste, and the texture, had suffered a little from being held just a tad too long.
Chicken Feet, though they may look like glazed, fried Chicken Wings, are almost never crispy. They are enjoyed for the gelatinous, soft texture of the skin, and the moist, tenderness of the scant amount of meat you can find on the numerous bones. Here, though, the skin had started to lose it’s plump juiciness by drying out, and the meat was also less tender and losing flavor. It is a bit of a problem in Dim Sum restaurants, especially those with cart service (which acts as a sort of rolling buffet), and items that are nice and fresh when they come from the kitchen, may sit being steamed for longer than is good for them. Absent that, these particular Chicken’s Feet may have been quite good, but the overall quality ended up being just mediocre.