December is officially slow cooking season in my household. As the weather turns cold and nights close in, this Slow Braised Ham Hock brings vibrant, rich flavours to your table. Traditionally this dish can be found during the winter at dai pai dongs (long licensed stalls) in Hong Kong. Serve it with a few other dishes to balance out flavours- like crispy squid with chilli and garlic, stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice. Gather your family or friends round the table then tuck in and listen for happy sounds and second helpings.
SLOW BRAISED HAM HOCK IN YELLOW BEAN SAUCE, WHITE PEPPER & FIVE-SPICE
1 red onion
½ a leek
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon five-spice
1kg (2lb 4oz) ham hock on the bone, with skin on
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
500ml (18fl oz/2 cups) chicken stock
500ml–1 litre (18fl oz–1¾ pints/
2–4 cups) hot water
2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch), mixed with 3 tablespoons water
THE BRAISING SAUCE
3 tablespoons Chingkiang black rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons yellow bean sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
Cut the red onion into roughly 2cm (¾ inch) chunks and halve the leek lengthways. Wash the leek well under cold running water and cut into 3cm (1¼ inch) lengths. Mix all the braising sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
Rub the salt, white pepper and five-spice all over the ham hock and set aside on a roasting tray.
Now build your wok clock: place the red onion at 12 o’clock, followed by the leeks, the black peppercorns, bay leaf, star anise and cinnamon stick, then the braising sauce,
clockwise on the plate. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a medium-high heat in a large
saucepan. Once hot, place the ham hock skin side down in the pan and turn it until completely seared all over – about 5–8 minutes in total. Add the red onion around
the edge of the ham and fry for a further minute or so, then add the leeks, peppercorns and bay leaf, giving them a quick stir for another minute or two.
Turn the heat up to high, then pour the braising sauce into the panband bring to a vigorous boil. Turn the ham hock every minute or so, coating all sides in the boiling sauce. The sauce will begin to reduce and thicken, starting to stick a little on the base of the pan. At this point, pour in the chicken stock and hot water to cover the ham hock
completely, and return to the boil.
Give it a stir to mix all the flavours together, then turn the heat down to medium-low and leave to cook for 1½ hours.
After about 1 hour of braising the meat, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan (400°F). Once the meat has had its 1½ hours of braising, transfer the ham hock to a roasting tray.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok to a high heat. Scoop out all the red onions and leeks from the braising liquid, add them to the wok and fry for 30 seconds, then immediately add 4–5 ladles of braising liquid and bring to a vigorous boil.
Add the cornflour (cornstarch) paste, return to the boil and stir continuously for 1 minute more. Once the sauce has thickened slightly, pour it directly over the ham hock, then place the roasting tray in the oven for a further 20–30 minutes.
This is a great dish for everyone to get stuck in, pulling pieces apart as they go.