Chicken’s feet are a popular snack in many parts of Asia and are a regular item on the menu at dim sum restaurants where they are often not identified as ‘chicken feet’ but rather appear, in writing’ as 鳳爪 (fèng zhǎo), which translates to the slightly more poetic ‘Phoenix Talons’. I first tried them in Toronto about 30 years ago (as part of my first dim sum experience, as it happened) and, as with many westerners, the idea of actually eating the feet seemed a little strange but, after a while, they don’t relay seem that much different from eating wings (although the texture is quite different).
Feet are invariably served in steamer baskets in dim sum restaurants (and this is how they keep them hot), but they are first deep fried which not only gives them some color but also causes them to puff up slightly. Afterwards they are stewed in a simmering sauce that often contains bean paste, sugar, and, quite often whole black beans (though other ingredients and flavourings can be used as well).
The ones in the main picture above, which I recently had in Vancouver) appeared on the menu as 豆豉鳳爪 (dòu chǐfèng zhǎo), meaning that they are prepared with Chinese Salted Black Bean. Actually, very few beans were apparent (you can just make out a couple), and the usual black bean flavor wasn’t very apparent. The ones in the inset (which I believe I had in Ottawa), were also made using black bean, although the paste rather than whole beans) and they were also really garlicky, as well as being very plump and tender.
There is almost no meat in chickens feet (in contrast to the wing), and it is the skin that gives them the very gelatinous quality that is much loved by the Chinese and favored by me as well. Another factor that distinguishes the feet from the wing is the sheer number of tiny bones. The general approach is to suck larger pieces into your mouth and then work the plump, unctuous skin away from the little bones and then spit these out. In a Chinese restaurant, you will often see people doing this right onto the tablecloth … it’s all part of the experience J
One of my oldest cookery books, ‘The Great Book of Chinese Cooking’ contains a recipe for something it calls ‘Chrysanthemum Chicken’; so named, apparently, because the appearance is supposed (with some poetic license, one presumes), to resemble the bloom of that particular flower. Now, I have to say that, as far as I am concerned, any such resemblance in that regard is a faint illusion at best. Moreover, every other recipe for Chrysanthemum Chicken I have ever come across derives its name from the fact the Chrysanthemum petals, or greens, are used as an ingredient, and not because of any particular floral quality in the presentation. Anyway… today’s dish is inspired by that old recipe and, though I have departed from the flavorings a little, my result looks quite a bit like the picture of the original… Continue reading “Chrysanthemum Chicken”
As I have mentioned before, any dish with ‘Dragon and Phoenix’ in the title generally means that it is made with shrimp and chicken. I put together this particular combination in order to show you the use of my homemade Simple Chili Oil as a dish ingredient rather than as a condiment and I have called it a ‘Kung Pao’ dish even though I stray from the traditional cookery methods a little. In the proper Sichuanese versions of Kung Pao cookery, chilies are fried in very hot until almost black, and the result is a characteristic scorched chili flavor with which the other ingredients are infused… my homemade oil definitely has that quality Continue reading “Kung Pao Dragon & Phoenix”
In Chinese cuisine, the name ‘Dragon and Phoenix’ means that a dish combines Shrimp and Chicken in some way. Today, I have put together a simple illustration of the idea using cucumber, for its pleasing color and texture, and a rich XO Sauce for depth of flavor… Continue reading “XO Dragon and Phoenix”
This dish is a bit like the ‘Almond Soo Guy’ or ‘Almond Guy Ding’ you often used to see on Westernized Chines restaurant menus back when ‘Chop Suey’ also used to be regularly featured. I never had either that I recall but ‘Soo Guy’ and ‘Guy Ding’ are phonetic representations of the Cantonese for ‘cooked chicken’ and ‘chicken cubes’ so today’s dish fits the bill either way. It’s quite sweet, with no other particularly exotic flavors, so it is a generically ‘Chinese Restaurant’ production if not especially Chinese beyond the appearance. It is, however, very easy to male… Continue reading “Chicken with Peppers and Almonds”
Way back last summer, I found myself the only guest at the Tujormovik Hotel in Igloolik and, on the weekend, I ended up cooking for myself. I had some chicken pieces but, lacking a wire rack to bake them on, I improvised using celery stalks I found in the fridge. I only meant to use the celery to keep the pieces from sticking to the pan but, as it happened, the result of the stalks baking in the chicken juices was delicious and I made a note to experiment with the idea in the future.
