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I need to shave ... or, why I'm making braised pig's feet

ipsedixit Feb 6, 2011 05:37 PM

Pig trotter lovers out there ... how do you get rid of those pesky little hairs on the pig's feet?

When I was small, my mom used to braised pig's feet and just leave the hair on them. While they were delicious (braised nice and slow with lots of soy sauce, ginger, star anise, rock sugar, etc.), I would oftentimes bite into that unctuous thick skin and get that tickling sensation of pig hair on the back of my throat.

Sort of destroyed the mood.

Now, when I prepare pig's feet myself, I make sure to remove the hair.

But how?

I used to do what most folks seem to do, burn the suckers with an open flame. Well, ever since I switched to electric (and sometime convection) stovetop that really wasn't possible, and I didn't always have a crème brulée torch handy.

So, what do I do?

I started to shave them. Yes, shave them.

Oil the skin, and then take one of those disposable shavers and scrape away. Comes off like a charm.

Works beautifully.

But I wonder, is there a better technique out there?

Do tell.

  1. monku Feb 6, 2011 05:38 PM


    1 Reply
    1. re: monku
      ipsedixit Feb 6, 2011 05:52 PM

      Pig's feet are unctuous enough as it is. Don't need more oily, waxy mouthfeel.

    2. c oliver Feb 6, 2011 06:02 PM

      I think that's absolutely brilliant, ipse. Now I can buy those feet and know what to do with the hair. How about a recipe while you're at it?

      25 Replies
      1. re: c oliver
        ipsedixit Feb 6, 2011 06:15 PM

        Here you go.

        Parboil you pig's feet (shaven, of course) in some water with a dash of white vinegar, some scallion stalks and a handful of chopped ginger.

        After about 30 minutes, drain the pig's feet and set aside to cool. Debone and cut up into large pieces.

        Then place the pig's feet into a large stock pot, fill it with water so that the pig's feet are about 3/4 of the way immersed.

        Now add the following:
        - Garlic cloves
        - Star anise
        - Ginger
        - Rock sugar
        - Soy Sauce
        - Black vinegar
        - Salt
        - Oyster sauce

        Bring to a boil, then let it simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.

        Cool, refrigerate overnight, then serve.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          c oliver Feb 6, 2011 06:27 PM

          That just got saved. Thanks. I made pho for the first time recently and that first boil made quite a difference. You eat the feet cold???

          1. re: c oliver
            ipsedixit Feb 6, 2011 06:29 PM

            No, sorry, I should've been more clear. Reheat and serve.

            I said to refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld and develop more body.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              c oliver Feb 6, 2011 06:31 PM

              Oh, good :) I wasn't terribly keen on eating it cold but if you told me to I would have. Our Latino market has snout to tail pig and cow so pigs' feet are walking out with me this week. Mmm.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                K K Feb 6, 2011 06:57 PM

                The beauty of this receipe and cooking process is that after refrigerating overnight, the sauce turns into gelatin. Can either make a nice cold appetizer (in cubes) or just scoop it up, reheat and add pork bone broth over, and it makes fantastic noodle soup.

                1. re: K K
                  c oliver Feb 6, 2011 07:03 PM

                  Oh yeah. I can taste it already.

            2. re: ipsedixit
              SomeRandomIdiot Feb 7, 2011 12:09 PM

              Would you happen to have a recipe for nam yu (fermented bean curd) pig's feet? I've actually never thought of trying to remove the hair, I just eat around it.

              1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 01:06 PM

                I don't, but I'd imagine that once you had (or made) the nam yu, you could just sub that in in place of the oyster sauce that I have listed.

                Just a guess, never done this. So YMMV.

              2. re: ipsedixit
                c oliver Feb 11, 2011 01:26 PM

                HELP!!! I've hit a major snag. Parboiled for half hour, cooled. But there's no way in the world I can debone these. Take a look at these pix. Are the feet too small? I took the precooked one as a joke to send to a friend but may be a guide for size. Not sure where to go from here. Cook them as is? Cook them as is for a whole lot longer? ANY advice and/or suggestions are really, really welcome. Thanks anybody.

