Braised Pig Trotters with Ginger and Ginger Flowers

No wild or domestic animal we eat is finer or more versatile than the pig, and when properly cooked there is no pork dish, from andouillettes (“take some pig guts...” begins Norman Douglas in Venus in the Kitchen) to tails, that I have not enjoyed.

If I get started on pigs in general I might have to give you the recipe from Edouard de Pomiane’s Le Carnet d’Anna (1938) for scrambled eggs with grilled blood sausage—or, from another book of his, boiled snout with a puree of grilled fresh cèpes (boletus)—so let’s just do this dish of the feet instead, meant as a warm first course.

Ingredients

  • 4 pig’s feet with shanks
  • 2 cups aromatic vegetable mix
  • 1 large herb bundle containing 2 star anise
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped young Hawaiian pink ginger (or galangal)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fermented Chinese black beans, soaked twice for 10 minutes, each time in cool water
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped in ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro sprigs, washed, spin-dried
  • ¼ cup fresh ginger flowers, shredded (if available)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put the pig’s feet, vegetable mix, herb bundle, and chicken stock in a casserole, cover, bring to a boil on top of the stove, and then cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn the feet over and continue cooking, turning them every 30 minutes, for another 1½ hours, or until the feet are completely tender.

Remove the feet and cover with a cold wet kitchen towel while they cool. Strain the cooking juices, skim away all the fat, and reduce for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, take all the bones out of the feet, and chop the meat and skin into ½-inch pieces. Put the ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, Chinese black beans, cleaned cooking juices, and olive oil in a bowl and mix. Add the pork meat, mix, season, and let sit 15 minutes in a warm place. Then mix in the eggs very gently.

Put the lime juice, hazelnuts, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl, whisk together, and then toss with the cilantro sprigs and ginger flowers.

Serve the pork on warm plates with the sauce around, the cilantro-ginger flower salad on top and, if you like, garlic bread dusted with red chili flakes.

,