In Asia, no part of the pig goes to waste. In cooking Vietnamese green papaya soup, the pig's feet are traditionally used. Although they contain little to no meat, they are rich in tendons which liquefy and become part of the broth during the long and slow cooking.
Although papaya is a fruit, unripe green papaya is cooked as a vegetable in Southeast Asia. The flesh, after cooking, is soft but firm and has a foamy texture. It is bland, almost tasteless, but able to soak up the flavors of ingredients it is cooked with.
How to Cook
It takes several hours to cook pig's feet to get it to that stage when the flesh separates from the bone and much of the tendon has liquefied into the broth. If you're going to simmer the pig's feet on the stovetop, use a pot with a thick bottom to minimize the chance of the pork feet sticking to the bottom and scorching. Also, remember to stir the pot and scrape the bottom occasionally.
A pressure cooker may be used and it might be the most convenient method. However, although pressure cooking will cook the pig's feet faster, it does not make a thorough job of drawing out the flavors from the bones.
We find the slow cooker to be the ideal equipment for cooking tough cuts of meat like pork feet. No stirring is necessary and the broth tastes like every bit of flavor have been squeezed off the bones.
- Rinse the pig's feet. Scrub thoroughly. Rinse once more. If there are visible hairs, use a kitchen torch to burn them off. Chop the pig's feet into serving size pieces.
- Place the prepared pig's feet in a pan. Cover with water. Boil for ten minutes. Drain and rinse the pig's feet thoroughly. This step prevents the formation of scum in the broth.
- Transfer the pig's feet to the slow cooker. Add the garlic, ginger, and shallot. Drizzle in about two tablespoonfuls of fish sauce. Add a teaspoonful of sugar. Pour in enough water to cover the pig's feet and make a substantial amount of broth. Leave enough space however as you will be adding the green papaya later.
- Set the slow cooker to HIGH. After two hours set the heat to LOW and continue cooking the pig's feet for another five hours.
- Cut the green papaya lengthwise into halves. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous center of the papaya. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Cut the flesh into two-inch cubes.
- Taste the broth. Add more fish sauce and sugar, as needed. Add the green papaya to the slow cooker. If there is room, stir. Replace the cover and cook for another hour.
- Taste the broth one last time. Adjust the seasonings once more, if needed.
- Stir in the scallions and serve the soup.