                1. re: c oliver
                  ipsedixit Feb 11, 2011 01:55 PM

                  You're fine.

                  Cook them (the 3rd pic from the left) as is -- i.e. braise with soy sauce and other fixins.

                  Knawing, or eating them off the knuckle, is totally awesome.

                  1. re: ipsedixit
                    c oliver Feb 11, 2011 01:57 PM

                    Bless your heart <3 Bob and I were like two little kids giggling over these and then I thought, oh shit. Onward and upward. Thanks, ipse.

                    1. re: c oliver
                      ipsedixit Feb 11, 2011 02:00 PM

                      You'll eventually end up with something like this.

                      Luck you!

                      (picture not mine)

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        c oliver Feb 11, 2011 02:04 PM

                        Ooh boy! You sure about simmering UNcovered? Just double checking.

                        1. re: c oliver
                          ipsedixit Feb 11, 2011 02:11 PM

                          It's up to you on the covered or uncovered part. It sometimes depends on how much liquid you have to start with. Depending on how much liquid I start off, I usu. partially cover (i.e. where the lid is tilted, you know?).

                          Sorry for the fuzzy logic instructions, but I learned from my mom and cook by feel and intuitition, and not by ruler and scale. Nothing I cook is ever written down.

                          Hope that helps.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            c oliver Feb 11, 2011 02:15 PM

                            Yes it does. Although I've been a lover of Asian foods for decades I've only just begun the cooking part of the journey. Since all the seasonings in this are flavors that I know and love, I'm totally cool with your instructions.

                            BTW, the guys at the Latino market love it when I buy things like this :)

                            Thanks again,

                  2. re: c oliver
                    paulj Feb 11, 2011 03:00 PM

                    If you cook them long enough, you will be able to remove the bones (there are many) by hand, leaving you with larger pieces of skin, various pieces of tendon and ligaments, and a few bits of meat. It will be a sticky mess, due to the high gelatin content.

                    1. re: paulj
                      c oliver Feb 11, 2011 03:07 PM

                      That's a sticky mess I'm looking forward to getting my fingers into :) It's just quietly bubbling away while I type this. Beef heart tacos tonight. Pigs feet tomorrow. Life is good. thanks.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        ipsedixit Feb 11, 2011 05:34 PM

                        Life is good.

                        For you, perhaps, but certainly not for the pig.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          c oliver Feb 11, 2011 05:43 PM

                          But I'm gonna give that pig (parts) lots of love. S/he will be much appreciated.

                          1. re: c oliver
                            ipsedixit Feb 11, 2011 06:31 PM

                            Oh, oh. You used a female pig's feet? My recipe was only for male pig's feet ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              c oliver Feb 11, 2011 07:03 PM

                              hohoho. Bad ipsedixit :)

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                paulj Feb 11, 2011 08:39 PM

                                front or back? long or short cut?

                    2. re: ipsedixit
                      c oliver Feb 13, 2011 08:35 AM

                      Okay, here's the 'rest of the story.' They cooked for over seven hours before they were noticeably tender enough. Well over half was discarded after pulling it all apart. In addition to the bones, there were lots of gristly chunks (don't know how else to describe). The remaining parts are delicious but too, too rich to eat as is. And we like really rich things. As y'all mention, the broth is amazing but a little too flavorful :) I think I got carried away a tad with the star anise! So I'm thinking about mixing the broth with my homemade from chicken feet and backs stock, adding the 'meat,' Chinese noodles and other stuff. Any suggestions? BTW, thanks for the hand holding.

                      1. re: c oliver
                        ipsedixit Feb 13, 2011 09:16 AM

                        Chinese noodles are definitely a good way to go, thin out with some water or veggie stock. I wouldn't mix with chicken stock, it's rich enough as it is on its own and why waste chicken stock when it won't make a difference.

                        Also, serve over rice would work as well.

                        And, if you got leftover tortillas from your other experiment, I'd bet female pig trotter tacos wouldn't be bad either.

