What can you do with a pig's foot, lemongrass, and a few bird's eye chilies? Make trotter tom yum, that's what! Imagine the spicy and sour flavors of tom yum with the richness of pork.
The lemongrass, galangal, and chilies impart their bright flavors; the gelatinous trotter stock mellows it out in the best way.
The first time I had this soup, I ordered it at a Thai restaurant. The soup was perfectly balanced, the vegetables perfectly simmered, but the trotters were unappealingly hard. I complained about it to a friend who said, "Well, that's no good. That'd be like having a foot fetish or something." This comment made no sense to me until I really thought about it, and actually my friend was right. If you don't stew the trotters for long enough, chunks of pig's feet in an otherwise delicate soup would be incongruous. But simmered until very soft, the trotters meld into the soup.
Now as some of you may know from having read my latest column, I have been experiencing some cataclysmic changes in my relationship with offal, and for the most part, I am still refraining from the sort of cuts that used to give me such pleasure. But this trotters soup was a dish that I could stomach, mostly because the meat slips right off the bone when you simmer it for so long.
Of course, the soup could be made with any cut of pork that could be long simmered: ribs, neck, hocks, and so on. But trotters and tom yum is such a winning combination that it makes me wonder what other famous soups could take a pig's foot.
About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.