This much-guarded recipe is one that many Cantonese chefs and cooks take to their graves. We’ve pieced together this recipe from a variety of sources. The chicken feet are first deep-fried, then plunged into iced water for 2 hours to make them ‘puff up’. Then they’re braised to infuse flavour and achieve a succulent texture. For maximum flavour, marinate the chicken feet overnight.
- 1 kg chicken feet (see Note)
- 120 g (⅓ cup) char siu sauce (see Note)
- peanut oil, to deep-fry, plus 2 tbs extra
- 125 ml (½ cup) Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) (see Note)
- 2 star anise
- 4 spring onions, cut into thirds
- 3 cm piece ginger, sliced
- 100 g (⅓ cup) hot bean sauce (see Note)
- 1 tbsp abalone sauce (see Note)
- 1 red birdseye chilli, thinly sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 55 g (¼ cup) white sugar
- white pepper to taste
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time overnight
Wash the chicken feet in a large bowl of salted water, removing any scaly yellow outer skin. Chop off the claws and discard, then place the chicken feet in a large bowl and marinate in char siu sauce for at least 3 hours or overnight. Drain the feet, then pat dry with paper towel.
Fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds). Working in batches, gently drop chicken feet into oil and fry for 3 minutes or until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel, then plunge into iced water for 2 hours or until 'puffed up'.
Place 2 litres water, 80 ml (⅓ cup) rice wine, star anise, spring onions, ginger and chicken feet in a large saucepan. Cover and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1½ hours or until tender. Strain chicken feet, reserving 125 ml (½ cup) cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a wok, combine hot bean sauce, abalone sauce, chilli, garlic, extra 2 tbsp oil, remaining 2 tbsp rice wine, sugar and reserved cooking liquid, and season with white pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium. Add chicken feet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until chicken feet are warmed through and sauce has slightly thickened. Serve immediately or cool and reheat later in a steamer basket, if desired.
• Chicken feet are available from Asian butchers.
• Char sui sauce is made from hoi sin, sherry, honey and sugar. It is available from selected supermarkets or Asian food shops.
• Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) is available from Asian food shops; substitute dry sherry.
• Hot bean and alabone sauces are available from Asian food shops.
Photography by Alan Benson.
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