If you go to a Cantonese restaurant for a twelve-course banquet this dish will often be part of the first course, the cold-plate appetizer along with pickled turnip, maybe some cold squid or seaweed. Cold Chinese pigs’ feet is a traditional favorite, cheap, easy to prepare, quick to serve, and freezable. The only tricky thing might be actually finding the pigs’ feet. Your grocery store may not have them, and you’ll have to shop at a Hispanic or Asian store. Buy the ginger and star anise there too. This recipe scales up easily, as long as you have a big enough kettle.
2 pigs’ feet, whole, halved or in chunks
1 tablespoon whole star anise
a large chunk fresh ginger, as long as your finger
For the sauce:
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Rinse the pigs’ feet off and put them into a pot. Cover with water and boil. When the pot comes to a full rolling boil cook for a minute and then turn off the burner. Pour all the water out, and rinse the scunge and brown scum off the pigs’ feet. Rinse out the pot, refill with water and return the feet to the pot. Add the star anise. Chop the ginger into chunks and add it too. Bring to a simmer and skim off any scum. Simmer for 2 1/2 or 3 hours.
The feet are done when the bones are loose and can be easily pulled out — don’t let it get to where the entire thing disintegrates into slush. Pour the entire kettle through a colander. (Freeze the pork broth if you want for some other purpose — adding richness to a stew, for instance.) Lay out a large double layer of aluminum foil and spread the contents of the colander out on it to cool. Pick out the pieces of ginger and star anise. When the meat is merely warm, pick out all the bones. This is fairly messy, since there are many tiny bones in the toes of a pig’s foot. Get them all, squishing the bits between your fingers — the meat should be soft enough that you won’t need a knife.
When you’re done you’ll have a messy pile of porky bits and gelatine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scrape it all together into a long pile on the foil. Pick up the edges of the foil and fold them together, squishing the meat together into a roll. Twist or fold the ends together and squeeze or tap out as much air as you can, so that you wind up with a dense sausage of pork wrapped tightly in foil. Put this in the fridge and chill overnight. You can also put the roll into a ziploc bag and freeze it.
When you’re ready to serve, unwind the foil. The pork will have gelled into a solid and sturdy roll. Use a sharp knife to slice it into thin rounds — this will be the moment when you discover that you’ve missed a bone or so. Arrange the slices on a serving plate. Chop the garlic and put it into a little dish, adding the soy sauce. Dip the slices into the sauce as you eat them.