                        By the way, I don't think anyone I know eats these things straight up. It's always paired with some sort of starch, usu. over a big plate of rice, or sometimes with mantou (or Chinese steamed buns).


                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          c oliver Feb 13, 2011 10:47 AM

                          Funny. When we were tasting it last night I commented that it had the same 'mouth feel' as tripe and maybe I should make some Chinese menudo.

                          Thanks for the suggestions. Will defintely follow them.

                  3. f
                    funniduck Feb 6, 2011 06:08 PM

                    If you want to burn them off, couldn't you use the long lighter sticks? How do you burn it off over the gas stove?

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: funniduck
                      ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 08:17 AM

                      How do you burn it off over the gas stove?


                      By holding it over the open flames?

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        monku Feb 7, 2011 09:24 AM

                        The smell of burning hair isn't very appetizing.

                        1. re: monku
                          ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 09:28 AM

                          ... but better than the taste of hair on the throat.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            monku Feb 7, 2011 09:32 AM

                            I don't think hair has a "taste", but at least you know where it came from and wasn't a human hair.

                            1. re: monku
                              ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 09:36 AM

                              Ok, no taste, but that tickling sensation is a definite mood killer.

                    2. Cherylptw Feb 6, 2011 07:02 PM

                      My mom used to burn them off also, but back then she used her gas stove. I use a stick lighter and scrape any bits left with a sharp knife.. My new favorite ways to make pigs feet is to crockpot them or bake them in the oven.

                      1. w
                        Whats_For_Dinner Feb 6, 2011 09:25 PM

                        Heh. I just learned the hard way that burning off pig snout hairs with a lighter in a small apartment in January is a bad idea.
                        Big pack of cheap disposable razors is the best way, I think.

                        Is the skin still fairly cohesive after the initial parboil? If it is, it should be easier to shave 'em after they're deboned -- easier to get into the little nooks and crannies and whatnot.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Whats_For_Dinner
                          ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 08:16 AM

                          Yes, the skin is cohesive. I think the skins would stay intact in a wind tunnel.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            monku Feb 7, 2011 09:26 AM

                            Sounds like one for the Mythbuster's, they've done almost everything you can with dead pigs.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              c oliver Feb 7, 2011 09:29 AM

                              I've cut very, very thin and short pieces of pork belly, sauteed with oniion garlic, whatever and then cooked something for hours and hours. At the end of that time, the skin was still a distinct part of each slice. That's my wind tunnel equivalent.

                              1. re: c oliver
                                ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 09:30 AM

                                They could pave highways with pig trotter skin.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  c oliver Feb 7, 2011 09:40 AM

                                  And no highway maintenance. Leave the hairs on for traction. I think we have a winner.

                          2. paulj Feb 6, 2011 09:34 PM

                            What's wrong with me? I've been buying pigs feet for years, and never noticed the hair.

                            1. K K Feb 7, 2011 09:13 AM

                              I was watching an old TV show from Hong Kong, where the host interviewed a famed female chef from Hangzhou (who works in a restaurant in Hong Kong). For her acclaimed Hangzhou style Tung Po Rou, the pork belly cut she purchases tends to have a lot of hairs on it. Her method of cleanup involves taking a meat cleaver to first scrape off the gunk off the skin (and also helps remove some hairs but not all). Then she (or her sous chefs) takes a pair of tweezers and manually removes each hair. She does not believe in burning the hairs off, as the intergrity of the skin for Tung Po Rou / pork belly prep is vital, as well as preserving the flavors (burning would make the surface of the skin too rough to enjoy). I suppose for pig feet this is probably ok, although shaving with some oil is a much faster and probably efficient way.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: K K
                                greygarious Feb 13, 2011 11:43 AM

                                As middle-aged women with chins come to realize, a lot of hair remains beneath the skin surface during shaving. Possibly the chef found that subcutaneous hair adversely affects taste or texture, hence the decision to laboriously tweeze.

