When I go shopping, I always look for pig’s feet. In the sea of undetectably normal-looking cuts of animal muscles in grocery stores – sliced loins, round humps on pork butts – trotters are always the anomaly. They look most exactly as they were: feet, hooves, tired bones and tissues that kept an animal upright for a lifetime.
Unfortunately for pig’s feet, their looks didn’t exactly make them a popular part of the mainstream American diet. As Cecil Adams wrote In 2016, one of the challenges in encouraging more Americans to consume offal and organ meat was that “organs resemble body parts: any steak hatched on a plate looks like dinner, while a lovingly presented calf heart might look like dinner.” suggests an autopsy. “And, Adams added, there is the” socio-economic stigma … which also had a racist component “that is only exacerbated by” travelogue shows ” [like] Bizarre foods. ”
Despite mainstream defamation, trotters have found their own way and occupy a popular spot in many kitchens (and have become a slightly competitive dish for aunts to make potlucks in the process). They are a stle in many restaurants, such as New York’s Hakata Tonton, where (before the pandemic), they were present in the vast majority of the dishes – the waiters often boasted that the place was all about tonsoku (pig’s feet) as soon as customers sat down. And outside of restaurants, pig’s feet aren’t hard to find if you know where to look for them and ask about them: even when I lived in a small town of only 15,000, they were a stle in my kitchen of the local butcher, who has sawn them slightly lengthways for easier stewing.
Perhaps this is my romantic way of defending something that others see as crude or impure in the face of the nostalgia and warm feelings that pig’s feet offer me. Before pressure cooking was hot or common, my mom used our dated Cuisinart to coax shiny, pliable gelatin off pigs’ feet and smother them with soy, ginger, and star anise. I still purposely reserve these flavors of pig’s feet for use in their kitchen, so it feels like a big hug when I can visit.
My favorite version of pig’s feet these days is a collection of ingredients that I found well put together, generally through the process of cleaning the refrigerator. I suppose this will work for pig feet that have a personality and profile strong enough to hold many different flavors. Since moving to a new location with a Meyer lemon tree, my last additions to the pot have been black (or dried) lemons. Interestingly, its refreshing bitterness gives the tingling of green Sichuan peppercorn, light lemongrass, and subtly sweet gochugaru the necessary backbone. I like to use split trotters as this shortens the cooking time a little and makes eating a little easier. When you are able to, ask your butcher to share them for you.
I have no doubt that this recipe will evolve depending on what’s available that day. And even if you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can get a satisfactorily tender result after a few hours on the stove. I think that’s the nice thing about pig’s feet: no matter what time, whose kitchen and what ingredients are lying around, they will always be able to manifest something special.
Braised pork feet
2 tablespoons of neutral oil
2 teaspoons of whole fennel seeds
2 teaspoons of Sichuan green peppercorn
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red chilli pepper flakes)
1 whole dried lemon or lime, pierced with a knife
½ medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 chilies from a bird’s eye view, stalked and chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, stalked and chopped
¼ cup chopped culantro (you can substitute cilantro)
¼ cup yondu (you can substitute fish sauce)
¼ cup of Shaoxing wine
3 whole pork trotters, divided, or 1 large (2 pound) pork foot, segmented
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
½ teaspoon white sugar
1 liter of unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
Julienned perilla leaf for garnish (if perilla isn’t available, chopped green onions or coriander will work)
Step 1: In a 6-liter or larger pressure cooker, heat the oil on the frying setting until it is smooth and shiny. Add the fennel seeds, sichuan peppercorn, gochugaru and dried lemon and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.
Step 2: Add the onion, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, and culantro with a dash of salt and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
Step 3: Deglaze the pan with the Yondu and Shaoxing wine and reduce until the sauce is almost dry and has a syrupy consistency.
Step 4: Put the pork feet in the saucepan with salt and sugar. Add the chicken broth and stir to combine the ingredients to make sure the pork feet are loosely covered by the vegetables. The amount of broth should be about halfway up the pig’s feet. So add more broth or water as needed.
Step 5: Cook under high pressure for 90 minutes. Release the pressure with a natural release.
Step 6: Restart the frying function of the pressure cooker so that the pork cooks to the desired salt content.
Step 7: Carefully remove the pork feet from the pressure cooker and strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Serve the pork feet with the strained gravy and a juliennied perilla leaf for garnish, if desired.
Jenny Dorsey is a professional cook, writer, and speaker who specializes in interdisciplinary storytelling, combining food with social well-being. She runs a nonprofit think tank called Studio ATAO and runs her own culinary consulting business.
Overcome Louiie is a chef, recipe developer, food photographer and stylist and lives in Las Vegas.