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Beer-Braised Pork Trotters (猪蹄, Zhuti) ft. Dried Tofu Skin

Author: Kathy Yuan | The Mala Market | Inspiration & Ingredients for Sichuan Cooking


  • 8-10 strips dried tofu skin/beancurd sheets of choice
  • 3 pounds cross-cut pork trotters, chopped/quartered see note
  • handful flour any kind
  • splash Shaoxing wine or other liaojiu (rice cooking wine)
  • 2 thumbs fresh ginger, divided: 1 washed and smashed, 1 peeled and roughly sliced
  • 1 bundle fresh scallion, washed and knotted
  • 6-8 cups hot water, divided
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 small cassia bark
  • 1 piece dried sand ginger
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3-4 dried red chili
  • 2-3 bay leaf
  • ½ tablespoon whole red huajiao (Sichuan pepper)
  • 1-2 tablespoons oil, or enough to coat pan
  • ¼ cup rock sugar approx. 60 grams. If unavailable, sub dark brown sugar
  • 1 can pilsner/pale lager beer, room temperature approx. 12 ounces
  • tablespoons light soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • ½ tablespoon dark soy sauce (Zhongba preferred)
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (halve for table salt), or to taste
  • MSG, to taste



  • In any wide container (bowl, loaf pan, Tupperware, etc.) soak the dried tofu skin in room-temperature water according to package instructions, around 1 hour or until soft and tearable. (Denser types like "sticks" may take up to 6 hours, so be sure to check beforehand.)
  • In a large bowl, scrub the meat with cold water and a handful of flour to clean it of any sliminess/gunk. Rinse thoroughly, rinsing 2-3 times until the water runs clear of blood. Drain.
  • Blanch the cleaned meat by adding it to a pot of cold water over medium-high heat with the smashed ginger, scallion knot and splash of liaojiu. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, or until most of the scum has been forced out, skimming foam as it appears.
    Meanwhile, combine the star anise, cassia bark, sand ginger, cloves, bay leaf, dried chili and whole red huajiao in a small bowl. Rinse gently in one change of water and set aside to soak in just enough clean water to cover.
  • Retrieve the trotters with a strainer into a bowl with 4-5 cups of hot water prepared ahead. Do not use cold water, or it will tighten the meat. Scrub the trotters of all the scum underwater, then rinse under hot water and drain into a clean bowl. Set aside.


  • Make the caramel in a dutch oven, clay pot, wok or similar braising vessel* by melting ¼ cup of rock sugar in 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (enough to coat the pan) over low heat. Stir continuously as it melts, using the back of a spatula/spoon to crush the rock sugar if needed, until color deepens to a dark amber. Be careful that the sugar doesn't burn and turn bitter.
    Once bubbling rapidly, add parcooked pork trotter. Quickly stir-fry to distribute the color. Add sliced ginger and soaked spices, stir-fry until fragrant. When the edges have browned, add the can of room temp beer down the sides of the pot, so as not to cool the meat too much. Season with the light and dark soy sauces. Then add just enough of the remaining hot (boiling is even better) water until the pork is barely covered. You may not need much. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat low and simmer 1 hour.
    *See Notes for Instant Pot instructions
  • Retrieve the large spices and discard. Tear the soaked tofu skin into bite-size lengths and add to pot. Season with salt and MSG to taste. Continue cooking uncovered, over high heat, to reduce the sauce until thick and glossy (or to your liking). This may take an additional 5-30 minutes depending on the amount of water you added, the shape/size of your pot, and how falling-apart you like your meat. It is largely a matter of preference. You may opt to retrieve the trotters when they are cooked to your liking and continue cooking down the sauce on its own.
    Serve immediately with veggies and rice on the side, or let cool on its own and reheat the next day to let the flavors continue developing overnight.


Raw peanuts, roasted chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms are also great additions to this braise.
How to order pig feet in Chinese and English:
In Chinese, we call this dish 猪蹄 (zhūtí), which effectively translates to “pig hooves”— trotters. This is separate from the knuckles, 猪肘子 (zhūzhǒuzi)—hocks, which you can also use. Chinese butchers additionally distinguish between the animal’s front trotters (前蹄, qiántí) and back trotters (后蹄, hòutí). Qianti front trotters are larger, meatier, more flexible/wrinkled/bent and have a big tendon in them, popular for braising. Houti back trotters are straighter and tougher, popular for soups.
For non-Chinese butchers, you can specifically request front trotters vs. back trotters. Ask the butcher to slice them in halved/chopped crosscut sections. They will be easier to eat this way, and to suck all the delicious marrow out.
Meaty front trotters are the popular cut. However, lots of people prefer the back feet, where there’s more collagen anyway! I made this dish using the back feet to demonstrate you can really go either way. Personally, the defining characteristic of braised pork trotters to me is that mouthwatering skin and fat layer, and back trotters have plenty of both.
Instant Pot/multicooker cooking instructions:
Follow above recipe but use the Sauté function in your multi cooker to caramelize the sugar and stir-fry the meat. Pressure cook for 25-30 minutes (more time if the trotters are sliced into whole rounds instead of halved), then release steam and continue cooking on Sauté function with the lid off to reduce the sauce and meat tenderness as desired.