I’ve wanted to blog about Okinawan pigs feet soup for about two years now. Back in January of 2009, I photographed my family preparing two very large vats of soup – one with pigs feet, and the other (for the less adventurous among us) with pork spareribs. The Pigs Feet Soup, in fact, provided much of the impetus for starting this blog, when it dawned on me how much history has been preserved in this humble bowl of soup. (Incidentally, pigs feet soup served as my husband’s induction into my Okinawan family. He braved the Okinawan pigs feet – not just the pork spareribs. We initiated him as an Honorary Okinawan after he heartily drank the soup, and enjoyed it.)
You really need to start preparing pigs feet soup two days in advance – three actually, if you count the day that you pick up the pigs feet and spareribs. (My grandparents and I got ours from the Honolulu Chinatown market.) The next day, my Grandpa boiled the pigs feet and spareribs in two separate large pots of water.After a while, a lot of extra fat and residue from the pigs feet will start to foam up at the top of the pot of water, and must be removed periodically. An old empty tofu carton, kept close to the boiling broth, does the job perfectly.When the broth is done, remove the meat (continuing to keep the pigs feet separate from the spareribs), and refrigerate the broth overnight. The next morning, skim off the solid fat that will have risen to the top. According to Grandma B, this is probably the pivotal difference between homemade pigs feet soup, and the kind you’ll get at some restaurants. If the scummy fat is not removed, the broth will ge greasy and less flavorful. Once the fatty layer is removed, what’s left is a pure, clean, hearty broth.My Grandpa and Grandma season the broth with white miso and Hawaiian salt. Grandma B soaked konbu (seaweed) earlier in the day, and my Aunty K and I helped her slice the konbu into long strips. We separated the rougher strips of konbu from the smoother strips, and made sure we added the rough konbu to the broth first, to give it more time to cook and soften. My uncles were responsible for tying the konbu into knots (before adding them to the broth). It was a true group effort.Of course, everyone’s favorite part of the Pigs Feet Soup is my Grandpa’s togan (Winter squash). They are a light green in color, with a fuzzy skin, and some have been larger than toddlers. (I’ll try to see if I can find a photo, and post one of these beloved togans.) Grandpa cubes the togan, and cooks it in the broth. The togan meat is exceptionally porous, and absorbs all of the savory flavor of the soup. After the togan cooks, it develops a soft, spongy, and delicate texture. I couldn’t find any togan here in the bay area, so when I tried making my own soup (the sparerib version), I substituted some hyotan (a thin, longer gourd-like squash) that I found at an Asian market in the Chinatown district of Clement Street in San Francisco. After the konbu and squash have cooked, reintegrate the meat into the respective pots (pigs feet into the pigs feet broth, spareribs into the sparerib broth). My favorite way to enjoy pigs feet (or sparerib) soup, is with a plate of maki sushi.
AboutI like Zip mins, spam musubi, and the butterfish misoyaki at The Cal. I've never been a fan of the loco moco but, now that I'm 3000 miles from my hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii, nearly everything from the islands makes me salivate. I currently live (and cook) in the San Francisco bay area, and have inevitably fallen in with "buying local" and organically-grown foods. I enjoy recreating the foods I grew up with - recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation in my family. And, as a working home cook, I try to prepare a lot of fast and healthful meals. Part recipe book, part cultural memoire, and travel journal, here is where I document all of my gastronomical experiences. I think of my kitchen as a blend of past and present, and I believe that where we call home is what we serve on our plates.