With February the 14th just round the corner, I'm seeing too many cupcakes, hearts and chocolate about. This is one recipe that is definitely not pink and sweet, and in fact, is quite likely to make your Valentine's stomach churn.
If you regularly read my blog, you'll know that I'm quite the offal fan. It's cheap, usually more nutritious than the popular cuts (liver has loads of vitamin a for instance, and trotters are rich in gelatin), more sustainable, and delicious. The last point is probably a point of contention, but I really think more people just don't give it a try enough.
Pig's ears are a first for me, it's actually not very meaty at all, made up mostly of soft cartilage and skin, i.e. gelatin i.e. good for joints and skin. I thought I'd treat it like kway chap, a very popular Singapore breakfast dish made up of very wide sheets of rice noodle sheets with soy-braised pig's intestines, beancurd and eggs. Absolutely delicious. See why I am the way I am?
Soy-Braised Pig's Ears (adapted from jeroxie's recipe)
For the pig's ears
A pair of pig's ears
2 cups water
1/4 cup of shaoxing wine
4 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
1 heaped tbsp of unrefined palm sugar
large thumb of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
generous dash of five spice powder
white pepper and fresh coriander, to serve
For the rice noodle sheets
For the chilli dipping sauce
2-3 large red chillies (not bird's eye)
1 clove garlic
1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
unrefined sea salt and sugar, to taste
1. First you need to clean the ear really well. That's probably the hardest bit about this. Use an unloved shaver to shave off the excess hair and try to scrub away any dirt. That part was quite icky, but at least it doesn't stink the way I heard intestines do, and it feels less squishy than normal meat in fact. It's really just like, your own ear, but extra large. Blanch the pig's ears in boiling water and throw away the water with all the gunk.
2. Add all ingredients to a pot, bring to a boil, and then let simmer on low heat for 5-6h, longer will make it nice and gelatinous, shorter will leave it with a slight crunch in the middle. I just put it in a slow-cooker, on high for about 3 hours.
3. Meanwhile, you can prepare your chilli sauce (just blend everything)
and rice noodles sheets. This time, don't roll the rice sheets, and just slice (I'm into tearing) into very wide noodles.
4. Remove the ears and slice. Place noodles into a bowl, scoop the braising stock over, add a dash of white pepper, and top with the sliced ears and fresh coriander.
I know this is probably not many people's cup of tea, but I'll assure you it's not icky at all, and in fact delicious. The soy braising stock is the star actually, aromatic with the chinese braising spices, lightly savoury and slightly sweet at the same time. If you have any leftover, you can simmer some peeled hardboiled eggs in them for Chinese soy-braised eggs, or the easier/more traditional way is just to add them towards the end of cooking. The pig's ears themselves are soft and gelatinous on the outside, with just a slight bit of bite in the middle, great for slurping the fat rice noodle sheets with.
It's a nostalgic yum for me. I'm not being weird; try it. Maybe not for Valentine's day, but try it.