Crispy pata: lots of sticky gelatinous collagen and ligament.
The Filipino crispy pata (pork knuckle) costs RM50 each in the restaurants but a pork leg (knuckle plus trotters) from the butcher costs only RM13 to 15 so I did the math and thought I'd save RM111/RM105 if I cooked three pata myself.
The first two pata that I fried didn't turn out crispy. To add injury to insult, the hot oil splattered on my face, making it even more mottled. The third pata which I cooked the next day however turned out rather successful. The knuckle skin was crispy enough to crackle as I cut it but not as crispy as roasted pork crackling or siu yuk skin. But still, my son Wey was excited and happy ("Oh boy oh boy!") as he ate the whole pata himself. Two bites of the greasy stuff were enough for me although I did like the sticky gelatinous collagen and ligament.
The first two knuckles were left to dry in the fridge for about 6 hours but the third knuckle was left in the fridge overnight. That made a lot of difference to the crisping of the skin. The other important thing is to fry the knuckle at high heat so that the oil inside will sputter out, breaking the skin and making it easier to crisp. I couldn't do a good job of that because it really was scary to fry a voracious piece of meat that sputtered and splattered hot oil. I didn't cover the wok the first time, but the second time I did, raising it now and then, facing away from me, to release the moisture from the lid which would otherwise cause more oil to sputter. Covering the wok during frying also prevents accidents such as oil burns but you still have to be very careful because the knuckle can sputter unexpectedly. When you hear the sputter, you know the skin is breaking out and crisping up. My pata sputtered so hard that the lid of the wok jumped. When the sputtering dies down, you know the skin is done.
There are two versions of Filipino pata recipes on the Net. One version calls for a can of fizzy drink like 7-up or Sprite, baking soda and a whole tablespoon of msg. I dismissed this recipe because it appears in food websites and I've learnt from experience that such sites just publish recipes taken from other sites without testing the recipes. I suspect that the reviews are drummed up to make the recipes appear authentic. The other recipe didn't call for fizzy water or baking soda and is published by bloggers who, like me, test and write about their attempts. You can tell by their photos which are not perfect unlike those in food websites.
I don't know. I found it such a waste to boil the knuckle and throw the water out. It's not worthwhile to cook one knuckle; saves more time and energy to order it. Frying pata is really dangerous too--look at my face. I think that restaurants make crispier pata because they are able to use a lot of oil (I used enough oil to cover the knuckle halfway only; seemed such a waste of oil to cover it fully because I don't keep hydrogenated oil) and fry at a very high temperature. A better way to cook the pata would be to bake it like siu yuk, I think, and the skin'll probably crisp better because unboiled pork skin is thicker.
Crispy pata is delicious but it is a greasy dish. The vinegar dip helped to cut the grease, so make sure you serve plenty of that. And beer.
Next time I'll eat pata at restaurants.
Next time I'll eat pata at restaurants.
This recipe makes delicious pata that's better than the restaurants, according to my family and my niece. The skin is crispy-sticky and the meat tasty and moist.
2 pork legs
1 heaped T salt
1 heaped t black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
3 T fish sauce
1. Get the butcher to shave the legs clean. Joint the knuckle from the trotters. Wash well and put knuckles and trotters into a pot of boiling water for a minute to get ride of any unpleasant smell and dirt. Drain.
2. Put the knuckles and trotters into a pot and add all the above ingredients and enough water to cover the knuckles. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the skin is soft but the meat and skin is still sticking to the bone. If using a pressure cooker, cooking time is 25 minutes from the time the pot hisses, not from the time it boils. Keep the legs in the pot covered until it's safe to open. The skin will be quite soft (but firms up upon chilling) but the whole thing is still intact and not falling off the bone. Remove carefully. Leave the trotters aside. Chop into small pieces. Add salt and Shaoxing Hua Tiao wine, chilling them overnight. You have another dish to chew: drunken pork trotters.
3. When cool enough to handle, dab the oil and liquid off the knuckles with kitchen paper. Prick the skin all over with a fork. Season with about 1 T fish sauce and a few dashes of msg each. Place knuckles on a wire rack and chill in the fridge for 24 hours.
4. Do a final dab-drying on the knuckles with kitchen paper. Heat enough oil in a deep pot or wok to deep-fry. You can fry both knuckles at once or one by one. You can add some flour but I found it unnecessary because the flour falls off during frying. When the oil starts to sputter, cover the pot/wok loosely, leaving some gap for the steam to escape. When the sputtering stops and the knuckles are golden brown, they are done. Carefully remove (hot oil!) and drain on a rack.
The Pata Dip
1 small red onion, chopped or sliced
1 red hot chili, chopped or sliced
1/4 cup white rice vinegar (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup light soy sauce (adjust to taste)
1 T garlic, finely chopped
note: To make Chinese crispy pata, just rub 5-spice powder or Season's flavored salt mix on the boiled knuckle.