Typically a confinement dish, Pig’s Trotters in Sweet Vinegar has recently becoming a dish that even folks who are not currently in their confinement period love to eat. Despite the name, the dish is cooked with the entire leg, and not just the feet. The biggest benefit of this dish is that it repels ‘wind’ in the body, an ailment that happens after women give birth, hence a popular confinement dish. It also helps to warm up the body and provide lots of nourishment from the ginger, vinegar and pig’s trotters.
I’m not any big chef, nor a MasterChef wannabe, but just thought of recording how I made these dishes, to serve to remind myself if I decide to make them again. Hopefully this will help someone out there who wants to try out this dish as well. Like almost all Cantonese dishes, it is not difficult, but tedious and with many small steps. Some of these steps could be removed and the procedure sped up, but it will compromise the taste of the dish.
The key in this dish is most definitely the vinegar, and I only use Chan Kong Thye’s sweet black vinegar. It’s been the one that my grandmother trusts and uses for the past 3 decades, and I’ve also known many other people who cook this dish and also uses the same brand. There are 2 types of black vinegar, the one with yellow label and pink label. They are almost the same, but the pink label is of a higher quality. The price was not much different (less than S$1) so I bought the higher quality bottle.
- Sweet Black Vinegar x 2 large bottles
- Pig’s Trotters x 2 chopped into large pieces
- Old Ginger x 3 large pieces
- Brown Sugar x ~500g (or as required)
- Water x ½ bottle
- Hard-boiled Eggs
- Sesame Oil
- Remove the skin of the ginger and chop it up to large pieces. Use the hilt of your knife and hit the ginger so it breaks open.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Ensure that the oil does not smoke.
- Stir fry the ginger constantly for at least 5 mins on high heat, until the fragrance of the ginger is released
- Pour both bottles of vinegar into a separate pot. My grandmother uses a claypot to cook this dish, but glass or ceramic pot will do just fine as well. Try not to use a metal pot, as the vinegar is acidic and prolonged cooking will damage the pot.
- Add in the sugar & water. I do not normally add sugar as we like it strong, but sugar is a good ingredient to reduce the acidity of the vinegar.
- Transfer the ginger into the vinegar, taking care not to pour in all the remaining oil.
- Bring the vinegar to a boil, then turn to low heat to simmer for 1 hour. You can cook the pig’s trotters immediately, or leave it overnight to cook another day. Keep the pot well covered.
- (While vinegar is boiling) Wash the pig’s trotters and remove as much of the visible fat as possible. This will reduce the fat that is present in the dish, making it less unhealthy.
- Blanch pig’s trotters in boiling water for 20 mins. This is somewhat of a cleansing method, removing all blood and any dirty things inside the bones. Boiling the trotters for 20 mins will also cook the trotter. In this way, when the trotters are simmering in the vinegar, the vinegar immediately gets to work breaking down the muscles in the meat, making it nice and tender.
- Clean the trotters again in tap water. Rinse well and pat dry.
- Add the trotters to the vinegar and continue to simmer for another 90 mins.
- Turn the heat off and let it cool.
- Once cooled, add in the hard boiled eggs.
- Leave it overnight. Reheat and serve with rice.
One key thing to note is, that you should NOT eat this as soon as it’s cooked. This dish is best left overnight. There is no need to refrigerate the dish as the acidity of the vinegar is a natural bacteria killer! Properly covered and with no contamination, it can store for a few days. Just reheat it over and over again. The more you reheat, the better the dish! The next good thing about making this dish is that if you find that you have finished all the meat, just use the same pot of soup and add more meat! As long as you ensure there is no contamination to the pot, it can last you as long as you want it to. To avoid contamination, the ladle that you use to serve this dish should be clean and dry. At any one time, only use one ladle to serve. Do not add water. Ensure there is no ‘double dipping’ going on. Any cutlery used to scoop food into your mouth should not be reaching into the main pot!
About the hard-boiled eggs, as eggs harden the more they are cooked, it is always advisable to cook what you intend to consume. This will take a bit of pre-planning as the eggs need some time for the soup to penetrate every part of the egg. What I do is that I’ll throw in the hard-boiled eggs a few hours before I intend to eat this dish, so when I actually get to the time I’m going to reheat the dish, the eggs are pretty much ready. What that means, is that if I’m intending to have this dish for lunch, I’ll make hard boiled eggs in the morning and throw it into the pot of vinegar to be soaked for the entire morning. This way the eggs are being braised with the soup, yet still maintain the texture and softness.
If anyone who reads this post ever tries with the recipe, let me know how it goes for you!