By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
I could never imagine that chicken feet, despised by many Americans, would be the thing to link China and America in a win-win situation.
You probably think I’m lying or joking.
Nope, I have proof.
If you don’t have the stomach to read about chicken feet, don’t worry, this isn’t about cooking them. On the 30th anniversary of U.S.–China relations, chicken feet became newsworthy, a commodity that the U.S. government can make money on.
Check out the New York Times from Sept. 16. It was not an article in the food section, but was featured prominently on the front page of the business section. Titled “A Taste for Chicken Feet May Keep American Poultry in Chinese Pots,” the piece caught my eye because I am a big fan of chicken feet and cook them often at home.
Here in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, chicken feet with black bean sauce is a popular dim sum item for Asian immigrants.
It has become a frequent joke with my non-Asian friends when we go to dim sum restaurants. I urge them to try chicken feet to prove their bravery.
Americans have been knocking our heads all these years to figure out what we can do about the trade imbalance between the United States and China. Suddenly, we discover there is something Chinese people love.
How many times have we learned that anger, conflicts, and strains can be diminished at the dining table over a wonderful meal?
The Chinese won’t bypass delicious food items and are willing to negotiate to possess them. How much do exporting frozen feet earn us? The Chinese spent about $4.3 billion on American poultry in 2008, according to the Times.Imagine finding something in your garage that has no value to you, but is now giving you tremendous profits.
The Chinese government cooperates on the issue of chicken feet and wings. You have to understand that the trade war between the United States and China has been messy and complicated in recent years.
Americans have been importing a lot of Chinese goods and products, but if we want to sell something back to China, it isn’t always simple. There was recently a fight over importing Chinese tires into this country. The Chinese government also imposes tariffs, quotas, and bureaucracies to protect their own brands.
According to the Times, when it comes to chicken feet, “the Chinese relent.” There is no restriction from China on America’s export of wings and feet.
Our chicken feet are more muscular and fatty in texture. The feet tastes so much better and tender than the chicken feet in China because it becomes too skinny once it’s cooked. I know this because I was born in China and raised in Hong Kong.
Chicken feet brings the United States and China close together
Chicken feet are considered a delicacy in Chinese culture. Chinese can make delicious soup and stews out of them. Chicken feet brings the United States and China closer. What a milestone for the 30th anniversary of U.S.–China relations!
Perhaps Americans should learn that Asians waste nothing when it comes to food. Every part of the chicken can be maximized to its fullest potential. If it is a bigger bird like a goose or duck, we cook its tongue, neck, and head.
Cooking chicken feet
One of the reasons why chicken feet tastes great is because of its bones.
Cooking with the bone still on prevents the meat from getting dry. The bones soak the juice inside the meat and the meat soaks up the flavor of the bone.
Chicken feet have a tough texture because they contain tendons, fat, and muscles. They take long hours to cook, so they make for good soups and stews.
I like making a soup of chicken feet, raw peanuts, and mushrooms.
My friend said she is scared to look at uncooked chicken feet. I know — those nails. Just cut them right away and clean them well with salt.
Before long, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s worth a try.
My mom always said, “Chicken feet are good for your feet, they strengthen your muscle and tendons.” I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a wonderful excuse for me to devour them.
When I was in Shanghai, there were small shops that just sold goose necks and heads. My friend said they tasted good with wine. Some Chinatown barbecue shops and restaurants offer both duck tongue and other kinds of feet.
That’s a pretty good business model, too. Create new products out of junk or unwanted material.
Chicken feet impacts locally
Here is my grudge. When I arrived in this country decades ago, nobody wanted to have anything to do with chicken feet.
I used to be able to buy them for cheap at Safeway, less than a dollar for a big bag. Back then, the butcher actually offered them to me for free when he recognized that I was a regular shopper.
Since Asian immigrants have discovered chicken feet, I now have to pay a premium for them — tripled the price that I used to pay for a smaller-size bag at Asian supermarkets.
Don’t be prejudiced before you try chicken feet. If you don’t dare to try it, you are not being bold and adventurous. You carry unknown fears that may deprive yourself of good things in life.
On the other hand, maybe staying away from the darn thing is fine since we have a surplus to sell to China.
Hey, you are actually contributing to America’s global economy. ♦
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.