My first post of the Filipino ham hock or knuckle dish called “paksiw na pata” is the sweet-sourly type that has a reduced, rich and somewhat oily gravy-like sauce. I wish to feature here now the simpler salty-sourly and relatively soupy version of the versatile and popular Filipino table fare. While I have been long exposed to the second version and I have enjoyed and still enjoying it a lot, I am now biased to the first version which has become a personal favourite since I learned cooking it by heart. I must state though that majority in the family still prefer this second method which is how my mother, sisters and most family members regularly prepare the dish.
As already mentioned before, I have a strong affinity with the pork cut “pata” or pork hand + hock + trotter in the case of the British cut, or pork arm + hock in the case of the US cut. Aside from “paksiw” (stewed in vinegar), “humba” (braised in soy sauce and sugar), “estopado” (braised in pineapple juice), “pata tim” (cooked in soy sauce) and “kare-kare” (cooked in peanut sauce with vegetables), it is also fried into “crispy pata” (boiled then deep fried until crisp). I really like the succulent and gelatinous texture of the skin and fat and the soft juicy character of the grains of meat when properly cooked until tender) in cases of stew and braise dishes and the crunchy crackling that becomes of the rind and the roast-like taste of the meat inside when deep fried. Whew, I’m salivating now.
Like “sinigang”, the sourly broth in this dish is so invigorating. However, to properly enjoy it, you must attain the right amount of vinegar. It is a key factor. Since different types of vinegar have different levels of acidity, which is responsible for the sourness, then familiarity on the type of vinegar to use and personal adjustment in the final quantity is necessary. The dish goes very well with steamed rice and loved even by kids. For those who like spicy foods, the addition of several chopped bird’s eye chilli (“siling labuyo”) directly on the serving bowl will surely provide a kick in every sip.
As preferred by everybody, the front “pata” is also my choice for this dish as it contains more meat. One piece of about 1.3 kilogram (3 lbs) cut up to serving sizes should be enough for a single preparation good for a family of 5.
You should meticulously clean the meat by scraping the skin with the back of the knife. Wash it several times, rinse well then thoroughly drain.
The beauty of this dish is that it only involves just a few ordinary ingredients. We only need 2 pcs onions, sliced, 8 gloves garlic, minced, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tbsp rock salt or to taste, ¾ cup natural vinegar and about 6 cups pork broth or plain hot water.
In a large heavy casserole pour the vinegar, add the onions and garlic and mash by hand. Tightly squeeze the garlic and onion in your palm until mushy and juice extracted is mixed with vinegar. This is how I was taught and how I think would the flavour blend properly so please do not bother asking why. :)
Add the pieces of pork knuckle to the casserole and thoroughly slather the vinegar mixture on to the meat. Add ground pepper and season with salt. Add MSG if you like (only if you like), my wife and kids don’t. I usually taste the liquid at this point to make sure it has a balance salt-vinegar flavour.
Let it boil on medium heat. Cover with the lid but once the liquid starts to boil, uncover to let the vinegar vapour escapes. Let it simmer on low heat until the “pata” renders it own liquid to mix with the vinegar mixture. Continue simmering to low heat, just enough for the liquid to gurgle. Flip over the meat from time to time for even cooking. Add 1 cup of broth or hot water if the liquid is drying out. Simmer until the “pata” is all tender, about 1 to 1 ½ hours, lesser if the meat came from a really young pig.
Add the remaining broth. It should be enough to cover all the meat pieces. Continue simmering on low heat. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings as well as the level of vinegar according to your preference. Continue cooking until the meat is fork tender.
Maintaining it piping hot, transfer in serving bowls and serve with steamed rice. Spike it with chopped chilli if you are like me and my cousin who wants it extra spicy and even more rejuvenating. :-)
There it is! The soupy version of “paksiw na pata”. Just the way my mom and siblings really like it. Simple, easy but yummy! Enjoy! c“,)