Why Are Chicken Feet Staving Off a Trade War? 'Cause They're Tasty.

The New York Times reported yesterday that China and the United States are bumping chests with one another over poultry trade. According to the article, China's threatening to ban U.S. poultry exports because a) the Obama administration is imposing tariffs on Chinese tires and b) the U.S. keeps banning poultry imports from China because of "health concerns." What's stopping the Chinese government from retaliating, the NYT says, is that Chinese diners can't do without the giant, honkin' feet from American chicken. (On their end, American poultry producers love that they can sell feet to China for 20 to 30 times more that they'd get for the parts in the States.) Of course, the thing that makes this national news in America is the ewwwww factor.


I confess I'm not a fan of the pure-white steamed variety of chicken feet. I'm more partial to the more flavorful feet I had at Jade Garden (424 7th Ave. S.) for lunch today in honor of healthy trade relations. Jade Garden's feet were probably fried (to soften up the skin and make it more porous), braised in sweet soy sauce with star anise and chile, then steamed before making it onto the dim sum carts.

The reason chicken feet are so popular in Asia is for their succulence, the skin and cartilage becoming soft and slightly gelatinous -- a wonderful texture to many -- after their long cooking. And once the dim sum cooks had their way with the feet, it took mere seconds to suck the sweet, fragrant meat off the bone(s). I have yum cha'd next to old women whom I've watched, with awe, spit out neat rows of tiny bones onto their chopsticks, but am nowhere near as accomplished. All in all, Jade Garden's chicken feet were a smidge gummy, but innocuously edible. And, I'm sure, much fatter and tastier than the scrawny little chicken feet you get from Chinese chickens.

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