There're two schools of thought when it comes to cleaning the pig's stomach. You could use an acidic cleaning agent, such as lemon, lime, vinegar or even coke. This is the quicker and easier method, and one that my mother always sniffed at because the acid is usually too strong. It removes not only the yucky smell but also the good, making the maw rather tasteless. She always used the physical method which is somewhat like a . . . sort of facial, with exfoliation and a peel-off mask!
My mother's method has lots of coarse salt rubbed on the maw which is turned inside out. That's the exfoliation. Next comes the deep cleansing. The maw is dusted generously with corn flour which, unlike other masks, requires no waiting time at all. It's peeled off immediately, using a method that you should never try on your face. The maw is seared, briefly and without oil, so that the flour and all the nasty stuff it's mixed with is stuck to the wok/pot. Isn't that brilliant?! In a matter of minutes, the slime is all gone and the maw clean and ready to cook.
When it comes to eating offal – or "spare parts", as I like to call the "nasty bits" – there're also two schools of thought: those who don't and those who do. Obviously, I belong to the latter group and I'm damn proud of it. I grew up eating not just the pig's stomach but also intestines, blood, heart, spleen, liver, tongue, kidneys and brain. No lungs though because that was too much work, even for my mother. I also love the 'odds and ends' on the outside, like the ears (crunchy) and snout (spongy)!
Some people think offal is eaten by those who are poverty stricken, or uncivilized, or both. Unless it's foie gras, of course, then it's a different story. Besides the famed goose liver, the French eat an awful lot of offal, such as andouillette (pig colon sausage), boudin (pig blood sausage), tête de veau (calf's head) and duck gizzard salad. In fact, you can buy chicken gizzards in little plastic tubs in French supermarkets, clean and ready to cook. And at the Sunday market in the Marais, you can find rows of pig snout displayed proudly. I tell ya, that was an awesome sight that warmed my heart! If anyone knows about food, it must be the French. If they think offal is cool, it can't possibly be awful, right?
I had watched my mother clean pork maw lots of times but never did it myself until today. It wasn't as tedious or yucky as I had thought. Now that I know it's a 10-minute job, I'm gonna make pork maw soup more often. I heart pork maw soup. Om nom nom nom . . . .
|PORK MAW SOUP|
(Recipe for 4 persons)
1 pork maw
3 tbsp coarse salt
3 tbsp corn flour
4 tbsp white peppercorns, or to taste
1 big chicken breast (about 500 g), cut into 8 pieces, blanched in boiling water, then rinsed
light soya sauce to taste, ½ tsp (not much needed if stock is robust)
ground white pepper to taste, a few dashes
1 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
Make a cut 7-8 cm (3 inches) long in bottom end of maw. Turn maw inside out through the cut. Make sure creases in top end are completely turned out. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Drain. Sprinkle with salt all over, about 2 tbsp. Rub thoroughly. Rinse well under running water. Drain. Sprinkle with corn flour all over, about 3 tbsp. Make sure maw is completely covered. Sear over medium heat without oil, in a wok/pot that's not non-stick, till flour sticks to the wok/pot, or sticks to the maw and is cooked/hardened. This takes maybe ½ minute each side. Remove and rinse under running water. There may be stubborn bits of flour that stick to the maw. Scrape 'em off with a scissor blade. Rinse again. Maw should now be completely free from slime. Rub 1 tbsp salt all over. Rinse and drain.
If you want a more peppery soup, crush peppercorns and toast till fragrant. Otherwise, leave 'em whole and untoasted. Gently simmer maw, peppercorns and chicken in 4 cups water, covered. Maw is done when it's tender, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Snip off a small bit and have a taste. When ready, remove maw to cool down. Check if there's enough soup, about 3 cups for 4 servings. You should if your pot is tightly covered. If not, top up with more water and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove chicken to cool down.
When cool enough to handle, cut maw on the slant into thin, bite size slices. Tear chicken into shreds. Cover till ready to serve.
To serve, bring soup and shredded chicken to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes to moisten chicken. Season with light soya sauce and ground white pepper to taste. Place maw in serving bowls. Add soup and chicken. Garnish with coriander. Serve piping hot with some light soya sauce or sambal on the side.