I ate really well this weekend. I unashamedly can say, without guilt, that I do most of the time, but I think our dinner out on Friday night to one of our favourite Italian spots really set a president for the rest of this past weekend.
One of the dishes I had to make, and make well, was anything that could incorporate a pork hock that I was forced to take out the freezer due to space constraints. "Forced" is really an inaccurate description as to how I was feeling when confronted with placing said hock into the refrigerator to defrost. I welcome cooking with hock any day of the week as it is an easy, flavourful and an inexpensive cut of the pig that in my books is highly underrated.
Sometimes fate determines the food we eat never minding us having alternate intentions. Sometimes it also inspire us.
After a late morning beach walk on Saturday I ended up in a rather unfamiliar part of suburbia that was rife with Asian supermarkets. Inspired by my circumstances and always determined to make the most out of access to more affordable Asian ingredients, I filled a bag with some fresh and dry produce and made my way home to use that pork hock the best way I could. The fact that it was to be Asian style, the fact we were eating pork all seemed more fate's doing than mine.
When Mr A & I were tucking into out noodle bowls on Saturday night we certainly weren't complaining about it. Another day. Another good meal.
Pork & Mushroom Noodle Bowl
Your first challenge will be to get your hands on non-smoked hocks. This variation is the most ubiquitous in South African supermarkets. You'll probably have to venture to a good neighbourhood butcher and request it specifically. Free range pork will then be your next challenge. Believe you me, you want to make the effort in finding some as the flavour is drastically better than the battery-style farmed versions mostly available.
+- 1,2 kg pork hock ( non smoked )
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6cm piece ginger, sliced
5cm cassia bark / cinnamon stick
3 star anise
10 white peppercorns, crushed
50ml chicken stock
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 x 200g punnet mixed exotic mushrooms : like shimenji, shitake, etc) - sliced
1 clove garlic - choped
5cm piece fresh ginger - chopped
2 x bok choy - well rinsed and blanched and then sliced
generous handful fresh mung bean sprouts
180-200g fine, asian egg noodles - cooked to packet instructions & drained
to serve :
handful fresh coriander
chopped spring onion
additional soy sauce
Set the oven to 160degC.
Place an oven proof pot over a medium-high heat and cover the base with vegetable oil. Fry the hock on all sides to brown. Drain off any excess oil and return the pot with the hock to the heat and add in the spices, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, chicken stock, sugar and just enough water to mostly cover the hock. Bring to the boil, place on a fitting lid or cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for 2 hours. Check the liquid content after an hour. Top up if it gets too low.
When ready remove from the oven and take the hock out of the liquid to rest and get cool enough to handle. Remove the fat and discard. Pull the meat off the bone and chop into bits of varying size, or as to your preference.
Now get a large frying pan or wok over a high heat and when super hot pour in just enough oil to cover the base. Add in the second portion of ginger and garlic and almost immediately follow with the mushrooms. Fry until tender then add in a splash of soy sauce and then the bok choy and mung bean sprouts and fry till heated through. Now add in the noodles and pork, toss to mix and once hot add in some of the soy-pork broth left in the pot. This can be just enough to loosen the noodles or a more generous quantity to make the dish more broth-like. When the broth is hot turn off the heat and sprinkle with a few drops of sesame oil & garnish with the fresh coriander. Serve with soy sauce to add if necessary.