Yes, yes, y’all, it’s a post about jokbal (족발), pigs’ feet! If pigs’ feet make you squirm, get over it. It’s delicious. Fatty and gelatinous, it’s good eaten alone, wrapped up in a ssam, or eaten as a bar snack (anju, 안주) with some refreshing soju. Jokbal is made by boiling pigs’ feet in a stock of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice wine. It’s then sliced off the bone and served, along with the smaller joint pieces for the brave few to gnaw on. It’s quite a long and tedious process, and many people don’t make jokbal at home. In the US, it’s usually sold at Hmart or Korean butcher shops. When I was little, I remember Ellie‘s mom was one of the few who used to make jokbal. Not only would she make it, she would remove all the meat and roll it up and chill it, which we would then slice, dip in sehwoojut (tiny shrimp brine, 새우젓), and devour after school. No milk and cookies for us! It was good without the hassle of all the bones. Thanks Mrs. P for the tasty memories!
This weekend, I went to visit my parents in New Jersey, and I finally had some jokbal from Hankuk Jungyuk (한국 정육). (Hankuk Jungyuk is a butcher shop on Broad Avenue with lots of prepared foods. The space it’s in also houses Kyedong Chicken (계동치킨), which is similar, but according to my brother, inferior to Bon Chon Chicken. The front of the store actually has two signs in Korean, Kyedong Chicken on the left and Hankuk Jungyuk on the right. Since the same owner seems to own both, for all intents and purposes I’ll be referring to the place as Hankuk Jungyuk.) My mom has been talking about the jokbal there ever since they moved to Palisades Park four years ago, but I’d always been too full gorging on one thing or another to ever try it. This time though, I was ready. Bring on the feet!
We ordered the minimum which was pretty huge ($20). My mom was annoyed the shop no longer carries the smaller $17 portion, but considering my family didn’t have any leftovers, it’s a good thing we got the larger portion. The jokbal from Hankuk Jungyuk is slighter more intense in color than the ones sold at other places. According to the man behind the counter, they add hanyak (한약, Korean herbal medicine) to the stock the jokbal is cooked in. It’s supposed to make the jokbal healthier, but considering the disproportionate amount of fat, skin, muscle, and tendon to actual meat, jokbal is probably a lost cause. In addtion, my mom claims the gelatinous part of jokbal is good for women because of the collagen, but I would hardly call jokbal a beauty product. Quite simply, it’s moist sticky slices of pork with a wonderful mix of all the delicious parts of the animal, not just the lean meat. It’s nature’s head cheese, heavy on the meat. The jokbal from Hankuk Jungyuk was especially tender, fresh, and well-prepared (no little hairs to freak out Hannah, my sister-in-law).
The jokbal also came with ssamjang (쌈장, spicy bean paste), raw garlic slivers, sliced green peppers, moo cheh (무채, a thick spicy radish slaw similar to kimchi but barely fermented), sehwoojut, and some sweet and tangy radish kimchi that normally comes with your order of Korean fried chicken. Besides the lettuce, all the makings of a good ssam were included.
Everyone made ssams as they ate, adding whatever that wanted at that moment. I like my jokbal dipped in sehwoojut and wrapped in a perilla leaf with ssamjang and moo cheh. No rice for me, it gets in the way. Initially, my family had planned to eat the jokbal as a pre-dinner snack, but then we realized we couldn’t stop and just decided to segue into dinner. It was a gloriously good meal. Afterwards, I didn’t feel healthier, I didn’t look younger, but I was full and content.
Hankuk Jungyuk (한국 정육)
133 Broad Ave (betw W Harwood Terrace & W Homestead Ave)
Palisades Park, NJ 07650