The Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup Project


Pomai’s finished version of Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup

Still bearing “Okinawan fever”, this past week I decided for the first time to attempt (stress ATTEMPT) making Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup, which is called Ashitibichi. I have little exposure to this delicacy, except for the one I tried at the culture festival two weeks ago, which I absolutely loved!…


Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup from the 2007 Culture Festival

There’s a considerable difference in both color AND flavor of the broth in my version, when compared with the version from the Okinawan Festival.

The simplicity of its flavor being key. Mine was too complex, probably because I didn’t stick with the original online recipe published by the Star Bulletin, or my other reference from the KaukauTime food blog.

My Pig’s Feet Soup tasted more like Oden, a Japanese fish cake “stew”…

Playing “doctor”, I think I made the mistake of putting too much dashi (a recipe from a book) and too much Kombu (sea kelp), including not rinsing the salt off the Konbu. Don’t get me wrong. My soup was absolutely delicious (I love Oden!), but it wasn’t as mild and simple in flavor like I remember the Pig’s Feet Soup from the Okinawan Festival, which had a very simple & mild ginger, pork and salt flavor profile.

I’ll recap on my deviations of the original recipe(s) later.

Instead of providing a formal written recipe with instructions, Here’s a pictorial narrative of the ingredients in approximate quantities, and the method that I followed…

The Pig’s front foot. Yeah, looks gross, but there’s TONS of flavor in the bones here! I found this at Foodland in the freezer section, which is where most of the “other cuts” of pork are found.

Mustard Cabbage, a.k.a. “Gai Choy” (Chinese) or “Takana” (Japanese). This stuff really has a mustard-like flavor to it with some bite.

Left to right: Ginger, Daikon (radish) and long squash. I’m told the usual ingredient is Winter Melon (Togan), but because the Togan in the store was so big (it looks like a dark watermelon), I opted for the long squash. The daikon is easy to peel using a standard vegetable peeler. The squash’s skin had to be cut off using a knife.

Dashino-moto, a Bonito-flavored (dried fish) seasoning with plenty of MSG in it. It’s commonly used in various Japanese soups, including Miso soup. I added 4 packets of this stuff in my broth. Too much.

Nishimi Kombu (sea kelp).

I also used shoyu and sake for flavoring the broth.

First I boiled the pig’s feet…

Then I added ginger, kombu and sake…

After letting that boil and then simmer for about 1-1/2 hours, I put it in the refrigerator overnight to harden the fat given off from the pig’s feet on the top surface…

Yeah, looks kinda’ gross, but this is a necessary step that makes it easier to remove the fat from the pig’s feet stock. So I scooped that out using a large spoon and discarded it.

Then I soaked, but didn’t rinse the Kombu to be tied for the finished soup, as I wanted the salt on them to help flavor the broth…

The look like long “leafy strips” when rehydrated. I cut the kombu in 4″ lengths and tied a knot in the middle of each one…

Isn’t that pretty? lol

Then peeled and diced the squash…

and the Daikon (turnip)…

Reheated the broth, strained it through a sieve and cut the pig’s feet (and lower leg) into bite size pieces (this looks gross too, but this is the “soul” of the dish!)…

Then added all the cut up pig’s feet parts back in the pot. Note that I also added some cut up belly pork just to have more meat…

Then added the bow-tied Kombu, diced daikon, squash, some chopped mustard cabbage stump pieces, along with the strained broth back into the pot with the pig’s feet and simmered it for about an hour to cook until everything was tender. At the last moment, I also decided to add some soaked Shiitake mushrooms. I adjusted the flavor with shoyu.

Here’s the finished pot of Pig’s Feet Soup…

Once again, here’s the finished bowl, my first attempt at Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup…

And here’s a nifty way to make use of saved S&S Saimin bowls!….

I dished single servings for that I can freeze to enjoy this soup later, with an equal amount of each ingredient bowled in each one. Cool huh?!

Note that I put in pieces of mustard cabbage raw at the last moment, as they heat from the broth quickly breaks it down and soften it.

