Braising is a beautiful cooking process and turns the humblest of meats into delicious treasures. In this recipe, we combine pig’s feet and pork belly together in an Asian inspired braise. Both parts of the pig are high in unctuous fat. This fat helps create an intensely rich cooking liquid, perfect for the braising process but also to use for drizzling on rice. This is the ultimate party dish to serve friends that are lovers of the pig. This will have any foodie clamoring for more.
Asian and Caribbean cultures have long enjoyed pig’s feet, much to the comical dismissal of others. While pig’s trotters do look funky and the notion of eating an animal’s foot daunting, I’m a believer that the best cuts of animals are those that worked for a living. All these cuts sometimes need is a bit of time, acceptance, and love.
Braising the pig’s feet helps the meat reach an outstanding degree of tenderness and flavor. One reason why I’ve recently gotten into pig’s feet is because it is good for one’s skin. Pig’s feet is loaded in collagen, natural proteins that compose our flesh and connective tissues. Asian cultures eats pig’s feet because it helps one’s skin remain vibrant, elastic, and young looking (read more here). It’s free botox and tasty. Pig’s feet is truly a delight to eat when it comes to the mouth experience. The layers of pig collagen & fatty skin, all thick & sticky, on top of moist dark cuts of stringy pork meat, bones, and crunchy tendons, makes this dish more than just a hunt for the fountain of youth, but a genesis of food textures.
Braised pig’s feet and belly recipe
This recipe is all about time and building layers of flavors. While much of the oozing satisfaction will come from the flavors of the rendered pork belly fat and feet collagen (learn more about pig collagen here), incorporating ingredients like bay leaves, dried Chinese mushrooms, and white wine vinegar introduce umami and depth. The red fresno chilies and mustard powder provide an extra bite of heat, which is always welcomed.
Ingredients for the braised pig’s feet and pork belly:
- 6-8 pig’s feet (can be found at an Asian supermarket like H-mart)
- 2 lbs of pork belly, no skin, cut into 2 inch long cubes
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, sliced
- Nub of ginger, sliced
- 2 red fresno chilies, de-seeded, and sliced
- 2 cups of soy sauce
- Sesame oil, to taste
- White wine vinegar to taste
- Ground mustard
- 2 bay leaves
- Black peppercorns
- 6-8 large dried Chinese mushrooms
- 1-2 cups of brown sugar
Luckily the pig’s feet and belly come cleaned from the supermarket. Season all of them with salt. First sear the pork belly. In a tall cooking pot over high heat, sear all the pork belly’s sides and then reserve on a plate. Afterward, continue this process with all the pig’s feet. We want to make sure all the sides have some type of crust on them before building the braising liquid.
There should be a reflective pool of hot pork fat in the pot. Add all the sliced vegetables except the garlic. Allow the onions and ginger to infuse the pig fat. Once the onions start to become translucent, incorporate the garlic and stir. After 1-2 minutes, the garlic will be cooked through. Add the sugar into the vegetable mixture. The sugar will start to slightly caramelize, which is perfect.
When the sugar is fully incorporated into the sliced vegetables, return the pig’s feet and belly to the pot. Then add the liquids first starting with the the soy sauce. The soy is the base of the braising liquid. The sesame oil and vinegar are there as flavoring agents. So them sparsely as both are strong and can take over the dish. I drizzle in a little of both and then throughout the cooking time of 3 hours, will readjust by adding a little more sesame oil and/or vinegar, if needed. Cover the rest of the pork with water. Once the liquid are in pot, add the bay leaves, dried Chinese mushrooms, and then a couple pinches of both black peppercorns and ground mustard.
Allow the braise to come to a boil. Upon reaching a steady boil, turn the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid. At this point, you can set it and forget it (if you like). I prefer to check up on it periodically, jigger the pot’s contents, and taste / re-season. The cooking time will take approximately 3 hours. Feel free to let this dish than sit overnight. This is not required, but it helps the flavors further meld together for a superior product and gives you the opportunity to spoon out some of the fat the next morning that solidifies on the top of the braise.
When finished, remove the pig’s feet and pork belly and allow to rest. Crank up the heat and allow some of the braising liquid to reduce. In the meantime, make sure some starch, preferably rice, is ready to roll. To plate, spoon rice into a bowl, place one pig’s feet and a piece of pork belly on top of the rice, sprinkled with diced scallions, drizzle on a bit of the reduced braising liquid, and if possible, throw on a fried egg (because everything is better with an egg on top). Now that’s one youthfully comforting dish.