Often discarded at the butcher’s for being unfit for human consumption, pork trotters are a delicacy in Asia. Browned then slow cooked, Chinese soy sauce braised pork trotters are sticky, gelatinous and delicious.
Memories of Lugang Cafe. That was where I first had soy sauce braised pork trotters. Lugang’s version is darker though and I can’t remember if the trotters had been deboned before being served.
It doesn’t matter. My take on this beautiful Chinese dish might not be as dark but all the necessary flavors are there. And I didn’t debone the trotters before serving. I couldn’t. They were so tender that the skin and tendon separated from the bones when lifted.
I had been dreaming of recreating the braised pork trotters since we had them at Lugang a while back. I wasn’t sure though if we could buy trotters without the hocks. But Speedy discovered that pork trotters were being sold for a song in the grocery. At fifty-five pesos per kilo (about US$1), it was a steal.
The best part? The pork trotters replenished out stock of bone broth too. How?
First, I roasted the pork trotters in the oven until they were browned and caramelized. Next, I put them in a pot with a little salt and pepper, and simmered the bones for about an hour and a half. Then, I scooped out the broth leaving only about two cups in the pot.
Then, the braising began. Soy sauce, garlic, shallots, ginger, chilies and sugar were added along with the five spices that make up Chinese five-spice powder—star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon bark, Schezhuan peppercorns and cloves. Another hour of slow cooking and, by the time the pork hocks reached that fall-off-the-bone stage, the sauce had thickened. It smelled wonderful.
Is it a main dish or an appetizer? Treat it as both. You can even enjoy it as a snack.
Want to try making soy sauce braised pork trotters? Here’s the recipe.
This recipe excludes the part about making bone broth. It was just a little extra that I did but it's not really a necessary part of the recipe.
- 3 kilos pork trotters
- 1/4 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 2 pieces cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 half-inch piece cinnamon bark
- 6 cloves garlic lightly pounded
- 3 shallots cut into halves
- 1 2-inch knob ginger
- 3 to 4 bird's eye chilies
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- 1/2 cup light soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Rinse, scrub and rinse the pork trotters. If there are visible hairs, burn them with a kitchen torch. Rub dry with a kitchen towel.
Lay the pork trotters in a single layer on a baking tray. Roast at 400F until browned and caramelized.
Dump the browned pork trotters into a large pot. Cover with water and start heating.
Meanwhile, in an oil-free pan, lightly toast the Szhechuan peppercorns, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and cinnamon bark. Dump into the pot with the pork trotters along with the garlic, shallots, ginger and chilies.
Pour in the soy sauces and stir in the sugar.
Bring everything to a gentle boil then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer the pork trotters for two-and-a-half to three hours or until very tender (literally falling off the bones) and the sauce has reduced.
To serve, scoop out the pork trotters and move to a serving bowl. Strain the broth (it's optional) and pour over the trotters. Garnish with scallions, chilies and hard-boiled eggs.