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Braised Chicken Feet (凤爪) – Omnivore’s Cookbook

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Northern Chinese style braised chicken feet featuring a tender texture and a rich savory flavor that is full of umami. It’s a great appetizer to wash down with a glass of cold beer and a fun snack for movie night.

One of the key characteristics of Chinese cuisine is that chefs use every part of the animal to create delicious dishes that are packed with flavor and full of nutritional benefits. No matter whether it’s a Chicken Liver Stir Fry, Braised Pork Trotters, or Beef Lungs in Red Oil Sauce, these dishes use cheap cuts to make a satisfying meal that is quite addictive.

Braised chicken feet was a snack I grew up eating. After school when I was hungry but dinner wasn’t quite ready, my mom would serve a reheated plate of braised chicken feet. It would keep me busy for a good 30 minutes until dinner was ready. 

After moving to the US, I sometimes order dim sum chicken feet in restaurants. But when I have time, I cook the northern style braised chicken feet using my mom’s recipe.

A quick introduction to chicken feet

Chicken feet, also known as “凤爪” (Feng Zhao) or “phoenix claws” in Mandarin, is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine. It is so popular that you can find them in almost any region, with very different tastes and cooking methods. In Sichuan, you will find the cold ones cooked until crunchy, served in a red oil based sauce. In Cantonese cuisine, the chicken feet are deep fried and then braised until extra tender, served in a small steamer. In northern China, we braise them in a savory soy sauce based sauce with a lot of aromatics and spices, to impart a rich flavor.

Chinese braised chicken feet are often served as a street snack, dim sum dish, or as an appetizer in a larger meal. 

Chicken feet benefits

Braised chicken feet are not only enjoyed for their unique flavor and texture, but also offer several health benefits because they’re packed with collagen.

Good skin: Chicken feet are high in collagen, a protein that promotes healthy skin, hair, nails, and joints.

Supports Bone Health: Collagen is also a crucial component of bones and connective tissues. Eating chicken feet may contribute to maintaining bone density and strength.

Promotes Digestive Health: The collagen can also help support digestive health by coating and soothing the digestive tract. In my recipe, the slow cooking process of braising breaks down proteins and makes them easier to digest.

Ingredients

Most of the ingredients for making braised chicken feet are fairly standard Chinese pantry ingredients. However, I do want to introduce a secret ingredient to make the best tasting chicken feet.

Red bean curd (南乳)

Red bean curd, or 南乳 (Nan Ru), is also known as “fermented tofu” or “red fermented bean curd”. It is tofu fermented with red yeast, salt and other condiments. It has a very tender texture, red color and a complex umami due to the fermentation process. I always compare it to blue cheese, which has a distinctive flavor and texture. 

Red bean curd is commonly used in northern Chinese cooking, especially braising. It adds depth of flavor, richness, and a slightly tangy taste to dishes. 

You can easily find red bean curd in your local Chinese market and on Amazon.

If you cannot find this ingredient, you can skip it. But I highly recommend it if you can source it, to make the braised chicken feet extra tasty.

Braised chicken feet ingredients

To make braised chicken feet, you will need:

Chicken feet, nails clipped

Light and dark soy sauce

Aromatics (ginger and green onion)

Spices (Bay leaves, cinnamon, dried chili pepper, Sichuan peppercorn, star anise)

Red bean curd

Sugar (or rock sugar)

When you’re ready to cook, you actually don’t need to lay out all the ingredients like I did in this photo. You can add them while cooking the dish, which saves you some bowls and plates to wash.

How to cook braised chicken feet

One of the most important things when cooking chicken feet is to wash and clean them properly so they do not have an off smell. And it’s equally important to rinse them thoroughly and blanch them before starting the braising. Here’s the process:

Blanch the chicken feet 

Skim and discard the foam on top

Rinse the chicken feet thoroughly again 

Add all the braising ingredients 

Braise the chicken on low boil until it reaches the desired texture

Reduce the sauce 

Why braise in a wok

Chinese cooks love to use a wok for braising dishes. Due to the shape of the wok, you can use less liquid to fully submerge the ingredients, so it braises evenly and you need less time to reduce the sauce later. The shape of the wok also makes it easier to flip the ingredients, making the sauce reduction process much easier. 

