Friday, 10 February 2012

Soy-Braised Pig's Ears (NOT a Valentine's day recipe)

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" ginger
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.


  1. I bet the butcher wanted to kiss u.

    I love this too, love the crunch factor!

  2. Why not a Valentine's day recipe? Its pink alright, more pink than most other foods:)
    I've never tried pig ears, would love it. I heard its really delicious deep fried.

  3. It will be one of my favourite posts on your blog! I am really happy to see you post it just before St Valentine's Day I try to ignore every year. I absolutely adoooore the shaving photo!
    Your post reminds me of the day when I bought pig ears and decided to grill one and bake the other one, breaded. Both recipes proved awful and I was very disappointed because I was almost sure I would love pig ears (I love cartilage). I must try your recipe instead!

  4. Best. Valentine's Day. Post. Ever. I had pigs' ears once at a Filipino restaurant -- best as I can remember, they were chopped up and fried crispy. To be candid, I didn't love them although it wasn't an 'ick' factor thing; they were just REALLY crunchy which I wasn't too keen on. I too *love* offal. Next on my list is tripe, which completely fascinates me ... I fell in love with it very recently and now order it whenever I see it on a menu. It's on the 'things I must cook very soon' list. Valentine's Day, perhaps.

  5. Awwww..... it's a tedious work to clean the ear pig, but it's so delicious.Love the crunch.

  6. Well, its kind of pink, right? Great idea for a V-day post, actually!

  7. oh wow I have never heard of pigs ears in a dish. thats soo exciting! I ll have to check out if I can get those in the market. is it crunchy like squids?
    so funny, shaving the ears. =)

    thanks for sharing it was very interessting, I learned a bunch of things!

  8. I don't think I have tried pig's ears before but kind of like the sound of them and hope I would like the crunchy aspect. I think your poaching broth does sounds delicious and a lovely sharp chilli sauce on the side sounds perfect!

  9. wendy: haha I like the bite of it, not necessarily the crunch though, i.e. i cook it a bit longer beyond the crunch stage!

    three-cookies: hur hur, that is true.

    sissi: haha glad it provided some relief from all the valentine's day gay-ness around! don't you just love the pink shaver ;)

    susan: haha i can just see the look on your valentine's face when you serve up tripe. which, coincidentally, i LOVE. have you tried tripe in dim sum restaurants before? so good. it's just boiled till soft, with a sweet, tangy dressing, sometimes with chilli. yum.

    yummylittlecooks: i was half disgusted half amused while shaving the ear. but it was worth it.

    indie.tea: haha you can say that...

    helene: hmm come to think of it, it is a bit like squid, but then again not really, because the crunchy/springy bit is only in the centre, and the skin is quite soft. i'm glad you foudn it helpful (:

    laura: yup, for anyone scared of ears, you can pretty much use the same poaching broth for pork belly or pork ribs or sth.

  10. lol at Sissi's comment: "I love cartilage" .... eeek. Shu Han - if you made this, or if someone made this for me, I would be so happy to try it, but preparing it myself... I'm not sure, I'm sorry - I think it might be a bit out of my comfort zone. The idea of shaving it first and then boiling it and throwing away the water with the "gunk"... what sort of gunk is in there? Ear-wax? :D

    As I said though - I'd really like to try eating it... I'm not familiar eating things like this. Do you just eat the whole strip of ear, or do you kind of chew on it and slurp up bits of meat-stuff away from the layer of cartilage?

    1. to be honest, charles, i think it IS earwax.... ;/
      nope you eat it all up, skin and cartilage and all hehe i bet you must be recoiling now.

  11. i'm not afraid of this, i eat this too. the last time i made this, i asked the butcher to clean it for me, not totally cleaned but save a lot of cleaning work for me! i used a knife to trim off the remaining hair.

    1. what a kind butcher you have! intro please.

  12. I can see that this wouldn't be a valentine meal, that would be pig's heart right? I love pigs ear, particularly when it's served sichuan style with plenty of chilli and numbing pepper corns. Gorgeous. I've had it crispy fried as a bar snack in a pub too, and delicious it was.

    So I'm with you all the way on this, even if i haven't actually cooked it yet. That's the next stage. I wonder if Mrs GW would mind if I *borrowed* one of her razors ;)

  13. And this is why I love your blog: you are fearless and totally awesome (I'm pretty sick of the valentine's stuff too). The picture of the razor and the pig's ear made me laugh. I can't believe you actually had to shave it!

  14. This is an exotic dish! You are really brave to cook this.

  15. I bet you lotsa people would think pigs' ears are pink and sweet. It just depends on your point of view. I actually like offal and agree on everything you write about it. I n Sweeden they sell dried crunchy pig ears to give to dogs as snacks. Our German Sheperd used to love them. I will admit I sometimes eyed them enviously because they looked crunchy and savory... so I would definitely yty this recipe... if I knew where to get the ears!

  16. Oh, and I love the picture of you shaving the hair off... too funny!

  17. We just cooked a pig's head last night for what turned out to be not particularly great head cheese. Wish we'd used the ears for this instead!

  18. the grubworm: HUR HUR. ok that'll be next on my list to try.

    kyleen: I was pretty freaked out at that too! but halfway through I became amused at the whole situation haha!

    zoe: haha it actually felt quite alright, though it did look abit freaky.

    nuts about food: haha you could also sneak a few crunchy pig's ears from your german sheperd's dinner...

    michelle: I've always wondererd about head cheese actually! i'm sorry it didn't turn out that great ): give this a try the next time!

  19. Grubworm, Shu Han

    I am gonna expand on Grubworm's idea: a big pig heart in the middle, surrounded by lots of little chicken (or duck) hearts forming a heart shape. You think that's going a bit overboard?

  20. Anyone has a calorie count for this dish?

    1. Nope, but pig's ears are not fatty at all, more cartilage than anything. THOUGH you shouldn't fret about calories, just eat real food from a good source and your body will thank you for it :)

  21. this article, it was really informative yammy and testy your receipe, I’ll be looking forward for your next Kathi roll online order

  22. Good to know about soya chaap. That's very new to me :) Online Food Order

  23. Looks yummy! Where did you get the pig’s eats from? Do o have to go to a specific wet market?