I’ve been in survival/no waste mode. Well, at least that’s what it seems like from my last four or five posts. Liver, lard, free seafood, and now the front (or back) feet of a pig; my blog is turning into an “I like ‘strange’ things/Foodie” or an “I am resourceful” blog. Today, I spend eight dollars on eight pounds of goodness.
My brother and I grew up on pig’s feet or as foodies like to call it: trotters. It was one of the many dishes that my mom knew that we thoroughly enjoyed and would put in her arsenal of dishes to cook to coax us home. She has been cooking this dish for years. I remember when she would cook this when I was young. It would be a Saturday or a Sunday and the whole house would fill up with the amazing aroma of pork, star anise, and soy sauce. As the day went on, the air in house would change as the stages of the cooking progressed. In the beginning of the day, you would get the aroma of rice wine as it steams in the air, then comes the savory smell of pork, finally you get the spice of licorice from the anise and then the nuttiness of soy sauce and caramelizing sugar. It immediately took me back to Taiwan and the smells of traditional cooking. It took me to dishes that never changed with fads, exotic ingredients, or Western impressions. It was how dishes where enjoyed by my parents, their parents, and their parents and how they have always stimulated the senses for generations.
I’ve been missing Taiwan a lot lately. Last November I had the amazing opportunity to go back to Taiwan for a few weeks. Since then I have dreamed of going back, more importantly dreamed of hosting a travel show highlighting the food of the island and the people who make and produce them. One of my favorite things to do in Taiwan is to eat the food and really see what it means for people to love cooking and be proud of the ingredients and the dishes from Taiwan. This is totally one of the dishes that I would highlight. Not only is it very Taiwanese, it’s completely simple in flavor, much like the islands philosophy on cooking.
I always thought, until now, that there was a bunch of ingredients in this dish. It seemed so complicated with all the flavors that fill my mouth, but turns out that it is super simple. Who knew that all you needed was pork, soy sauce, star anise, and sugar. My mom figured out that if you steam the feet half way through, you can get most of the grease out of the dish. I steamed it with rice wine, per my momma’s instruction. This way you get the wine to really permeate through the pork early on in the cooking process and give it a subtle flavor note that helps complicate a simple flavor profile. Plus it helps bring out the pork amazingly.
If you want true flavors or Taiwan as well as the real philosophy behind Taiwanese food, this is it. Enjoy, especially with rice.
8 lb pig feet, chopped into pieces (ask your butcher…unless you want to lose a finger)
1/2 cup cooking rice wine or dry sherry
3 cups of water
2 cups of soy sauce soy sauce
8 pods of star anise
3 dried salted plums (optional)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
steam pig feet with ¼ cup rice wine and 1 cup of water in a steamer for 30 to 45 minutes
remove excess grease, if necessary (this is depending on what kind of steamer you use. I used a steamer that allowed it to drip into the water)
place pig feet in a large pot and add remaining ingredients except for sugar and turn on low, stirring often, for at least 3 hours
add sugar to the pot and stir on medium high temperature 30 minutes before serving to allow the sugar to caramelize