Grilled chicken feet may not sound delicious, especially when compared to chicken wings, thighs or fillets, but they are actually a delicacy in Vietnam, often eaten by many locals with friends and beer.
The recipe is simple: raw chicken feet are marinated with salt, shallots, garlic, chili and other spices, and then grilled to a crisp on a charcoal grill, with oil brushed on them occasionally.
The feet are served with spicy dipping sauces and vegetables, a perfect dish to eat slowly while chatting with friends.
This dish is often categorised by many as “món nhậu” – a dish that is typically not filling and not meant to be eaten as part of a full meal, but is small and savoury for snacking.
Grilled chicken feet can be an acquired taste, especially for anyone who eats the meatier parts of the chicken. But nibbling on these crispy delights will quickly reveal why they are so beloved by many adults in Vietnam.
When properly grilled, the skin can be very flavourful and crispy, with a hint of spiciness lingering on the tongue after every bite. The juicy and rich tendons are not too filling, and combined with the savoury skin, it’s no surprise that many people find them irresistible.
In the evening, many locals can be found gathering at outdoor vendors or restaurants, chatting with friends while eating grilled chicken feet, slowly nibbling the skin and taking apart all the joints to reach the juicy tendons.
Nguyen Thanh Sang, who has been a grilled chicken vendor in Tan Binh District for 10 years, says that chicken feet are his most popular dish. Some customers are able to eat up to 20 pairs of feet in one sitting, and others even express disappointment after he runs out of the snack.
While the recipe seems simple, there are few factors that can make or break the dish.
“If the feet are too small, customers won’t like them. But if they are too big and they find them too fatty and not crispy enough, we will have to select the right chicken feet size to buy,” Sang says.
Truong Nguyen Thanh Hai, who is a chicken and octopus grill vendor in Binh Thanh District, says that chicken feet are cheap and great to eat with beer.
He started making grilled chicken feet after taking his wife to snack on the dish every day.
“A lot of foreigners often enjoy the meatier parts and tend not to like to nibble, but they should try these. Eating chicken feet has this ‘bit by bit’ feeling, and you can really savour the seasoning.”
Nguyen Minh Hien, a frequent customer at Hai’s place, says that he typically eats chicken feet once a week, and that the feet are great for people who like to nibble on bones and do not like chicken parts that have too much meat.
While grilled chicken feet is not for everyone’s taste, if you are looking for a light tasty snack to entertain a small gathering of friends, this dish may just hit the spot.