They say the Chinese eat anything, and in this case I sure am grateful to the person who decided that pig’s trotters could be a delicacy. Especially when after being braised for over an hour, it becomes melt-in-the-mouth and gooey, and leaves my lips sticky with the collagen in the pig’s skin. Beautiful messes.
Pig’s trotter can be made with fermented red bean curd, another Chinese ingredient that fascinates me. When I was younger I found the smell terrible – it was stinky, like rotting fruit, and I refused to eat it. I guess all foreign things scare me a little. My dad once told me that fermented bean curd is the “Chinese Cheese”, and I would agree. It’s not unlike stilton in terms of texture, flavour and smell, and it’s also what one would call an acquired taste.
The biggest drawback about spending Chinese New Years away from home is missing out feast after feast that happens for about a week (and the red envelopes of money of course!), and this dish was first made with my flatmates as a consolation prize. It became an annual tradition, but also to comfort visitors who missed home. And although it’s not Chinese New Years today, having three traditional Chinese dishes, a bowl of jasmine rice and Chinese soup sitting in my tummy makes any day a good day.
Braised Pig’s Trotter in Fermented Red Bean Curd (南乳炆豬手)
1 kg pig’s trotter, hair removed and chopped*
8 slices of ginger
4 stalks of spring onion, chopped into smaller stalks
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp fermented red bean curd
1400 ml water
1/2 tbsp each of dark soy sauce and light soy sauce
~30g rock sugar
1 tbsp corn starch
1. Blanch the pig’s trotter in 6 slices of ginger, spring onion and 5 tbsp Chinese rice wine for around 30 minutes.
2. Saute the garlic, 2 slices of ginger and fermented red bean curd in a deep saucepan for a minute or so, then add the pig’s trotters.
3. Add the water, soy sauces, rick sugar, 2 tbsp rice wine and corn starch, bring to boil, then cover the pan and allow to simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, until the pig’s trotter is soft and gooey.
*I found ready chopped frozen pig’s trotter in a package from a small Asian supermarket in Cambridge – definitely made my life easier as I didn’t have to deal with the little hairs that come with them!