May 14, 2012

Braised pork feet with tofu and seaweed

Pork feet 5-6-12

Let me show you what I'd be eating these few months at the end of my pregnancy and during my postpartum period: Lots and lots of pork feet.

The beauty of pork feet for home cooks is their modesty. No frills. No fanfare. Pork feet are plentiful. They are a magic blend of mouth-boggling textures that only leave you wanting for more: silky tendon, chewy cartilage, gelatinous skin, and fall-off-the-bone tender meat. When braised with star anise, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, soy sauces, and rock cane sugar, the color of spices and the shades of flavors turn this nondescript cut of meat into a sublime taste, perfect with plain rice or noodles.

Described as a new superfood with its abundance in collagen and protein, braised pork feet is a nutritious and hearty dish for less budget and with little effort. For moms-to-be, as if making you look younger is not enticing enough to make this dish, believe it or not, pork feet promotes lactation. It's a natural galactagogue that is tasty and inviting.

Braised feet with tofu and seaweed

I call this my family recipe, developed as I picked up new skills and tastes during my past 10 years as a home cook. Hope you'd enjoy this! In case you may wonder, rock sugar is a type of unrefined cane sugar popular in making Chinese dessert soups or savory braises and stews. Unlike regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce is viscous and is prized for its color. Dried orange peel lends a unique citrus flavor to the broth but the pith needs to be remove for its bitterness. Last but not least, this dish makes a great left-over! (Some left-over pork feet are made into fixings for noodles in the picture below.) Store it overnight and you'll find the gelatin on the surface; don't throw them away! Reheat the dish and they'll be melted. Reserve the liquid as a sauce for your next stir-fried noodles or dishes.

Pork feet rice vermicelli c 5-10-12

Time: 2 hour
Yield: 3 - 4 servings

1 ½ - 2 pound pork feet, cut and split (good news: they're usually sold pre-cut/split!)
2 tablespoons oil
2 pieces 1" ginger
1 dried orange peel, soaked and pith removed
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoons chopped green onion or shallot
¼ cup star anise
½ cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon of combined spices (best to be wrapped in a tea bag/coffee filter): fennel, coriander seeds, cloves 
2 tablespoons rice wine
1 ½ cup water (or broth)
¼ cup rock sugar
1 used teabag (optional)
1 piece seaweed, soaked, cut lengthwise into 2" x 5" and tied into knots
½ pack tofu, chopped into wedges
2 eggs
  1. Soak pork feet in cold water for one minutes. Use knife to scrap away hair.
  2. Pork feet b 5-6-12
  3. Bring to a boil a pot of water. Blanch pork feet for two minutes. Drain and run against cold running water. {Update: Cut tendons slightly away from bones for better texture.}
  4. Heat a medium saucepan or a wide pan over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons oil. Add the soaked orange peel, garlic, and green onions and stir-fry until aromatic. 
  5. Add star anise and pork feet and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Pour in ½ cup soy sauce and  ¼ cup dark soy sauce and stir-fry until sauce is slightly boiled and pork feet is evenly coated, about 1 minute. Add spices and 2 tablespoons rice wine and keep stirring, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add 1 ½ cups water (best to be hot water) into the mixture. Add 1/4 cup rock sugar and keep stirring, about 30 seconds. Bring to a boil.
  7. If you use a saucepan, you can close the lid now and turn the heat to medium low. If you use a wide pan, you can transfer the mixture into a medium saucepan now. (Make sure all pork feet are covered in the liquid, if not, replenish  with some water, but not too much.) Simmer for about 1 ½ hours, until pork feet arrive at a texture to your liking. (I love them to be just done, not too tender to retain the chewing mouthfeel.)
  8. About one hour into the the simmer, add a used teabag (optional), tofu wedges (be careful, they're soft!), two eggs (cracked slightly for juice absorption), and seaweed knots. 


Trout Caviar said...

Tina, I love how you boldly go where most American palates fear to tread. Pig's feet are indeed delicious when well prepared, but a daunting cut for most of us. I've cooked them a couple of times in a French manner, and of course I ate them often in China (not to mention far more obscure pig parts, with which I'm sure you're familiar). I'll have to give your family recipe a try sometime--with the anise, orange peel, rock sugar, I can practically smell it cooking! Meantime, thank you for the vicarious taste tour, and, although it has absolutely no personal significance for me, I'm delighted to have encountered the word galactogogue.

Cheers~ Brett

minneville said...

Thank you Brett! This is such an uplifting comment for me!

Interestingly, I got my pork feet from Rainbow, which is just another American chain supermarket (not even specialty markets like Whole Foods or Lunds & Byerlys that boasts its wide offerings.) So I believe pork feet still qualify for the American palate? As to obscure pig parts, I'd yet to have the gut to try pork uterus.

As to your last note, I always thought eating food for promoting lactation is more like a Chinese belief. But after laerning my friend's doctor recommending fenugreek, this opens up a new world for me! So it turns out it's a universal belief too.