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Feet-tastic flavours: Bigfoot chicken takes wing in Vietnamese cuisine

meet vietnam's 'dragon feet' chicken, a lunar new year delicacy
Dong Tao chickens, also known as "Dragon Chicken," at Dong Tao village, in Hung Yen province, Vietnam, January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Minh Nguyen

Known for their strangely large feet, Dong Tao chicken has for generations been a delicacy in Vietnam and mostly consumed during the Lunar New Year holiday.

The rare breed of poultry, also known as dragon chicken, feature a pair of scaly red feet as large as a beer can, originates from Dong Tao, a village 30 kms (18 miles) southeast of Hanoi.

Dong Tao chicken, weighing up to six kg (13 pounds) each when fully grown and once reserved only for the royals, are believed to bring good fortune and wealth to their owners.

meet vietnam's 'dragon feet' chicken, a lunar new year delicacy
A farmer holds the feet of baby Dong Tao chicken

Today, demand for Dong Tao chicken, whose meat has a crunchy texture, a distinct fragrant aroma and a rich flavour, has risen sharply, backed by a growing number of wealthy people in one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.

“A fully-grown dragon chicken of at least one year old farmed in Dong Tao village is sold for up to 5 million dong ($205.38) or sometimes even 10 million dong,” said Le Trong Dung, a chicken farmer in the village.

Nguyen Thi Hong Nhung, a local chicken farmer, said the most valuable parts of the chicken are its legs, as she held a two-year-old rooster in her hands.

Loc Duc Toan, a 25-year-old chef in Hanoi, said a Dong Tao chicken has its best taste at the age of 13 to 15 months, adding that simple steaming is one of the best ways to cook it.

“When steamed, the skin will be crispy with a fragrant aroma of its own and a sweeter meat compared to other normal chicken,” Toan said.

The chicken are now also raised beyond the village, offering a chance for a wider range of consumers, but according to local agriculture official Phan Van Hieu, those raised in the village and fed purely with paddy rice and corn have the best taste.

“Production hasn’t met domestic demand yet,” Hieu said. “I’m sure you won’t find any Dong Tao chicken in any KFC restaurants in foreseeable future.”

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