Braised Pig Trotter 紅燒豬手
Americans don’t usually eat pig trotters aka pig feet, so I admit this may sound rather unsavory to some. However, in truth many countries have recipes for preparing pig feet, not just to stretch as many meals out of an animal as possible, but because it can actually be quite delicious in its own right. Moreover, it can lay claim to some health benefits, for it is loaded with collagen but not a lot of fat. In Hong Kong, many people enjoy eating pig trotters as they believe it keeps their skin youthful and healthy.
It’s our first time cooking this. I have never thought of cooking pig trotters, figuring that it must involve some difficult process to render it edible. However, I found it, of all places, at Whole Foods, while grocery shopping there, and all I can thought of is, yay, new dishes I have never made before!
After getting it home, we soon crossed our first obstacle. How do we cut them into chunks? Our kitchen knives most certainly aren’t up to the task. We ended up using boning knife to cut around the joints. It’s a bit easier if they are first boiled for a few minutes. My advice is get the butcher to hack them into chunks for you. I also had to depilate a few pieces. By the time the trotters are prepped it was amply clear I do not have the aptitude to be a surgeon or a beautician.
Thankfully, it was smooth sailing from there on. We cooked the trotters for 10 minutes then rinse it, to get rid of any scums and odor. Then we heat some rock sugar in the pot to caramelize it, this gives the trotters a nice glossy brown color. Afterwards it’s just adding all the seasonings and herbs and cooking it for an hour or two till it’s tender. It can be ready in an hour, but cooking it longer makes it even more delicious, so it’s worth the wait.
The meat is soft, the skin gelatinous, it is a delicious dish. You can serve it over white rice or noodles (soup or dry). In Hong Kong the thin, yellowish wonton noodles is the choice but white wheat noodles work too. Add some bok choi on the side for a complete meal.
Braised Pork Trotter
– Get the butcher to cut the trotters into smaller pieces for you. Otherwise, cooking them for 5 minutes or so makes it easier to cut along the joints. But seriously, get the pros to do it for you.
– You can skip the boiling part. Asian recipes tend to include steps like soaking or boiling pork to remove scum and odors, but I seldom see American recipes asking for it.
– Rock sugar 冰糖 is not rock candy. It is sugar crystals that looks like unpolished gems that are white to light brown and somewhat translucent. It is less sweet than regular sugar, and gives the cooking meat a lovely glaze. Almost all Asian grocery stores will carry it, and it’s available online as well. Substitute with regular sugar if you don’t have it.
– If you don’t have Shaoxing cooking wine, use other Chinese cooking wine or Japanese sake.
– If you don’t have Sichuan peppercorn, use 1 tsp of whole black peppercorn instead. If you use ground, use only 1/4 tsp, as it will be much spicier than whole peppercorns.
* 1.5 – 2 lb pig trotters
* 2 Scallions, cut into 1.5′ sections
* 2 inches chunk of ginger, sliced
* 4 cloves garlic
* 6-8 lumps of rock sugar, about 1″ cube size
* 3 star anise
* 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 4 Bay leaves
* 1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
* 2 Tbsp soy sauce
* 2 Tbsp Shaoxing Cooking Wine
* 2 cups water
1. Rinse the pork trotters, cut into pieces.
2. Add pork trotters to a large pot of cold water, along with half the ginger and scallion.Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Drain into a colander and rinse to remove any scum. Check to remove any thick hair by pulling it or scraping it off.
4. In a pot, add 1 tsp of oil, heat for 30 sec, then add the remaining scallion and ginger, garlic and peppercorn, let sizzle for 1 minute. Remove and set aside.
5. To the same pot, add rock sugar and a teaspoonful of water, heat on medium, stir until sugar melts and caramelize to a dark brown color.
6. Add pork, stir and coat in the caramelized sugar until it is evenly coated in a brown color.
7. Return the aromatics to the pot. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick and bay leaves, stir and cook for another minute.
8. Return pork to the pot, add soy sauce, oyster sauce and cooking wine. Stir to mix. Add water to almost cover the pork. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower heat and let simmer for two hours till pork is tender and sauce is thicken. Check and stir a few times in between.