2000s Recipes + Menus

Thai Pigs’ Ear Salad

Serves6 (side dish)
  • Active time:20 min
  • Start to finish:4 hr
September 2009
In Thailand, a “minced” salad of meat or fish mixed with fresh chiles, herbs, and a sparky dressing of lime juice and fish sauce is known as larb and is very popular. No wonder—you can’t help but be entranced by the combination of salty, sweet, fiery, and tangy flavors, plus warm and cool components. Inspired by larb’s various colors, spices, and textures, food editor Andrea Albin came up with this dish starring pigs’ ears; their deep, porky flavor goes beautifully with the brighter notes of shallot, lemongrass, mint, and cilantro. Braising the ears slowly in a robust brew of soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, and garlic brings out their tender side. Hold on to the braising broth and add it to sauces or stocks for an instant boost of flavor (as it cools, the broth will thicken considerably because of its high gelatin content).

For pigs’ ears

  • 1 lb pigs’ ears
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sliced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cilantro sprigs
  • 1 fresh Thai chile, halved lengthwise

For salad

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass (from a trimmed stalk with outer leaves discarded)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 to 2 fresh Thai chiles, minced, including seeds
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • Accompaniment:

    steamed rice

Cook Pigs’ Ears:

  • Shave any hair off of pigs’ ears with a razor, then cut ears into 2-inch pieces. Transfer to a 3-qt heavy pot with remaining ingredients and simmer, partially covered, until ears are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  • Cool ears to room temperature in liquid, then drain (reserve liquid for another use) and chop.

Make salad:

  • Whisk together lime juice, 2 Tbsp fish sauce, lemongrass, sugar, chiles, and garlic until sugar has dissolved. Stir in chopped pigs’ ears, cilantro, mint, shallots, and scallions. Season with additional fish sauce to taste.
cooks’ notes:
  • Pigs’ ears can be cooked 2 days ahead and chilled in cooking liquid.
  • Salad, without cilantro and mint, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature and stir in herbs before serving.
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