Korean Eating: A Pigs Feet Picnic 족발
Pigs feet, or jokbal (족발), boils away for hours in a stock made of water, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, rice wine, and maybe a secret ingredient depending on where it’s from, before it’s sliced up and served to those eaters looking for something meaty, fatty and extremely mouth watering. I had seen pigs feet before, on a drive south from Ohio to Florida and I remember the jar the pigs feet floated in sitting on a shelf in a convenience store vividly, but it wasn’t until coming to Korea that I actually gave the trotters a try. Of course the style in which this dish is prepared in countries far apart is different, but now I’d be much more open to trying it back home.
Yesterday the skies were blue the air was warm and it seemed like a perfect day for a picnic on the grassy banks of the Han River. On the way, we stopped by our local Mangwon Farmers Market to pick up a helping of pigs feet to savor for dinner. As an aside, heading to your local market the day before Chuseok vacation, the Korean Thanksgiving, is not advisable. We pressed our way through the crowds of people stocking up on vegetables and meat for the holidays and grabbed our medium sized dish of trotters for W17,000 to go.
Korean style pigs feet is served with lettuce to wrap them in and three dipping sauces. Of the three, the most important sauce is the saeujeot (새우젓) a salty condiment made with tiny fermented shrimp. Saeu means shrimp and jeot stands for any salty fermented condiment used for pickling or as a seasoning. The shrimp are usually salted and fermented for 2 to 3 months before being served up with dishes like pigs feet or bossam. Another sauce often served with pigs feet is chojang (초장), a sweet and spicy red chili pepper sauce. This sauce is commonly seen with Korean style sashimi, or hue, and is made by taking gochujang (고추장, red pepper paste), and adding vinegar and sugar. The third sauce is the standard ssamjang (쌈장) a spicy red sauce often seen on tables while grilling up delicious cuts of meat. Saamjang is made with gochujang, doenjang (듼장, fermented bean paste), sesame oil, onion, garlic and brown sugar.
Koreans often drink soju or beer while enjoying this oily dish, but not to worry, it’s not as unhealthy as you think. I’ve heard it claimed that pigs feet is healthy for the skin and prevents wrinkles as well as prevents hangovers. If you believe that, then it’s the perfect dish for a night out, a picnic on the Han or a simple dinner at home and if at all possible round out the meal with a little song and dance to Billie Holiday’s “Gimmie a Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer”.
…And at the break of day you can hear ole Hammer say
Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer, send me a gate I don’t care
feel just like I wanna clown.
Give the piano player a drink because he’s bringing me down.
He’s got rhythm yeah, when he stomps his feet.
He sends me right off to sleep.
Check all your razors and all your guns,
We’re gonna be arrested when the wagon comes.
Gimme a pigfoot and a bottle of beer…