If you do not own a wok, that is totally fine! You can use a large pot or a dutch oven for the braising. 

Boil, not simmer

During the braising process, it’s important to keep a low to medium boil instead of a simmer. The chicken feet will render some fat during the braising. By using a higher heat, the fat will be emulsified into the broth, making it a nicer taste and mouthfeel. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I use Instant Pot to make braised chicken feet?

It’s possible to use an Instant Pot to reduce the cooking time, however I don’t recommend it. By braising them longer, the chicken feet will soak up more flavor and taste nicer. Plus, even if you use an Instant Pot, you will still need to reduce the sauce to finish up the dish. On top of pressure adding and releasing time, you won’t save too much time by using it.

How to store and reheat braised chicken feet

You can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, the best way is to place the chicken feet and the sauce in a plate and steam them until completely heated through for the best texture. 

What can I do with the leftover sauce?

The sauce from these braised chicken feet is full of flavor and gelatin, so you should save any extra leftover sauce. You can use a small amount of the sauce to replace soy sauce and salt in your stir fries, to add a great flavor. You can also use a small amount of the sauce in noodle soup, to make a richer broth. You can even add some water to the sauce and use it to braise other things such as cut up chicken, pork, tofu, potato and / or carrot to make a super simple one-bowl meal. 

Afterthoughts

Braised chicken feet may not be to everyone’s style, they are a beloved delicacy in Chinese cuisine and offer a flavorful and nutritious addition to any meal. I hope you like this Northern Chinese version!

Other delicious braised dish

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Braised Chicken Feet (凤爪)

Northern Chinese style braised chicken feet featuring a tender texture and a rich savory flavor that is full of umami. It’s a great appetizer to wash down with a glass of cold beer and a fun snack for movie night.

Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: AppetizerCuisine: ChineseKeyword: homestyle

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutesCook Time: 2 hours hoursTotal Time: 2 hours hours 10 minutes minutes

Servings: 4 to 6 servings

InstructionsWash the chicken feet thoroughly. Clip off the chicken nails using a pair of kitchen shears. Transfer the chicken feet into a large pot and add water to cover.Heat the pot over medium-high heat until the water is boiling. Boil for 5 minutes. Skim and discard the brown foam from top. Then drain and discard the boiling water. Rinse the chicken feet with cold running water and drain again. Transfer the chicken feet to a wok (or the same large pot if not using a wok) and add water to cover, about 8 cups.Add the red bean curd and its juice to a small bowl and 2 tablespoons of water. Smash the bean curd to blend well with the water.Add the remaining spices and seasonings, and the dissolved red bean curd with all the liquid. Heat the pot over medium-high heat until boiling.Turn to medium heat. Keep a low boil with cover for 30 minutes. Move onto the next step if you prefer a chewy texture. If you prefer a tender texture (like I did in this recipe), uncover the pan and keep it boiling for another 30 minutes or so.To reduce the broth, turn to high heat and uncover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened and can thinly coat the chicken, 20 minutes or so. You need to watch the pan towards the end and stir more frequently to prevent it from sticking. During this process, you can also remove and discard the aromatics and spices by fishing them out, so the dish has a clean look when serving.Turn off the heat and transfer everything to a plate. The sauce is full of gelatin and will keep thickening as it cools.Serve hot or at room temperature as an appetizer.
Notes
You can add the Sichuan peppercorns in a tea strainer so it’s easier to discard them later when serving the dish.

NutritionServing: 1serving, Calories: 79kcal, Carbohydrates: 5.2g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 3.4g, Saturated Fat: 0.9g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 538mg, Potassium: 74mg, Fiber: 0.1g, Sugar: 3.2g, Calcium: 5mg

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