Twice-cooked aromatic pork hock

I mentioned earlier this week that I’d found a pork hock, big enough to serve three, for a recession-busting £2.30 at the butcher. Now, as with a lot of the more knobbly bits of a pig, my favourite thing to do with this cut is to stew it slowly, for a long time, with rich and aromatic Chinese flavourings like soy and star anise. That said, there are already a couple of recipes on this blog which show you how to stew a piece of meat like this (see the braised pork belly or the Malaysian braised pork with buns), so I decided to ring the changes by turning this into a twice-cooked dish. The soft, braised meat has its bones removed and is cooled before being deep-fried whole, then shredded. Served with the thick, reduced cooking liquid and a sprinkling of herbs and chillies, it’s just gorgeous – crisp bits, soft bits, all with fantastic rich flavour that penetrates all the way through the meat.

The Japanese, who have a word for everything foodsome, call the mouth-feel you get with a dish like this umai – the sauce is umai because its thickness comes from the gelatin in the meat. (You know the kind of sauce I mean – it’s the sort that turns into a set jelly if you leave it in the fridge.) If you enjoy the rich, silky texture of sauces like this, it’s worth reducing and freezing any that you have left when you’re done cooking and eating, and saving it to use as the base of the stock you use next time you cook a similar Chinese pork dish. You can do this indefinitely, and a master stock like this will just get better and better. Just follow your recipe as usual, but add the defrosted master stock to the dish at the same time you add any other liquid ingredients.

To serve two ravenous and unfortunately greedy people or three ordinarily-hungry people, you’ll need:

1 pork hock
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
5 cloves garlic
4 shallots
3 stars of star anise
1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
6 spring onions
1 in piece ginger, sliced
3 tablespoons dark soy
5 tablespoons light soy
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons runny honey
2 teaspoons salt
250 ml pork stock
1 glass Chinese cooking wine
Water to cover
1 handful fresh coriander
1 red chilli
750ml peanut oil (use a flavourless oil if you can’t find any)

Blend the shallots, garlic, five-spice powder, 2 stars of anise, the sugar and the spring onions together in a food processor, and fry the resulting mix in a small amount of oil in the bottom of a heavy saucepan until it is turning a light caramel colour. Add the pork hock to the pan and brown on all sides, then pour over the stock, Chinese wine, honey, sauces and salt. Add three of the spring onions, the ginger and remaining star of anise to the pan with the cinnamon stick, broken into a few pieces. Add water if necessary to cover the meat.

Put the lid on the pan and bring to a very gentle simmer. Continue to simmer, turning occasionally, for 4-5 hours. At the end of this time, the hock should be soft and aromatic, and the bones falling out of the middle. Remove the meat to a plate and, when it is cool enough, remove both bones from the hock (they’ll slip out very easily – you won’t need a knife). Don’t remove the skin – it’s the best bit.

Remove the spring onions and ginger from the stock and discard, and boil the stock to reduce it to about half its volume. Dice the chilli, chop the coriander and remaining fresh spring onions finely, and put them in a small bowl.

Heat 750 ml of oil in a wok to between 175 and 190°C (345–375°F). Fry the cooled hock for four minutes, then turn it over and fry for a further four minutes. Drain and remove to a plate, and use two forks to shred the meat. Serve over rice, with some of the thickened stock poured over, and the spring onion, chilli and coriander mixture sprinkled liberally on top.

15 Replies to “Twice-cooked aromatic pork hock”

  1. I’m sorry to lower the tone of your excellent blog, but this dish reminds me of something similar I had at a delightful Somerset pub a couple of years ago.

    When the waitress came by to check we were enjoying the meal, she asked me “How’s your pork hock?”. I think other diners must have assumed I’d been involved in a grotesque accident.

  2. Lord, I’m an innocent. I had to read that aloud before I got it. Once I *did* get it, I laughed so loud that the neighbour, walking past with a dog, had a peep through the window to see what all the fuss was about.

  3. Hi Deepa! I think you’re in Cambridge – try the butcher on Victoria Bridge (between Midsummer Common and Chesterton Rd); they’re really good. And do let me know if you make this, because I’d love to find out how it goes!

  4. Success!!
    I found one in the Gog Magog farm shop for the princely sum of £1! He had it with the trotter attached but I chickened out and asked him just for the top part. Will be making it tomorrow, can’t wait!

  5. Great recipe! I’ll have to try this one out! oh and If you have time will you drop by at Foodista ? We are building an online food and cooking encyclopedia ala wikipedia and you can also check out our recipes on the site 🙂 Cheers!

  6. Bought a hock- it was cheap and a lot of it. Thought the idea of cooking it for hours then deep frying it was outrageous and so much honey!!

    It was great. Lots of the sauce left so marinate many chicken wings. You are a lovely find.

  7. Just tried something a lot different with the Hock… It points out that this not a tasty cut and does need a bit more than a couple of herbs to make something memorable.

    However it came with trotter attached and cold it is like the Brawn mum used to make. Midday I microwaved it and ate it as a soup and last thing at night sliced it to make the filling of a fine sandwich. Three things to do with a Hock and all are wonderful

  8. Ooh, brawn. There’s a butcher in Cambridge (on Victoria Bridge, for those locals who are interested) who sells it in little pots. And lovely stuff it is too.

    That said, I’d quibble with the idea that a pork hock isn’t tasty tout simple. Its texture can be difficult if you don’t cook it over a long period, but it actually has a good, toothsome, meaty flavour, and I can imagine all kinds of good terrines and rilettes you could make with one with a minimum of extra flavourings.

  9. Really good flavours and textures; my son asked for the left overs in his pack lunch sandwich. I enjoyed the description of 'Umai' too..any other dishes you could recommend with this trait? Thanks

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