I first had crispy pata about 6 years ago in a pub in Kenilworth, The Famous Virgins and Castle, which has a half English, half Filipino menu. For those who aren't aware of the delights of crispy pata, it is a deep fried pork hock. It should have a rich brown skin that snaps when you break it (like the savoury equivalent of the top of a crème brulee), and very tender flesh. It's rich, fatty, and the meat in almost gelatinous in place, and you'll need a lie down after eating.
The Famous Virgins and Castle serve the pork with rice and atcharang papaya. I only ever have a few mouthfuls of rice, or I fill up and can't eat all my pata, which would be a terrible thing indeed. Atacharang papaya is a pickle, made with unripe papaya. It is sweet and sharp and cuts through the fatty pork very well.
Crispy Pata has to be the most terrifying dish I have ever cooked. I don't think I'll be making it again without a deep fat fryer, and even then, I'm not sure it's worth the clean up and the terrifying noises of the pig skin blistering and popping. I'm glad I attempted it, but I think it'll be a dish that I'll order in restaurants rather than make at home.
You need to know if you want atacharang papaya a few days before you eat- it improves with a little time. Every recipe I looked at specified the importance of using green, unripe papaya. Luckily, that was all I could find in the supermarket anyway.
1 green, unripe papaya
1 tbsp salt
4 cups vinegar
4 cups sugar
5-10 shallots (the recipe I was using this a base for specified red shallots- I could only find regular ones, and used these)
1 red pepper
2 large red chillies
1 large carrot
I head garlic
a few slices of ginger.
Peel, destone and finely shred the papaya. Place in a bowl, and sprinkle with the salt. Let it sit for a minute or two, then place in a sieve and rinse off. Squeeze the papaya to remove as much as the moisture as you can. Set aside. Shred the cucumber and carrot, the pepper and the chilli (removing seeds and pith from the last two). Peel and finely slice the shallots. Mix all these together in a bowl, with the papaya and the raisins.
Put the vinegar and sugar in a large sauce pan with the slices of ginger. Slice the head of garlic horizontally in half, and add this too. Dissolve the sugar over a low heat, and then boil for 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. I discarded the ginger slices, but peeled and separated the cloves of garlic and included them in the pickle.
Put the shredded vegetables in a large jar and pour over enough of the pickling liquid to cover. Leave for 2 days before using.
1 pork hock
6 bay leaves
2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
4-6 star anise
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons garlic powder
12 to 15 cups water
8 to 12 cups cooking oil
Bring the water to the boil in a pan large enough to take the meat later.
Add the bay leaves, whole peppercorn, star anise and 4 teaspoons of the salt along with the pork hock. Simmer the meat until it is tender. The recipe I used suggested 45-60 minutes, I ended up cooking it for more like 2 hours.
Remove the pork hock and set aside to cool.Rub the leg with the ground pepper, garlic powder and remaining salt. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large cooking pot with a lid. Don't use a pot without a lid, it is far too messy, and more importantly, dangerous to leave this uncovered.
Gently put the pork in the oil (to avoid splashing). Cover, and leave top crisp up on one side, then turn and cook the other side. This takes far longer than you would expect. The skin needs to properly crackle and blister before it is ready. When the skin is well browned and crunchy, it is ready.
Serve with the atcharang papaya and some plain rice.