Now to recap where I deviated from the recipe, and why it came out tasting “different” than the one from the Okinawan Festival.

  • First, note that I put in an excessive amount of Dashi; some recipes don’t call for dashi at all, but use Miso and/or shoyu only.
  • Second was that I used Kombu when boiling the pig’s feet, thinking that would enhance the flavor. Well, it did actually, but it also CHANGED it considerably.
  • Third was that I put in over 1 cup of Sake, when the recipe only called for a few tablespoons. Go easy now!
  • Fourth is that I didn’t rinse the tied kombu, so the natural sea salt on them was somewhat noticeable, taking away from the star of the show, the pig’s feet!
  • The Shiitake Mushrooms also was somewhat dominant and also masked the pig’s feet flavor.
  • I’m also not sure if I boiled the pig’s feet properly. Either not long enough, or overdone.
  • Perhaps I needed more pig’s feet? Is just one enough? I didn’t want to spend too much money on an experiment, so I only bought one as shown, which costed about $8.
  • Perhaps my substitution of long squash for winter melon, a.k.a. Togan, affected the outcome.

Which is why I’ve called this a “project”. Therefore I ask YOU, my fellow bloggers and visitors, if you have any tips, family recipe or other suggestions for making authentic Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup the way you know it should be, please leave a comment. That will be highly appreciated!

Like I said, this came out absolutely oishii. Sugoi oishii desu! But it was too complex, and more Oden-like. I will thoroughly enjoy each and every one of those “Pig’s Feet Soup S&S bowls”, but I’m gonna’ try it again by following the original recipe to the “T”, and perhaps by also following suggestions by you folks.

As always, big mahalo for visiting The Tasty Island, and I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did making the soup for it! Kampai!

“Ashitibichi, in Okinawan, is warm, soul-satisfying, comfort food, considered health food, actually, because the gelatin that slowly cooks out of the feet and into the broth and is believed to prevent deterioration of the knee ligaments.

That gelatin, released over two or more hours of cooking, is also what gives the soup its special taste.” – Betty Shimabukuro, Honolulu Star Bulletin


Comments

The Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup Project — 21 Comments

  1. Hi – I’m a recent transplant to Honolulu and I’ve been following your blog since we arrived for tips on great places to eat.

    Thanks for today’s post — the step-by-step, instructional approach is something I’ve been hoping to find more of out there in the Hawaii food-blog world, since I’m really curious to learn how to make new dishes with all the great local and Asian ingredients I see. Please post more of these, if you can …

    Also, can you recommend any other blogs that take an instructional approach to preparing foods, like you did?

    Mahalo!

  2. ASHI TEBICHI (Pig’s Feet)
    Wonder Okinawa, ”Ryukyu Cuisine”

    4 ea. pig feet
    1 sht. dried konbu
    7 oz. daikon
    2 Tbs. awamori
    10 cups water
    salt, to taste
    shoyu, to taste

    1. Singe pig feet over flame, wash in hot water scraping w/ knife, boil pig legs ~10 min.
    2. Soak konbu in water, when soft, tie knots.
    3. Cut daikon in 1-1/4” 1/2-moons, parboil.
    4. Put pig feet, water, awamori in pot w/ konbu, bring to boil, lower heat, simmer ~3 hrs., 1/2-way through, when kelp softens, remove, cut knots apart, add daikon, salt & shoyu.
    5. When pig feet are tender, return konbu, season w/ salt & shoyu.

  3. Being Okinawan, I’ve enjoyed pig’s feet soup, but have never ventured to make it myself. With your step-by-step instructions, I just may try it! Thanks for posting this!

  4. Pomai, as always your pictures are awesome! Even tho I’m not Okinawan, I have eaten Okinawan pig’s feet soup many times. My former shamisen teacher used to throw a lot of parties…

    I tried the soup at the 2006 Okinawan festival, and it was good, but to me, it seemed blander in taste by comparison to what I’ve had before.

    If you want to replicate the taste of the soup you had at the festival, this is what I would do.

