Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Geung Chou (Ginger Vinegar)

It is common practice for women in Hong Kong to consume a variety of "special foods" post-partum. The combinations are said to restore balance to the woman's body, along with replenishing her depleted iron and calcium.

This soup is one of "those" foods. It's also a food that you either love...or love to hate. After all, you are drinking vinegar!

Begin by gathering your ingredients:

2 lb. Ginger (young is better)
12 Eggs
5 lb. Pig Trotters
2.5 L Sweet Vinegar (*see note below)

Prepare your ingredients:

Ginger: Begin by washing the ginger. Scrape off the thin skin and slice into thick medallions and set aside.

Eggs: Hard boil and peel all 12 eggs. Set aside, whole.

Pig Trotters: Rinse, inspecting each one for any stray hairs.

Remove any hair you find and boil the trotters in water until they are cooked through, 15-20 minutes. (They will put off a lot of grey gunk - make sure your pot is large enough to handle all of this, or cook your trotters in batches.) Rinse and set aside. (Throw out all that nasty water and all that gunk

Combine your ginger, eggs, trotters and ginger in a large ceramic pot**, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally, making sure the eggs don't float in one position for too long. (Otherwise, you'll get dry leathery patches on your eggs where they poke out above the water, and these are nigh unto impossible to chew!) Turn off the stove at night, and return to a boil in the morning before reducing back to a simmer. Continue this process for two to three days, or until the eggs are dark and the trotters are falling off the bones. If you like, when the soup is cool at night, skim the fat off the top and discard.

(*The vinegar used here is a special Chinese vinegar - no other will do. Look for large jugs of it on the lower shelves of Asian markets. It can be found online, but it's hard to find and very expensive. We found our 2.5L jug in NYC's Chinatown for less than $10. This was the least expensive variety available, but the quality wasn't very high. We found that we had to add sugar, and then all was right with the world.)

(**Please do not leave this soup in any metal pot for the duration! The vinegar is likely to react with the metal and give you something that is definitely not tasty. This soup is traditionally made in a ceramic soup pot. Go here for a video of a Hong Kong mama washing ginger, and to see the kind of pot I'm talking about. These are also available in large Asian markets. We made ours by first cooking everything on the stove in normal pots and then removing it all to a ceramic crock pot - the soup really must simmer for 2-3 days before it is well blended and ready to eat.)

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