“Ew. People eat chicken feet?” I guess that was your reaction when you read the title of this article. While chicken feet is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea — particularly in western cultures — it is a actually a beloved delicacy in several countries! In fact, Korean chicken feet is a popular ‘안주’ an-joo (food paired with alcohol.) It also comes under the umbrella of Korean streetfood, along with foreigner favourites like tteokbokki (chewy rice cakes), hotdogs and tui-gim (fried goods.) However, chicken feet — or as its known here, dak-bal — is almost certainly aligned with other ‘weird’ dishes like gopchang (beef/pork intestines) and sundae (blood sausage.) For me personally, as long as its cooked well, it tastes good!
Is chicken feet Halal?
I am from Indonesia and like many other Indonesians, I follow a Halal diet. However, I am not that strict, so I tend to just avoid pork dishes, rather than eating exclusively at halal certified places. If you follow a halal diet, you may be wondering, are chicken feet halal? Well, you can rest assured that the dish does not contain pork, but you may struggle to find an official halal-certified chicken feet restaurant in Korea.
Chicken feet Around the World
From China to Trinidad, there are plenty of people out there that love chicken feet dishes. Typically, boneless chicken feet are boile in soups and stews. Moreover, only a few countries enjoy grilled chicken feet, like Korea and the Phillipines.
Chicken feet is actually one of the principle imports China receives from the US. Last year marked the resume of chicken feet imports from the US, following the ban imposed after an avian flu outbreak in 20151.
While chicken feet might be a rare item to find in American markets, there is a higher demand for chicken feet than meat in China. Furthermore, since China imposed stricter customs tax, chicken feet, or ‘phoenix talons’ in China, have been at the heart of trade disagreements between the two nations2.
In Indonesia, chicken feet is typically an ingredient in soups like soto (yellow broth), meatball soup or sop (chicken broth with lots of veg.) Furthermore, there is a special chicken feet soup known as sup ceker, native to my home region of Java.
I loved the dish so much that my grandmother used to cook it for me sometimes. She told me that chicken feet are rich in collagen and other essential nutrients. In fact, they are thought of as a natural remedy for joint pain, preventing bone damage in post-menopausal women and reducing blood sugar!
Chicken Feet in Korea
Korea has many different kinds of chicken dishes, from classic fried chicken and healing samgyetang (chicken ginseng broth), to chicken gizzard and feet. From 2005 to 2018, the consumption of chicken per capita increased by 89%3.
Chicken feet itself is not a main dish that everyone enjoys at home. Similar to fried chicken, Koreans enjoy it with alcohol as an-joo — and make it super spicy. If you’re a fan of spicy food, you should know that chicken feet is one of Korea’s spiciest dishes.
Nevertheless, this dish is not that popular, even with Koreans. Some people refer to it as a ‘challenge’, not dissimilar to that of bul-dak ramyeon (fire noodles.) However, most people cite the strange texture as their reason for disliking it, as well as having to deal with the small bones. BUT! Did you know that Korean chicken feet has a boneless variation? When I first moved here, I had no idea it was even possible. When I once bought chicken feet for take-out, the ajumma who worked their was surprised, “foreigners eat this too?” Oh, you have no idea!
Where to go
There are a lot of restaurants and tented bars (known as pojangmacha), that sell Korean chicken feet. What’s more, they cook it in lots of different ways: soup, stir-fried and grilled. I am not much of a foodie, but having eaten chicken feet several times here I think that the grilled boneless version is best!
I enjoy eating chicken feet with bones (tip: eat the feet whole and spit out the small bones while chewing!) But I think boneless chicken feet are deserving of the title ‘Food Wonders of the World.’ They are chewy and taste almost like chicken skin! Even the texture is similar to chicken skin. With the right spice level, it’s absolutely mouth-watering.
In a restaurant, grilled chicken feet tend to range from 10,000 to 15,000 KRW. Additionally, you can order some delicious side menus like steamed egg and seaweed soup, as well as alcohol of course. The grilled chicken is fried slightly before serving too — delicious!
Unfortunately my favourite chicken feet restaurant in Hyehwa closed down. What I loved about it was that the spice level was just right. It was certainly fiery, but didn’t burn your mouth or overshadow the other flavours. Moreover, you can grill the chicken feet to your taste. For me, I like it if they’re a little bit burnt; the crispier the better.