The sun is out again, and outside is muggy. I have been contemplating for days on how to start this article, but it never came. Well, after a trip to the liquor store, I had a kickstart from my good old friend, the beer, and finally found something to begin with.
The week that went felt like a long weekend with the celebration of the annual Toronto Jazz Festival at the east side of the city, for which I have promised myself to experience and enjoy for years now, but never have. Work interfered. The actual long weekend is scheduled the week after, and from my observation, everybody seemed tired and exhausted from working each weekend after another for this long month of July.
Thinking about it just makes me wonder what on earth is going on, and why things are just moving so quickly and at lightning fast speed. With so many whirlwind of activities going on in the city, the concept of time and place seem gray and unmistakably strange. I have that feeling now. With the onset of the Olympics, which I am sure every pub in this city is showing on their huge flat screen televisions, is and should be an additional burden, of course, for those in the service industry.
Anyway, I thought about writing and cooking ‘Pata Tim’ about two weeks ago. It was one of the first comfort food I managed to cook and to capture the taste way back in 2005. It was at that time I discovered a massive Asian grocery in the suburbs and wanted to try each and every spice and condiment on display. It was nirvana! The aisles were long and tall and packed with mythical concoctions of jars and cans of preserves from every country on earth and probably from every town in China. Now, that was a circus ride for a budding foodie like me. As a newly landed immigrant, Philippine groceries were pathetic to the size, price, quantity, and freshness of the produce I just discovered.
When I first arrived here in Canada, Pork Hocks were only priced at 49c a lb. I think it’s up to about 79c a lb.now, but it’s still considerably cheap given how they are marketed, and which I know, every Filipino in the city would love to indulge into for their versions of Crispy Patas and Pata Tims. I fell to the trap, of course. I bought countless numbers of Pork Hocks and have tried means and ways of doing a ‘Crispy’ without actually deep-frying the meat, but always ended up roasting and pan-frying each thereafter; and my blood pressure went up and had to back down a bit.
This is a braising dish and with the huge portions of hocks the Asian groceries offered on their displays, no one can really resist but to buy a bunch and do some miracle with them. I did my ‘Pata Tim’ a very long time ago and my roommates were mesmerized with what I had done. I just left it on the stovetop for three hours and that was it. I consider Pata Tim deadly given all the heavenly goodness the hock can produce on every bite. I, myself, have been trying to control my cholesterol level; watching my sugar and fat intake for the last couple of months. It’s just so enticing and tempting to buy cheap cuts of meat if they can last for days. They are just perfect for a very busy person like me. Just to stay on the healthier side, I used a cut of a Pork Butt .
- ½ a lb. of Pork Butt
- Cornstarch Slurry as a Thickening Agent
- Brown Sugar
- Chicken Stock
- Hoisin Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- Light Soy Sauce
- Filipino Soy Sauce
- Star Anise
- Cinnamon Stick
- Lily Buds
- Black Peppercorns
- Szechuan Peppercorns
- Leeks or Green Onions
- White Onions
- Orange Peel
- Thyme Sprigs
- Parsley Stems
- Baby Bok Choy
- Dried Shitake Mushrooms
Tie a butcher’s twine around the Pork Butt and dredge with seasoned flour. Pan-fry until golden brown and set aside. On the same pan, start sweating the onions and garlic. Return the Pork Butt and add the chicken stock, the sauces, the spices and the aromatics. Let it boil to simmer and shove it in a 200’C preheated oven (low & slow), covered, for approximately two hours; depending on how much meat has to be tenderized and cooked.
In a bowl, soak the Dried Shitake Mushrooms. Blanch the Baby Bok Choys.
Poke the meat using a fork and when it’s soft and tender, remove the butt from the pot and let it rest. Strain the stock, and adjust to desired taste. Add some of the water from the soaked mushrooms for additional taste. Let the meat cool down and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours or so.
Cut the butcher’s twine and slice about two slices, against the grain, from the meat. Take a portion of the braising broth in another sauce pan, and thicken with cornstarch solution. Add in the mushrooms and the meat while doing this step or warm the butt using a microwave. Surround the plate with the vegetables and mushrooms, and place the meat at the center. Pour the sauce as a final shine.
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