Yesterday, I finally got around to playing around with the basic theme again, this time using chicken drumettes, which are the end part of the wing that looks like a little leg. Instead of using whole celery stalks, I cut the celery into short batons and spread them over the bottom of a baking dish. I was aiming for a vaguely Asian end result here and to keep the celery moist an add a little flavor, I sprinkled these with a tablespoon or two of dry sherry (having no rice wine at the time). Next, I tossed the drumettes with a little salt, garlic puree and Hoisin Sauce, and arranged them in a circle on top of the celery and sprinkled everything with just a little finely diced red pepper. This last step was more for appearance than anything else but you could easily substitute fresh red chili for an additional flavor boost.
Anyway, I baked the dish in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes and the result was delicious. I ate every piece of chicken and every bit of celery all by myself with just a little bread to mop up the juice. Once again, the celery baked in chicken juices really turned out nicely. I think a little more could be done to make the final dish a little more visually appealing, maybe, but the idea is worth working with and you could easily adapt the general idea with a whole host of other flavorings…
I came across the idea for this dish in a Chinese cookery book featuring home-style meals. That version used plain steamed chicken and contained nothing else beyond the grapefruit other than some sliced green pepper, all of which dressed in grapefruit juice with a little sugar added. I have jazzed up the basic idea by using grilled chicken, replacing the bell pepper with celery, and adding some of the Chinese Black Fungus commonly known as ‘Tree-Ear or ‘Cloud-Ear’, for color and texture.
By the way, I am using some ready prepared sections of pink grape-fruit I bought at my supermarket. This saves having to peel the fruit and remove the membranes from each piece. The variety I bought also had some sugar added to the juice. You can use fresh grapefruit if you like but make sure to save at least 3 or 4 tablespoons of the juice as you section it. You will likely want to add a little sugar to taste, as well… Continue reading “Chicken and Grapefruit Salad”
This recipe is built around the Sichuan Preserved Vegetable I featured in a foodstuff post recently. I am going to be cooking it with diced chicken breast and cashews in a hot, sweet, and sour sauce using chili, sugar and vinegar. This particular combination is pretty much ‘ad hoc’ for today’s dish but it is very much in the general tradition of Sichuan cookery… Continue reading “Chicken with Preserved Vegetable”
Today I am showcasing a simple, light meal I put together one evening. It could easily be made with any chicken parts (chopped into small pieces) but I used the wing drumettes on this occasion.
Basically, I just seasoned the drumettes with salt, pepper, and a little sugar and then tossed them with flour to coat. I then placed them on a bed of finely slivered celery and drizzled over some chili oil. On top, I scattered a little more celery, including the leaves, as well as some finely sliced Black Chinese Mushrooms. Finally, I spooned over about a quarter-cup of a sauce made from a little soy sauce and oyster sauce diluted with rice wine and then steamed everything for about 30 minutes.
The Verdict? This was really excellent…. The Chicken was so tender and the flavoring was understated but just right. My wife especially enjoyed it. I think this would make a great dish as one of several in a Chinese meal but, in future I might also divide everything into smaller portions and steam them as Dim Sum type dishes. Give this a try!
Sometime ago, I came across a Balinese recipe employing the technique of cooking chicken in a spiced Coconut Water broth before frying it. I haven’t tried to reproduce the spice blend (which I can’t recall in any event) but I have selected what seems to be an appropriate mix for today’s dish. Naturally, if you try the same technique yourselves you can play around with the flavorings as much as you like… Continue reading “Recipe: Balinese Chicken”