    In a large pot saute several slices of ginger until the aroma comes out, then add one can of chicken stock and seven cups of water. Add pig’s feet and start seasoning with about 2 teaspoons of Hawaiian salt (adjust to your liking) a dash of shoyu, and several dashes of white pepper (not so you can detect or taste it, but it boosts the taste of the pork flavor in the dashi.

    Ladle some of the dashi into a smaller pot and simmer the konbu and shiitake separately, so it won’t affect the pork flavor, like you said it did. Do cook the mustard cabbage and togan with the pig’s feet. When finished, strain the konbu and shiitake, and add to the pig’s feet.

    Good Luck!

  5. I dunno, Pomai. My grandma is okinawan, and my grandpa was president of the okinawan society for a lttle while, but I don’t remember their soup being so…chinese sounding. The whole ginger, salt and pork thing sounds like my chinese grandma’s recipe for generic-soup everything. First put the water ginger and salt in a pot….

    Yours looks much better, lol. :)

  6. The Okinawan ashi tebichi as with all Okinawan soups have simple ingredients. Simple tasty flavors. Nothing to bother the main ingredient of the soup. The Okinawan Festival one you posted comes is so close.

    The recipe I posted earlier is from the Okinawan Prefectural Government.

    As you say, yours is more like oden, which is OK if you like it. It is tasty to add other things as I sometimes do. But true Okinawan ashi tebichi is pure and simple.

    Here are links.

    http://www.wonder-okinawa.jp/026/e/

    http://www.wonder-okinawa.jp/026/index.html

    The ”e” one is English, but to get the actual recipes you got to go to the other site, in Japanese. Lots of other favorite Okinawan soups.

  7. I have been able to sucessfully replicate a dish without a recipe. An example would be the chap chae I made last week and shared with a Korean American co-worker who loved it, and said it tasted like his mother’s.

    If you tasted the Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup at the festival, it did taste almost like a Chinese Pork Soup. The light color and the taste of the soup is indicative that whoever made it used very little shoyu which would have darken the color of the soup.

    The other versions of this soup I have eaten, have a dashi which in taste is most similar to the Ozoni Soup my family would have at the neighbor’s open house every New Year.

    I agree that Pomai’s sounds a lot better, but Pomai said he wanted to replicate the soup he had at the festival. I have made Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup myself flavoring it with dashi, mirin and shoyu. The most delicious recipe I have tried, says to finish the cooked pig’s feet by sauteing it and coloring it with a little shoyu before pouring the strained dashi over it.

    BTW, all the versions of this soup I have had in Okinawan homes usually have gobo, hasu, shiitake, kamaboko, knotted konbu and daikon, besides mustard cabbage and togan.

  8. Beau – That’s probably Island-style with all sorts of additions. You should come to Okinawa and try the real thing here before putting it down. Don’t forget, Okinawan cooking is closer to Chinese cooking then to mainland Japanese cooking.

  9. Wow, the kokua (help) here has been overwhelming! Big mahalo everyone! Well nothing I can add to all your great contributions but to try at it again, per your instructions, and post a follow-up, with pictures of course!!!

    To note, I already ate all those S&S bowls of Pig’s Feet Soup. I tell you, nothing like being able to reach in the freezer and grab one of those bad boys on your way out to work. My Uchinanchu coworker immediately recognized the smell of the soup, mostly because of the pig’s feet and daikon. Oishii desu!

    I told him I’d make a pot to share the next time, when (or if) I perfect the dish.

    As for singing the pig’s feet over an open flame, I notice some rafute (Okinawan Shoyu Pork) recipes also calls for that procedure. But I think that’s an “old school” method, needed when you’re dealing with self-slaughtered pigs that need to be cleaned further (still have hair and dirt on the skin, whatever).

    The one from this past year’s Okinawan Festival didn’t have much of a shoyu or even dashi flavor. Mostly just the pig’s feet (very “porky”) and GINGER. Very “gingery”, which I love for its medicinal factor.

