Pig trotter and ginger stewed in sweet black vinegar is an old traditional Cantonese recipe originally formulated for mothers after birth, to keep new mums warm during the first month after birth. Also many Cantonese families who has new baby will cook a shed load of this, together with some red coloured hard boiled eggs in their shells and some some chicken cooked in homemade rice wine, all these packed and given to friends and relatives proudly announcing the arrival of a new baby.
So can everyone eat this gingery vinegary pork? Yes to most people only people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol is to avoid this or eat less because ginger will raise blood temperature and trotter is high in cholesterol. I adore this sweet, sour and tasty pork and ginger since I was a kid. I love it during winter over here when the weather is very cold out there. Eating a bowl of this vinegary pork trotter will keep me warm and cosy. I was told anyone with cold feet and insomnia will benefit from eating this.
This stew is a labour of love and will take a long time to prepare so it's not for you if you just want to rush it and eat within an hour or two. This will take about 2 days to prepare and cook and another day or night refraining from eating so the flavour can get better.
If you never have this before I would describe it as a bowl of deep brown looking soft and succulent pork trotter/pork hock flavoured with a gingery sweet vinegar. The ingredients are very simple vinegar, ginger, trotter and/or pork hock, hard boiled eggs and salt. Massive amount of ginger is used to prepare one pot of this. This is stewed and pickled in the sweet vinegar, most people including myself love to eat the chunks of ginger but don't like them too spicy hot, that is why the ginger is stewed for a very long time. Not any kind of vinegar can be used, anyone who has learnt how to cook this from their mum or granmother will probably only recognise one brand of vinegar which is Pat Chun's sweetened vinegar from Hong Kong. It is not cheap in UK around £5 a bottle of 600ml. This vinegar is quite sweet and syrupy. I normally also add some unsweetened black rice vinegar so the stew is not so sweet. Vinegar is the only liquid used to make this stew, no water is necessary. The only seasoning needed is salt, do not add any soy sauce. Hard boiled eggs are also indispensable, after soaking in the sweet gingery vinegar they will become firm and very tasty.
So if you like this and looking for a recipe here is how to prepare this.
2 trotters (the lower ends about 6 - 8 inches long)
1 unsalted pork hock (I like a meaty stew, so I always add hock)
about 800g ginger
2 bottles (600ml each) of sweetened vinegar (Pat Chun)
1 cup of black rice vinegar, unsweetened (preferably Pat Chun brand, if not use any other Chinese black rice vinegar)
a little sesame oil
6 - 8 peeled hard boiled eggs
salt to taste
- Scrape off the ginger skin using a blunt small knife or a teaspoon. Do not peel or you will lose quite a bit of the flesh. Clean the ginger. Pat dry with clean cloth or spread out and leave to air dry for a little while. Get a plastic sandwich or freezer bag. Put one piece of ginger in at a time. Bash with the flat side of a Chinese cleaver, if you don't have one use a large rolling pin. Crush the ginger, not too hard into very fine pieces, but still whole or still in big pieces and the fibres are loosen. Ginger is never cut into slices with knife. Using a plastic bag will prevent the ginger from flying around in the kitchen when you bash it. The reason why the ginger is crushed not cut into slices is because this will allow the ginger to absorb more vinegar. If the crushed ginger is still in very large piece, break it up with hand or cut with a knife into large chunks
- Get ready a wok or large frying pan, heat it without any oil. Then add in the ginger pieces, dry fry at medium heat for few minutes till hot and slightly brown on the edges. There is no need to stir continuously just fry till pieces are slightly brown all over. Then add a little good quality 100% sesame, stir fry the ginger for a little while longer till fragrant. Leave aside. You can fry the ginger in batches.
- Get ready a medium large cooking pot to cook this stew. Do not use aluminium, cast iron or pot with a non stick coating because they will react with vinegar. Best use claypot, glass casserole pot, stainless steel pot. Slow cooker with a crock pot is suitable for this.
- Put fried ginger into the pot, add about 1.5 bottle of vinegar. Vinegar must cover the ginger. Simmer this at medium low heat till boiling. If you are using a slow cooker. Pour this into the crock pot and stew for 8 - 10 hours. If you are cooking on the stove only, continue simmering at low heat using the same pot for 1.5 - 2 hour, with the lid on. Do not let the liquid dry up, if it does dry up a lot, add some water or more sweet vinegar. After cooking do not open the lid and leave it to cool slowly and leave the ginger to soak in ginger overnight or up to 24 hours. Then have a taste if the ginger is tender and not too spicy for your taste, continue to next step. If ginger is still very spicy, reheat till boiling and simmer for a while then turn off heat and leave it too cool slowly. Leave if for few hours or overnight again. By this time the ginger should be tender and completely pickled and sweet.
- The next step is to prepare the trotters and/or hock. Get ready a kettle of boiling water. Put the pork in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water leave it to soak for a while. If there are stubbles or hair you will see them clearly after soaking in boiling water. You can either pluck them off using a tweezers or pat dry the skin and burn the hairs off on naked flame on the stove. Then using a blunt small knife and scrape the skin repeatedly under slow running water. You will see scrum, dirt and deadskins being scrape off. For the trotter watch out for an outer skin, between the toes and also the end part of the toes, which can be scraped off or peeled off. If you get trotters from English butcher or supermarket it is usually in one whole chunk, but if you get it from Chinese butcher you can ask the butcher to chop it or sold in packet already chopped. For the hock I just trimmed off the bone and cut the meat with skin into large chunks after cleaning. The next step is to blanch the meat. Get ready a pot of boiling water. Add the meat and bones pieces. Boil for 5 - 10 minutes till a thick scum floating on top of the water. Remove the scum with a skimmer. Discard the blanching water.
- While you are blanching the meat, heat the vinegary ginger to boiling. Add in the meat and bone pieces. The vinegar should cover meat if not add in some or all the remaining vinegar still in the bottle. Add in 1 cup of unsweetened black rice vinegar. Continue heating till the liquid is boiling. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Check the meat to see if tender, if not continue boiling for another another 10 -15 minutes. The meat will tenderise much quicker in vinegar so watch it carefully. Do not let the meat softened too much or the vinegar sauce can become sticky due to the pig skin (gelatine) melting into the sauce. Season with some salt and nothing else. Skim off the fat floating on the surface.
- While the meat is boiling, boil the eggs and peel the shell. When the meat is tender, add eggs into the stew, buried them as much as you can so they are totally covered in vinegar. Heat off and let it cool slowly.
- This stew is ready to eat now if you can't wait, but if you leave it aside it will become much better flavoured after few hours or overnight. Once cooled, reheat and serve. If there is any more fat on the liquid surface skim it off.
Eat on its own as a snack or eaten with rice.