Sweet-and-sour Pig’s Trotters

The edge of Chicagos Chinatown, on the South Side, was heavily populated by African-Americans. Ethnically segregated as Chicago was, there was nonetheless a great deal of cross-cultural exchange. African-Americans shared the Chinese-American taste for pig’s feet, or trotters. They would often come to Chinatown to buy the treat fresh at Chinese grocers. ‘Soul food’ knows no geographic or ethnic boundaries.

I remember the pungent aromas that used to emanate from my mother’s kitchen when she made this delicious version of sweet-and-sour pig’s trotters. The unique texture of the skin would melt in my mouth, and I would spend minutes chewing on the delicate little bones, savouring every last bit of flavour. This easy-to-make recipe reheats well and is an unusual way to enjoy an often neglected cut of meat.


  • 900 g (2 lb) large, meaty pig’s trotters, about 4 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fermented black beans
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) black rice vinegar
  • 480 ml (16 fl oz) water
  • 240 ml (8 fl oz) Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 205 g (7 oz) crushed Chinese rock sugar or 150 g ( oz) granulated sugar


Have your butcher trim the pig’s trotters and cut them in half. Blanch the trotters for 20 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Drain well.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, gently lower in the pig’s trotters, skin side down, and brown for a few minutes. Then toss in the black beans and garlic and continue to brown for a further 2 minutes. Now pour in the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. Serve at once, or allow to cool and reheat when desired.