  10. The shiitake used looks like it was the dried variety. Their flavor IS overwhelming in anything. They also darken the soup color. If available, I would replace it with fresh ones. They are much milder in flavor and do not “stain” the soup as badly.

  11. Dude, your left hand looks like mine. Creepy.

    There’s a simple salted pork stock in Chinese cuisine which looks a lot like the soup you’re trying to create. I’ve been trying to make it for a while. It’s hard. The simple recipes leave the greatest room for error.

  12. Although you deviated from the original recipe, i firmly believe if you had a “throwdown” with your pig’s feet variation against the traditional Okinawan pig’s feet, you would win hands down, unless pure traditionalist were the judges. I have often taken recipes like this and modified them, ending with awesome results. If you like, I can give you a variation of my Korean Oxtail soup recipe….so ono…but again a variation of the original recipe. Thanks for the recipe Pomai.

  13. My family enjoys pig feet soup during the new year’s season, and actually, anytime we needed a fix. The one thing that i didn’t read here, is what we do to our soup (which comes from recipes handed down from immigrant sugar cane farmers on the Big Island). A must for this soup is to keep it simple.

    Water
    Hawaiian Salt (or sea salt)
    seaweed (Konbu), soaked then tied in bow ties
    shiitake
    pig feet with hocks AND fat
    winter squash (Togan, Chinese Winter Melon, really important), large pieces
    white miso (really important)

    Generously salt some water, add pig feet and hocks, and boil. Keep skimming for the first half-hour or so. Then add Konbu and shiitake. Boil until the feet are soft, about 2-1/2 hours. Add the squash and cook for another 1/2 to 1 hour for squash to get soft and begin to melt. Bring soup to a rolling simmer. Ladle some both in a bowl and mix with miso. Strain the mixture into the soup, stir vigorously but don’t break up the feet too much. Then serve hot.

    It’s important to have a good amount of fat on the feet/hocks. Also, this soup MUST be made with Togan (Winter Mellon Squash) and, in my opinion, miso. The SQUASH is the Star of this soup, and the skin and fat characteristics of the hocks separate this soup from an ordinary pork bone soup, making it like no other.

    Cheers.

  14. Paul, big mahalo for that thorough comment and recipe!

    I must say, I couldn’t detect shiro (white) miso in the Okinawan Festival’s version, but more ginger, which I noticed your recipe has none of. You sure you didn’t leave that out?

    Marukai sells Togan, but only the whole thing, which is BIG, like a medium-sized watermelon. That’s fine though, as I think when you make Pig’s Feet soup, it’s best to make it in large quantity anyway. I really do enjoy the Daikon in this soup, as it has that “bite”, and it absorbs the flavor of the pig’s feet broth beautifully.

    With all the great-sounding recipes recommended here so far, I guess I have nothing to do but work my way back, starting with yours.

    This is perfect chilly weather for a hot bowl of Ashitibichi!

  15. Any of you soupmakers did a dishwasher? I’ll gladly do the dishes, pots too, to put my feet under our table for some pig feet soup> :P~~~ Oishii!! Eh, better still, I grow Togan on the Big Island, maybe we can swap la dat! I goin copy da recipe, Can? :)

  16. Pomai: I’ve asked a Marukai employee in the produce dept to cut a too large togan for me (only for 2 seniors) and he was happy to do it! Some months ago, they sold already made Pig’s Feet Soup so I tried it for the first time. DELICIOUS! I will try your recipe soon.

  17. I am writing from the Fiji Islands, and want to thank you for your recipe. I want you to consider, if you were like me, living in a place where some ingredient(s) is/are unavailable, but you just LOVE ashitebichi (ate it in Okinawa 35 years ago and cannot forget it), would you not try whatever is available?
    There used to be a song long ago that said, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”. I think they were talking about ingredients for favorite recipes (it calls for discretion; I wouldn’t use chocolate lol). Anyway, I applaud your bold approach to trying a new way. I prefer the original for pig feet BUT will definitely try your recipe with Fish (Kala) and/or kamabokp. You’re the greatest. Thanks.
    Pammy

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