                                1. re: greygarious
                                  jeniyo Feb 15, 2011 02:24 PM

                                  well, it is what the ladies and grandma did too. they diped it in hot water and plucked, sitting in front of a TV, a entertaining array of sumo wresting and travel channels later, clean as a baby's bottom... we do that for whole leg roasts too..

                              2. NYCkaren Feb 7, 2011 09:39 AM

                                You've picqued my interest. I want to buy pig's feet, although I have never even eaten them, so far as I know. My local supermarket has them. But I doubt I could get away with serving them to my daughter. Hmmmmm.

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: NYCkaren
                                  ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 01:09 PM

                                  Just tell her that they are "special ketchup flavored" pig's in a blanket.

                                  Notice the resemblance?

                                  Just in case you get confused, the ones on the right are the "real" pig's in a blanket ...


                                  (note: pictures not mine)

                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                    paulj Feb 7, 2011 01:33 PM

                                    The first time I had feet was at an Ecuadorian restaurant many years ago. I ordered a cow's foot soup (mondongo), and batter fried pigs feet. In typical Ecuadorian fashion the soup was finished with milk and ground peanuts. The feet were in fairly large pieces with the bones. I've made the soup a number of times, but haven't tried that pork preparation.

                                    The CC Foodography Pork episode showed 'Pig's Feet Wasabi Griddle Cakes', which were more like fritters made with chopped up meat and skin from the feet.

                                    There's at least one restaurant in the NYC area that specializes in pig's feet, mostly Japanese style preparations. Apparently in Japan feet are regarded as something of a health food, since they are a great source of gelatin.

                                    1. re: paulj
                                      ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 01:39 PM

                                      Apparently in Japan feet are regarded as something of a health food, since they are a great source of gelatin.


                                      That's my mom's mantra as well. She tries to regularly consume both chicken feet and pig's feet and tells me that that's what keeps her skin and complexion smooth and silky clean.

                                      And, to this day, she gets "carded" everytime she asks for the Senior Citizen discount, and she's now been eligible for over 15+ years.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        K K Feb 7, 2011 02:49 PM

                                        It is enjoyed as an Okinawan dish as tonsoku yaki (豚足焼) which is grilled. A rather prevalent dish like bitter melon stir fried with tofu/eggs/pork belly.


                                        The pic was at an Okinawan izakaya in Taipei. The chili dip side sauce is doubanjiang.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit
                                      c oliver Feb 7, 2011 03:47 PM

                                      Those feets look so, so good. The things on the left look slightly obscene. I'm definitely buying pigs feet this week and maybe a cow's foot while I'm there.

                                      1. re: c oliver
                                        ipsedixit Feb 7, 2011 05:39 PM

                                        While you're at it, pick up some oxtail as well.

                                        I'm brewing a big pot of oxtail stew as we speak or, er, type ...

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          c oliver Feb 10, 2011 11:52 AM

                                          Just bought the pigs feet. Also some beef heart and some head cheese. Oxtails will have to wait. FreezerS are full --- they're very small :)

                                          1. re: ipsedixit
                                            eight_inch_pestle Feb 10, 2011 05:36 PM


                                            Slightly off topic but would you happen to know how much a whole ox-tail weighs?

                                            1. re: eight_inch_pestle
                                              ipsedixit Feb 10, 2011 05:41 PM

                                              Hmm, not sure I understand eight_inch_pestle. They don't usually require you to buy a "whole" oxtail. You can generally buy by the pound, or as much as you want.

                                              Does that answer your question?

                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                c oliver Feb 10, 2011 05:46 PM

                                                The Latino market in Reno where I've started buying sells one tail, cut into the traditional pieces, wrapped in a circular piece of butcher paper (I'm probably describing that all wrong). I don't remember the price or the weight. So I guess I'm just worthless :) But I do enjoy seeing the (not) whole thing from big to tiny. It brings me closer to that animal who's giving me such a great meal.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  eight_inch_pestle Feb 10, 2011 06:44 PM

                                                  Right, my problem is I have a recipe that calls for an entire oxtail. I ordered one online from my usual "happy" meat supplier, but turns out they were sold out. So I'm just trying to figure out how much to purchase by-the-pound to approximate a whole tail.

