How to Cook Pork Pata

This cut can make excellent pork dishes.

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Pata or pork leg in English is popular among all Filipino crispy pata lovers. It is one of those popular Filipino dishes that could share the limelight with the popular adobo. After all, what is there not to love with the crispy skin yet tender succulent meat beneath the skin?  

What is pork pata

The leg is a meaty section of the animal with a bone right through the center which makes it perfect for the hams we enjoy every Christmas. This primal cut is also excellent for smoking and curing. It's the same cut that is made into prosciutto and the expensive Jamón ibérico. There are two parts to the pata:

  • • The shin or hock is used for slow cooking, whether in the slow-cooker or roasted in the oven.
  • • The trotters, while commonly under-appreciated, make a terrific addition to stocks, or what we call "caldo". You can use this soup, too, as a base for other recipes like pancit or can be slow-cooked ala paksiw na pata.
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Photo by Alexei Chizhov from Pixabay
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Pork leg is also the portion that gives us our hams:

  • • The fresh ham shank end
  • • Fresh ham sirloin end
  • • Spiral sliced bone-in ham
  • • Country ham

How to Choose Pork Pata

Choose pork pieces with a reasonably modest quantity of fat on the outside and flesh firm with a pink hue when purchasing the meat. However, there's a difference between the front and the back or hind led pata pieces. To help you choose which is best for your dish, a pig's front legs get more exercise than their hind legs. This means the flesh of the front legs will be meatier than the meat of the hind legs. Choose the front legs for recipes like crispy pasta or paksiw. The rear legs are the tougher cut. This piece is perfect when making soup or for stewing.

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While most people refer to all four of the pig's limbs as the feet (or trotters), some market butchers call the front legs (which are bigger, meatier, and more costly) the "hands" and the back legs (which are bonier and tougher to chew) the "foot". You can also try this braised pig pata in pineapple or pata hamonado by using both hands and feet, cutting the parts crosswise to approximately 4 cm or 1 ½ inch slices. Ask the butcher to shave off any hair too before cutting so you won't have to.

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How To Cook A Braised Pork Pata Recipe

If you're thinking of making a new recipe using the pork pata, why not try a Singaporean-style pork pata recipe that is traditionally served during Chinese New Year. A dish like this symbolizes luck and stability, so go ahead and up your chances this new lunar year by trying a braised pork pata dish. 

You'll need some ingredients in addition to the pork pata, so check your kitchen for the following seasoning ingredients:

  • • Garlic
  • • Ginger
  • • Leeks
  • • Star anise
  • • Cinnamon bark
  • • Whole peppercorns
  • • Cloves
  • • Bay leaf
  • • Light soy sauce
  • • Dark soy sauce
  • • Oyster sauce
  • • Hoisin sauce
  • • Rice wine
  • • Dried mushrooms

Cook the pork by blanching the pork pata in boiling water for 15 minutes. Clean the pork of any scum and remove any hair from the skin after blanching. Set aside. 

Next, stir-fry your aromatics (garlic, ginger, and leeks) in a deep wok with some oil. Set these aside. Sear the pork on all sides in the same wok with a little more oil. Next, in a pot big large enough to contain the pork and liquid, add enough water to cover the pork three-fourths. Add your choice of seasonings to the pot. (We highly suggest using some star anise, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and peppercorns for a basic braising liquid seasoning.) Add the fried aromatics to the pot, and bring to a boil. Simmer the pork until tender with the lid on for approximately 3 hours.

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For best results, continue to simmer the liquid until you reduce it into a sauce. To do this, remove the pork and add some dried mushrooms to the liquid to amp up the flavor. Serve this dish with boiled baby bok choy leaves on the side and now tender mushrooms on top. You can enjoy this with rice or mantou or plain white steamed buns which you can buy at the supermarket or make yourself.

The challenge to this recipe is the time to make the pata become fall-off-the-bone tender, so you can opt to use a pressure cooker. You can even decide to cook a big batch by cooking two or three pieces of pork pata, and just let these slow-cook while you binge-watch your favorite K- drama. 

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How To Cook The Pork Trotters

Did you know you can even cook the pork trotters, too? Braised pork trotter recipes are loaded with collagen, are excellent for the skin and joints, and have almost zero carbohydrates, which might be crucial to some diets. Trotters are also a less expensive alternative but with practically an identical taste if prepared correctly.

If you decide to try it, begin by boiling the cut pieces in ginger for around 10 minutes, then wash thoroughly before cooking it further. This is best to remove any unsavory flavors and aromas. You can use the same procedure and ingredients as the braised pata, just with a different pork cut. 

Pork Pata Cooking Tips

Here are a collection of cooking tips to help you take your next pata recipe up a notch:

  • • While you may use an entire pig leg, you can also try chopping the meat into pieces approximately 2-inches thick to shorten the cooking time. The presentation will vary, but the overall flavor will be intact.
  • • Consider devoting a little additional time to brown the meat. Searing meat over high heat for an extended period caramelizes the surface and imparts excellent taste.
  • • Bring your mixture to a boil, then cook at a low temperature for an extended period to allow the fat to render and the strong connective tissues to soften that will melt in your mouth.
  • • If using canned pineapples, the liquid in the can will braise the meat, so choose pineapples that are packed in juice rather than thick syrup, which is excessively sweet and lacks the sour notes necessary to balance the sweet-salty flavors of many recipes.
  • • If making hamonado sauce, add about 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to the pineapple juice to enhance the tanginess of the liquid. Allow this to boil uncovered without stirring for about 10 minutes to mellow out the acid flavor.
  • • Use brown sugar rather than white sugar since it has a little less intense sweetness and includes molasses, which will enhance the rich taste of the hamonado sauce and make it more flavorful.
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How ever way you wish to eat your pata or pork leg, keep in mind the simmering time you will need to achieve the tender consistency your family will enjoy with every bite of your dish. Here are more recipes to try: 

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