Although not a common protein source in American dishes, chicken feet are a popular ingredient in other countries, including Indonesia, Russia, Jamaica and Vietnam. Good-humored Filipinos call this popular street food “adidas,” named after the athletic shoe brand. But it’s in China where chicken feet have the most traction. Deep-fried, steamed, pickled, marinated, simmered in sauce—they are found in snacks, soups and main dishes. Consisting mostly of skin and tendon and gelatinous in nature, the appeal of chicken feet lies in their vast contrast to the texture of actual chicken.
Try it: KJ Dim Sum & Seafood(in the Rio, 702-777-7777, Caesars.com).
In evolutionary terms, cephalopods such as squid and octopuses use ink as a defense mechanism. By releasing large amounts of ink into the water, they create a dark cloud that confuses their predators and allows them to escape. In culinary terms, it is a delicious addition to pasta or risotto, or as a base for stews. The taste is definitely that of the ocean—thick, briny and undeniably umami. Popular in Italian, Spanish and Southeast Asian cuisines, it brings new depth to tender squid. You won’t even mind the fact that you’ll need to brush your teeth after.
Try it: Rossejat’ negra con cigala (toasted pasta, squid ink, sepia sofrito, Norwegian lobster and aioli) at Jaleo (in the Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7950, Jaleo.com).
There’s something so beautiful about heirloom tomatoes, with their surprising, irregular shapes and variegated color. This is a tomato with personality and a taste to match. Heirlooms are classified into four categories: family, commercial, mystery and created heirlooms, their seeds passed down from generation to generation. But the important thing to know about these beauties is their flavor, which many feel far surpasses that of modern tomatoes. There’s something to be said about history after all.
Try it: Heirloom tomato and burrata at Honey Salt (1031 S. Rampart Blvd., 702-445-6100, HoneySalt.com).
A crawfish by any other name—crawdad, freshwater lobster, mudbug, crayfish—is just as tasty. It’s seafood not from the sea, but from freshwater bayous. While they look like the lobster’s more petite cousin, crawfish have a taste and texture all their own. Nothing is more Cajun than these little crustaceans, and a crawfish boil? Well, that’s pretty much the heart and soul of a Louisiana afternoon (where the recommended portion is five to seven pounds per person).
Try it: Hot N Juicy Crawfish (multiple locations, HotNJuicyCrawfish.com)
This pairing is the bedrock of any breakfast/brunch/late-night menu worth that one last cocktail too many. It’s protein in its purest form. The usual suspects on the side—potatoes, toast, what have you—are mere window dressing. You’ve come for a nice marbled slab of meat and the delicate ooze of yolk that will power you through whatever the day entails.
Try it fancy: Steak et Oeufs—a 6-ounce London sirloin steak with two eggs any style, toast and pommes frites—at Bouchon (in the Venetian, 702-414-6200, Venetian.com).
Try it hearty: 10-ounce top sirloin with breakfast potatoes and toast at Ellis Island Casino & Brewery (4178 Koval Lane, 702-733-8901, EllisIslandCasino.com).
Remember talk of the lime shortage last year that struck fear into the hearts of margarita aficionados everywhere? Think about how ubiquitous this citrus is in our daily lives—guacamole, ceviche and gin and tonics wouldn’t exist without it. Limes are an essential ingredient in Indian, Mexican and Vietnamese cuisines, among others. And really, could you imagine a bowl of pho without that final squeeze of citrus bliss? Unthinkable.
Try it: The Big Bone Soup at District One (3400 S. Jones Blvd., Suite 8, 702-413-6868, DistrictOneLV.com)
It’s hard not to be enamored with these crown jewels of Japanese cuisine. Salmon roe, known as ikura, are the fully ripe egg masses you’ll find in sushi or paired with blinis. A bite into the delicate orbs opens your mouth to the taste of the ocean—complex, briny and sweet. Although salmon roe is not as pricey as caviar (harvested from sturgeon), it is no less beloved by ardent fans.
Try it: Poached egg with sea urchin and salmon roe at Raku (5030 Spring Mountain Rd., Suite 2, 702-367-3511, Raku-Grill.com).
Photos by Sabin Orr