Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Feet o' Pigs

My Mom mentioned a dish the other day and immediately a craving hit like a punch in the belly.

It was a dish I often requested at dim sum restaurants and one for which I will unashamedly hang around women who have just given birth.

This dish, pig's trotters in ginger and sweet vinegar, is traditionally given to a woman after labor as a way to help ward off 'wind', keep the body warm, help in the replenishment of blood lost and serves as a tonic to help women recuperate.

I eat it because it's tasty.

I have never tried cooking it myself but if my Mom (who, shockingly is an even worse cook than myself) can make it, so can I.

So off I went to try to buy the vinegar. It must be Pat Chun Sweet Vinegar, at least that's what everyone tells me! I was lucky enough to find it at See Woo in Leicester Square. Then I bought some old ginger. I wasn't sure how much so I bought 3 hefty pieces approximately the size of my hand. I like things on the spicy side but this should be adjusted to how much spice you can take.

Then it was off to the local butchers where I put in an order for 3 fresh pig's trotters for the following week. A half dozen eggs and I was set to begin.

I first began by peeling all the ginger and cutting it into thickish slices and putting them into a pot with the whole bottle of vinegar and heat until just barely simmering. Once the ginger slices had softened and taken on a bit of color, I turned off the heat and let it sit overnight.

In the meantime, I hard boiled the half dozen eggs and peeled them and put them into the cooled vinegar to marinate overnight.

When I got the pig's trotter's the next day, I asked that the nails be chucked away and each trotter to be cut in 6 pieces. Happily the butcher cut them with the cleaver so none of that powdery bone dust you get from machines. Then I came home, rinsed them very well, pulling off any tough bits of skin and put them into a pot of cold water to cover and heat to boiling. You will see a lot of grey scum rise to the top. After it had boiled about 5-10 mins, I removed, rinsed and started again with cold water and heat to boiling. This time there was little scum but if there is, you may need to do it a third time.

I rinsed off the pig's trotters as well as I could and took out the eggs from the vinegar marinade (which were a lovely brown color by this time) and replaced them with the pig's trotters. I then topped up with about a cup of water to almost cover the pig's trotters and lets simmer on the lowest possible heat for 3-4 hours or until the pig's trotters look very soft and ready to eat.

At this point, I let the whole pot cool, replaced the eggs and leave overnight in the fridge. This way, I could easily scoop out the hard white lard the next morning before returning to the boil. Then it was ready to eat.

Don't be put off by the length of time it appears to take. I'm sure you could make this in a single day but I like having the flavors develop and really marinate into the egg and the pig's trotters. I like the sauce to be almost sticky and deeply flavorful.

This keeps incredibly well and you can add to it with more sweet vinegar, ginger or pig's trotters and reuse the sauce as the base for the next batch.

I like to serve it with white rice, lightly sauteed spinach and beansprouts with the egg cut in half, attractively showing three colors of the yolk, the white and the marinated brown, and a few pieces of pig's trotters. You won't need much of the sauce as the egg and pig's trotters should be plenty flavorful.

It is an easy and cheap dish to make (under 6 pounds!) and would be greatly appreciated by any new mother.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I am very impressed. It looks so delicious. I didn't know it was so easy, I might try it myself.

Sui Mai said...

If I can do it, Vera can do it! ;)

If you can't find the vinegar, let me know and I'll bring a bottle over!

André said...

3 pig's trotters?....

There's going to be one angry pig out there. In fact you could say he'll be HOPPING mad!


Susan in HK said...

oh, this sounds good - i haven't eaten it in ages. In England, do they charge more for the pig "hands" (as opposed to the hind "feet")? If you can choose, the hands are better.

Sui Mai said...

Pig's 'hands'... hmmm, I don't know.. I wonder if I can be that specific! I'll try next time though!

Anonymous said...

I can smell it from here!!! It looks real good! Congrats on your first pot of "chu gerk gurn"

joan said...

I love this dish! And I don't care if it's usually for women in confinement...love eating it all the same!

3e said...

tastes even better with salted egg...try it!