As I packed my freezer full of basil cubes, I found two pig's feet. Being rather large, they took up a fair amount of space and I decided that it was time to pull them out of the deep freeze. But what on earth was I to do with two piggy feet? Looking at the leg end of the limb, they looked quite meaty, and somehow the blogosphere took me to an asian pork hock recipe. Pork hock, pig foot, close enough. Braising? Always a good thing. Asian flavours? Ditto.
I was set.
The black cardamom is very different from green cardamom, a spice I am familiar with. At first, I thought to just use the green, but once I smelled the black, I realized it was necessary. The two are not at all alike. Black cardamom has a strong medicinal smell, with hints of eucalyptus and spice. It's intense. The white peppercorn is brighter than its black counterpart, with hints of citrus. And the young coconut water is just beautiful, fresh and juicy smelling, far subtler than coconut milk. It's also quite fun hacking into the coconut to release the water!
3) Once your pig bits are fried, pull them out and drain all but a tablespoon of oil out of your pot. Be careful, hot oil is hot! Now add your ginger and garlic and fry until fragrant - this shouldn't take long. Then add in all your spices with the exception of the white peppercorns and fry for another minute or so. I would only use one black cardamom pod because they are quite intense. The smell as you are add the spices is unbelievably delicious! Star anise is one of my favorites and the black cardamom is darkly fascinating. I'm not quite ready to say that I love it but perhaps with time.
4) Turn the whole thing down to low, put the lid on and let it brew for as long as possible. Pork feet are full of tendons and collagen so need low and slow heat to break this all down. If you rush them you will have a rubbery gross mess. The recipe calls for four hours of cooking. I had a nice long bike ride that night ending at 8:30pm so my feet had about seven hours of cooking.
I arrived home starving and tired and a big pot of pork feet sounded quite delicious. The meat was so soft that it actually fell off the bones (there are many) as I tried to pull the feet out of the pot. Once I finished fishing all the bits and pieces out I let them cool a little and then took all the bones out. I only have one thing to say - pig feet are jelly-like and fatty and full of collagen. While I'm not quite at a point where I can slurp on a whole foot, once it is pulled apart and sitting like a luscious pile of fat on beautiful steamed rice I am pretty happy to eat it all down.
As a side note - my thrifty Scot self also really likes this recipe because my butcher only charged two bucks a foot. How can you argue with that?
As well, I fried the pig skin before eating it. Flabby skin just doesn't sound or feel or taste appealing to me whereas fried pig skin is one of my favourite things. It could be my favorite thing, besides sweet potato. So yeah. I recommend doing that. I would love to hear about other pig feet experiences. Do you have a favorite way of cooking with them? Is braised the best choice? Do they just seem totally disgusting to you? Tell me all!
Shonagh explores the guts of food in An Offal Experiment.