Duck Feet with Taro Root 香芋鴨掌
When I was served this particular dim sum dish I thought at first I had been given chicken’s feet in error. A quick investigation, however, revealed that the feet in question were indeed webbed and I am rather sorry I didn’t think to photograph one of them ‘unfurled’ for you as well. Anyway, I have had duck’s feet a fair number of times but I have to say that this was probably my least favorite of all.
The Taro Root in this dish consisted of three small slices under the duck feet. They absorbed the sauce nicely, and were nice enough in and of themselves, but they really added little to the dish as a whole.
The sauce was a bit like a satay sauce with a touch of 5 spice powder. Fortunately, the kitchen here went light on the latter as I am not fond of it and it only came through as a faint background note to yield a pretty decent result.
The feet themselves, however, were not especially good. Normally, like chicken feet, duck feet are prized for the soft, gelatinous quality they have when nicely cooked. Here, though, possibly through overcooking, the skin had a dry ‘bite’ to it, rather like the texture of tree-ear fungus. It didn’t completely ruin the dish for me, exactly, but it certainly diminished the overall enjoyment.
By the way, the third character in the Chinese name means ‘duck’, and is worth fixing in your memory as you will encounter it on lots of Chinese menus. The right half of the character signifies a bird, while the left component always reminds me of a lollipop. Accordingly, I now think of ducks as ‘lollipop birds’ and this helps me recognize duck dishes when I see them written in Chinese characters…
For those interested, the second character in the Chinese name of the dish is a generic word for taro but, usually, the compound 香芋, pronounced xiāngyù, means ‘sweet potato’. If the characters are reversed however, they mean ‘taro-flavored’ and the pronunciation (yùxiāng) is very similar to that of the well-known Sichuanese Yuxiang, or ‘fish-fragrant’ dishes. With a different set of flavorings, and a reversal of the first two characters, the name could be a pretty decent pun in Chinese.