If you’re a fan of the Italian spezzatino in agrodolce, you will love this sweet and tangy pineapple Balsamic pork hock stew.
What makes this dish so delightful? Two things. Texture and flavor.
Pork hocks contain tendons
The long and slow cooking breaks up the tendons and turn them gelatinous. The same thing happens with the skin, and the fat underneath it, that envelopes the pork hock. Together, they naturally thicken the sauce and make it sticky. They also help tremendously to keep the meat succulent.
Not a fan of pork hock? You may substitute pork belly, pork chops or pork steaks. You can even cut the pork into cubes. In fact, if you’re not a fan of pork, you can use chicken thighs and legs, or even a whole breast of duck or goose.
Whatever meat you choose, make sure that it requires at least an hour of simmering to allow the sauce to permeate the innermost part of every piece of meat. Note, however, that the cooked dish will not have the same texture and richness of pork hock.
The sauce and garnish
The sauce is a mixture of balsamic vinegar, pineapple juice, brown sugar, salt and Asian fish sauce.
To add depth to the sweet and tangy sauce, there’s garlic, ginger, chili and kaffir lime leaves. And, for the finishing touches, pickle slices and pineapple chunks.
Pineapple Balsamic Pork Hock Stew
- 1 pork hock (about 1.2 kilos total weight) cut into one-inch slices
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and lightly pounded
- 1 two-inch knob ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 bird's eye chilies chopped
- 2 pairs kaffir lime leaves thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
- fish sauce or salt, to taste
- 2 cups pineapple chunks
- ⅓ cup pickle slices
- Pat the pork hock slices dry with paper towels.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wide, flat-bottomed pan. Swirl to coat the entire bottom.
- Brown the pork on both sides, in batches if necessary.
- Scoop out the pork and move to a plate.
- In the remaining oil, saute the garlic, ginger and onion.
- Pour in about a quarter cup of pineapple juice to deglaze. Scrape off any browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan to get all the flavor into the sauce that you’re building.
- Stir in the brown sugar, chopped chilies, kaffir lime leaves and paprika.
- Add the pork back into the pan.
- Pour in the balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of fish sauce (or salt) and the rest of of the pineapple juice.
- Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour or until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced to about a cup. Taste the sauce occasionally during cooking and add more fish sauce (or salt), as needed.
- Scoop out the pork and arrange on a platter or shallow bowl.
- Add the pickle slices and pineapple chunks to the sauce and boil for about a minute.
- Ladle the sauce, with pineapple chunks and pickle slices, over the pork.
- Optionally, garnish the pork stew with balsamic-pineapple sauce with more thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves (scallions will do too) before serving.