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By Hoang Duy Tan

In the United States, chicken is a very popular food, but people usually only consume the breast. They forget about the thighs and feet. Chicken legs (particularly the tendons), once processed, are abundant in medical functions and benefits.

Nutrition for health

When we grow old, all our physical organs deteriorate. Typical “weaknesses” of the elderly include poor eyesight, backache and weary feet. Weary feet are of particular concern because that means seniors are unable to stand up or function. Chicken tendons provide nutritious food for them.

Many chicken parts, such as the head and testicles, are considered health supplements. It is not widely known that chicken tendons also are important as food and medicine. Chicken tendons are highly nutritious and beneficial for virility and joint stamina. In the past, chicken tendons were exclusively for royals and aristocrats, appearing at extravagant banquets. It was deemed an exotic food and listed among the eight culinary treasures.

Tendons are said to benefit patients more than many other kinds of herbs. Chinese medicinal practitioners explain that a chicken being chased will concentrate all its strength in its feet, and tendons are the simulator of this strength. Collecting chicken tendons when the chicken trips means you garner its strength.

Normally, chicken tendons are steamed with herbs and served hot. They can also be dried and stored for future use.

The tendons are selected from muscular roosters with red and yellow feathers and firm feet. They are driven into a fenced courtyard and a trained hound is released. The chickens scurry around until they are exhausted and fall over. The butcher holds the chicken legs, rips off the foot skin and sorts out their strained tendons.

The leg bones are used as health food. According to ancient medical books, these parts should be cooked into a condensed glue, when consumed with eleutherococcus and dwarf sedge extracts is said to help cure Parkinson disease and weak mobility.

The skin on chicken legs is quite fatty so prolonged consumption may lead to increased blood lipid volume among people with high cholesterol.

How to use

According to empirical data, simmering chicken feet bones and skin with fresh prawns and making congee from the broth for toddlers to consume on a daily basis will cure anemia, malnutrition, late walking, and delayed teeth generation.

In China, chicken tendons, foot skin and bones are steamed with eucomia, ox knees, black beans and jujube red dates to make an extract that is served with liquor to cure arthritis and backache.

Appetite loss, tiredness, backache, insomnia, impotence, vaginal discharge, bleeding, diarrhea and excessive sweating: Jungle fowl feet bones are a treasured medicine in several Asian countries. Combined with vegetative medicines, jungle fowl feet bones are cooked into a condensed glue, colloquially called “junglefowl essence” which proves helpful for these maladies.

Deficient skeleton and tendons: Use intact chicken legs (particularly roosters’) with outer skin and claws. Chop and put in 10cm of water.  Boil for 12 consecutive hours. If water ebbs, add boiling water and keep the bones soaked. Drain the first extracted water. Keep adding boiled water and boil  4 to 6 hours each time to produce the second and third batch of extracted water. Mix the extracted water together and condense it into glue. Serve twice daily, 8g each time with warm water.

Backache, aching neck, shoulder pains, disc herniation and sciatica stemming from degenerative disc: Steam three pairs of chicken legs  with herbs: Eucomia 10g; ox knees 10g, jujube red dates 10g. Soak ox knees and shredded eucomia in 500ml of 80oC hot water and keep warm for 5 hours. Simmer for 30 minutes, filter the extract and remove residue. Put steamed chicken legs and collagen and grated jujube red dates and cook for 30 minutes. Divide into two daily servings. Repeat for 30 days and continue if progress is made.

Boost blood circulation and male virility: 5 pairs of chicken legs, 1 white wood ear, 5 to 6 shitake mushrooms, shoulder loin 100g, 5-6 slices of trimmed carrot, half a dried onion and garlic clove, 3tbps grease (or cooking oil). Fish sauce, seasoning, pepper, glutamate, cilantro, ginger, liquor. Wash boneless chicken legs with liquor and marinate with fish sauce, seasoning, pepper and tapioca starch. Thinly slice shoulder loin and marinate it similarly. Soak white and lingzhi mushrooms until they bloom, then wash. Carefully pouch sliced carrot. Put cooking oil in a pan and fry onion and garlic. Stir fry chicken legs and pork. Use the leftover grease to stir fry white mushrooms and carrots. Add spices, chicken legs and pork and stir. Present on  a plate, add pepper and cilantro and serve hot.

Strengthen  skeleton, tendons and blood, to slow the aging process and enhance renal health: Combine a pair of chicken legs, 1 ginseng, Angelica sinensis 8g, lotus seeds 10g, and 10g Job’s tears. Steam the mixture and serve.

Processing to make health food

  • Wash chicken legs (remove all hard skin and claws), rip them off lengthwise with a sharp knife: 3 to 4 cuts along the legs and 3 to 4 cuts along the feet. Pound fresh ginger and carefully massage into chicken legs (10g ginger for 100g chicken leg). Marinate for 30 minutes to let Zingibain yeast resolve proteins, and add moderate salt and seasoning.
  • Wash peanuts (remove all stale and rotten ones), soak for 14 hours, scoop out, scatter on chicken legs (30g peanuts for 100g chicken legs). Put chicken legs and marinated ingredients in a pressure cooker and soak with water. Cook (until the valve steams out), turn down the heat and keep the mixture boiling for 45 minutes to soften skin. Switch off, leave 15 minutes and discharge the valve (experiments with pressure cookers under high pressure from over 45 to 90 minutes show that farmed chickens’ bones were still tough while mass fed chickens’ bones softened, virtually crumbled. Skin is not yet softened if cooked under 45 minutes).
  • Steam 1,000g of chicken legs with 300g of peanuts (this saves energy, rather than steaming 100g of chicken legs). Filter all liquid into a bowl and put in the fridge to let the grease float. Then remove it (it will be dense, delectable collagen). Processed chicken legs are stored in coolers (8 to 10oC).

Usage: Put chicken leg bones and collagen in bowl and warm in a cooker. Serve hot (cooled chicken skin will be very sticky, making it hard to grind bones).

Dose: Twice a day before meals. Each serving includes a pair of chicken legs, peanuts and collagen (filtered steamed grease) to boost overall health of recovering patients, particularly those with arthritis and deficient limbs. In case of scrawny, dry-skinned women, or scraggy elders with weak limbs, mass fed chickens’ legs are recommended. Combine with kidney supplementing medicine before serving chicken legs (depending on physical status, use yin or yang supplement). Collagen extract from chicken legs acts as hypertension inhibitor according to findings from Japanese scientists at Hiroshima University and Nippon Meat Packers R&D Center. They found four types of protein from the collagen of chicken legs that were capable of keeping blood pressure in check. Experiments on lab rats (with hypertension) found the inhibitor worked after four hours and blood pressure dropped the most after eight hours.

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Lecturer of Traditional Medicines. Graduated from Internal Medicine program and continued to pursue his study in Traditional Medicines. A researcher and author of numerous valuable books in traditional medicines.