Before moving to China I believed in trying everything at least once! In the past few years I’ve gone out of my way to try unusual foods and I was excited to try as much new food as possible in my new home.
It wasn’t too hard to find exciting foods in Huaqiao! I sampled silkworm larva, jellyfish and all sorts of unusual looking mushrooms – or at least I thought they were mushrooms.
At least half of what I tried was impossible to identify. Despite my adventurous nature, I spent several weeks avoiding two famous Chinese delicacies: chicken feet and century eggs.
Century eggs seemed a little less intimidating so I bought half a dozen. The photo of a black egg on the cover made them easy to distinguish from regular eggs. I hadn’t done much prior research so I just casually peeled the egg and bit into the gelatinous black egg ‘white’. Unimpressed, I tried a bit of the foul smelling yolk which was only a little better.
After reading up about proper century eggs preparation I discovered that they should be diced and eaten with rice pudding. This is a popular breakfast in several provinces in China.
Since the preparation time is over 3 hours, I haven’t tried it just yet. I did give century eggs a second chance though, soya sauce made them much more bearable as did the chaser: Ukrainian vodka.
Chicken feet were a much greater challenge. It wasn’t possible to just close my eyes, put them in my mouth and potentially swallow them whole if I didn’t like them. Chicken feet include bones, nails, skin and surprisingly little flesh. Once again I did no research so I wasn’t quite sure how to approach them.
One Friday night after drinking some wine, beer and shots I was craving snacks. I got chocolate sticks, salted seaweed and one chicken foot that only cost 2RMB (7 CZK or 0.25 USD). Luckily, there was someone braver than me who took the slimy foot out of the airtight bag and he even took the first bite. Bravery is contagious so I followed his lead and nibbled around the ankle.
Surprise surprise… it tasted like chicken! I was quickly told that fresh chicken feet are much better, plus the cheap snacks are full of preservatives. Unfortunately, the freshly cooked chicken feet covered in garlic and chili pepper were way too spicy and impossibly chewy – but at least I tried!
There are various ways to eat chicken feet: in soup, fried and on a stick just to mention a few. If I happen to come across non-spicy freshly fried chicken feet on a stick, I may give them one last try.
There are many ethical reasons to avoid chicken feet of course, especially since the chickens they were once attached to were likely tortured. However, I believe in using as much of a killed animal as possible and eating chicken feet does just that!