Pork trotter jelly is a dish that is unique to the Teochew food culture in Singapore. This dish originated from the Shantou province in China, where the Teochews populate and came to Singapore from. The dish makes use of the low grade parts of the meat, including the trotter meat and the skin. These are boiled with fragrant spices in water over a low heat for many hours so as to allow the collagen and gelatin to completely dissolve into the broth, thereby allowing the broth to set and form into a jelly. Because it is such a time consuming dish to whip up, it is hence not just an uncommon dish to find at the heartland hawker centers, but also one that is rarely prepared at home.
Notwithstanding its rarity in Singapore, pork jelly is actually quite a common appetiser served in many other countries. In Europe, pâtés (chilled ground meat served as a spread) sometimes come with a layer of jelly that is not unlike that of pork trotter jelly. Another type of pork jelly made with vinegar and vegetables can also be found at the fresh meat produce counters in European supermarkets, sold either by weight or in slices. These jellies are made in a similar way as the Teochew pork trotter jelly – boiled, spiced and then chilled to set. They make for a really good appetiser especially because of the slightly sour and sweet taste of the jelly (due to the inclusion of vinegar in the broth) which opens up one’s appetite immediately.
As much as I love and miss the European pork jellies, I thought I should give the Teochew variant a try at home myself for the sake of fun and cultural identity. It was indeed time consuming, but not too difficult otherwise!
- Pork trotter (whole): 1.5kg, thoroughly cleaned with hairs removed
- Pork skin: 500g, hairs thoroughly removed
- Boiling water: 3 liters
- Fish sauce: 3/4 cup
- Rock sugar: 100g
- Garlic clove: 2 heads
- White peppercorn: 1 tbsp, cracked
- Star anise: 8 pieces
- Clove: 8 pieces
- Rice wine: 4 tbsp
- Gelatin: 2 tbsp
- Cilantro: 1 stalk, chopped
- Scald pork trotters and skin in boiling water for about 5 min.
- Remove trotters and skin and plunge in cold water to soak for 5 min. Discard boiling water.
- Place trotters and skin into a new pot of boiling water (3 liters).
- Add fish sauce, rock sugar, garlic cloves, white peppercorns, star anise, cloves and rice wine into water.
- Leave to simmer on low heat for 3 hrs.
- Remove trotters and skin. Shred skin and meat into 2 shallow rectangular baking trays with equal portions.
- Sieve soup into a big bowl to remove remaining fats and scum.
- Add gelatin and stir to dissolve. Pour into baking dishes to cover the meat and skin.
- Cling wrap baking trays and leave to set overnight in fridge.
- Garnish with cilantro to serve.
- The collagen in the skin and trotters actually produces natural gelatin in the broth to help set the jelly. There is therefore no need to add too much gelatin as it could lead to the jelly becoming too stiff.
- I made my own chilli sauce to serve the jelly with. Blend some leeks and red chillies together, then add 2 tbsp white vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt. Mix them together to dissolve the sugar and salt and voila!
2 large trays or 4 large serving plates of sliced jellies