                                                  Not a big deal---the butcher will probably know. And thanks for trying to answer.

                                                  1. re: eight_inch_pestle
                                                    monku Feb 10, 2011 06:49 PM

                                                    Considering meat to bone I'd figure it like buying a rack of ribs by the pound. Maybe a pound per person.

                                      2. jeniyo Feb 10, 2011 03:02 PM

                                        anymore fun things to do with pig trotters? i somehow collected around 5 of them in my freezer.

                                        we just had the kind that is braised in soy and 5spice a few weeks ago...

                                        would you say, i can braise, debone and throw on the grill to heat up??

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: jeniyo
                                          K K Feb 10, 2011 04:15 PM

                                          Could use them to make a soup, without soy sauce and spices. Add some wolfberries to sweeten, just like some night markets in northern Taipei county.

                                          1. re: jeniyo
                                            ipsedixit Feb 10, 2011 05:28 PM

                                            Deep-fry. But only if you are brave, very brave.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              monku Feb 10, 2011 06:03 PM

                                              Can you tell me where to find or how to make the "white" kind that you can eat cold?
                                              Growing up that was my favorite kind to eat during a hot summer day dipped in duck sauce.

                                              1. re: monku
                                                ipsedixit Feb 10, 2011 06:26 PM

                                                It's pretty easy to make. Simply clean, cut them up, and cook them in a pot of water with some vinegar, ginger and green onions. Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 1-2 hours. Drain, and serve cold.

                                                As to where to get them in LA, Sam Woo used to have them. Not sure if they do any more.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  monku Feb 10, 2011 06:37 PM

                                                  We used to get them in NYC Chinatown and seemed like they were only available during the summer time. They didn't taste of ginger or any evidence of green onions, so maybe they were only boiled with water and vinegar.

                                                2. re: monku
                                                  Sarah Feb 11, 2011 01:48 PM

                                                  I have a recipe (that I've never used) that calls for an arduous regimen of cleaning and boiling with white vinegar, star anise, cloves, allspice, peppercorn -- then 3 days of marinating... whew!

                                                3. re: ipsedixit
                                                  MVNYC Feb 10, 2011 06:23 PM

                                                  I had a deboned deep fried pig's foot with a fried runny egg and shaved foie gras at Le Pigeon in Portland. One of the best things I have ever eaten. The runny yolk and sort of melted foie turned into a luscious sauce for the crispy foot. There was also some sweet and sour marmalade component.

                                                  I have not tried this at home, but your post makes me want to try. Now I just need to learn how to debone a pig's foot.

                                                  1. re: MVNYC
                                                    paulj Feb 10, 2011 06:30 PM

                                                    Zampone is an Italian sausage made from deboned trotter. But you may have to make special order to get a foot that hasn't been already been split. I've read of wrapping the foot in cheesecloth so it does not curl up and come apart when cooked.


                                                    1. re: MVNYC
                                                      c oliver Feb 10, 2011 06:52 PM

                                                      I just read your post to Bob interspersing it with OMGs. That sounds incredible. Was this a recent meal? We may be through Portland in the next couple of months.

                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                        MVNYC Feb 11, 2011 08:51 PM

                                                        It was in May. I would hope they still have it. AMAZING.

                                                        I am going down to NYC Chinatown tomorrow to attempt it. We will see....

                                                4. hill food Feb 11, 2011 07:30 PM

                                                  I seem to remember an 18th c. memoir (ok, Laura Ingalls Wilder - I was raised to be a dork) that a freshly butchered and bled hog was scalded to get the hair extra brittle and then scraped (shaved really).

                                                  so ipse: do you use cream, gel or Nair? twin-trac or quattro? does the scent of the toiletry affect the taste? I'd skip the electric razors, you'd probably jam the blades.

                                                  pigskin is fairly tough, I find it hard to believe the concerns of the OCD HK chef as a reason for hand-plucking.

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