I love pig’s ears and I wanted to put them on the menu somehow. What I decided to do was a version of Peking beef, but using pig’s ears: you know, that dish of crispy battered matchsticks of beef, coated in thick, sweet sauce. I like this dish because you get that crispy outer layer of pork skin and a soft, gelatinous texture inside. The sweet and sour sauce also helps to balance the richness of the ears.
Using a kitchen blowtorch (or barbecue gas lighter), burn off any excess hairs that are still attached to the ears. Add the masterstock to a large saucepan, bring to the boil then add the ears. Cover the surface of the liquid with a sheet of baking paper. Braise the ears at a slow simmer for about 3 hours when they should be soft, sticky and gelatinous. Carefully remove them from the masterstock with a slotted spoon and spread on a tray. Once they have cooled down, put the tray in the fridge for the ears to cool completely and solidify.
Whisk the sweet and sour sauce with the fish fragrant sauce in a bowl. Set aside.
Peel and cut the carrots into 3 pieces. Using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the carrot pieces lengthways to form fine ribbons. Cut the ribbons into very thin matchsticks.
Fill a wok or deep-fryer one-third full with oil and heat to 160°C (315°F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 30–35 seconds. Fry the carrot matchsticks for about 2 minutes, until bright yellow and crisp. Drain on paper towels, cover and keep warm.
Increase the temperature of the deep-fryer oil to 180°C (350°F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in 15 seconds. Cut the pig’s ears into strips about 1 cm (½ inch) wide. Dust the strips in potato starch and fry them in batches for about 5 minutes, or until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
Put the ears in a large bowl and spoon the sauce in. Stir well to ensure everything is evenly coated, then transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the crispy carrots and spring onions and serve with steamed rice.
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