Hunan Style Smoked Ham Hock, or 湖南香辣火腿,, enhances the smoky richness of Ham with Chinese Salted Black Beans and Salt-fermented Chili Paste.
This recipe was inspired by a dish I read about in ‘Henry Chung’s Hunan-style Chinese Cookbook’, written way back in 1978. That recipe was created by Mr. Chung to replicate a dish from his ancestral home using a plain old smoked Ham Hock instead of the ‘celebrated’ Hunan Ham, which is largely unavailable in the West. Here, I have maintained the basic theme of Mr. Chung’s creation, and augmented the lovely smoky flavor of the Ham Hock with Green Bell Pepper, Chili, and Chinese Salted Black Beans.
Few North Americans would associate smoked meats with China but, in fact, the smoking of various foodstuffs is not at all uncommon. Tea-smoked Duck is a well-known favorite in Sichuan cuisine and Jinhua Ham from Zhejiang Province is used in a variety of preparations across the country.
Hunan Province is also reputed to produce smoked pork products that rival the best equivalents in the west like Prosciutto, Smithfield, and Westphalian Ham. I haven’t actually come across anything identified as being Hunan smoked ham in any stores over the years, but the aforementioned Jinhua Ham fairly commonly available.
Henry Chung’s Recipe for Hunan Style Smoked Ham Hock
Mr. Chung’s Recipe, appears at p.50 of his book and is entitled: ‘Smoked Ham Hock (Canadian Bacon) with Hot Black Bean Sauce’. The author explains that, when he and his wife began their famous ‘Hunan Restaurant’ in San Francisco back in 1974, many traditional ingredients were unavailable, and that he discovered he could replicate dishes incorporating Hunan Ham by using Smoked Ham Hocks, Canadian Bacon, Regular Bacon, and Picnic Ham as substitutes. He writes:
“I have fooled a lot of Chinese friends into thinking they are eating smoked Hunan Ham by steaming a slab of American bacon for an hour and then slicing it.”
Anyway, his recipe, for comparison purposes, is as follows:
Smoked Ham Hock (Canadian Bacon) with Hot Black Bean Sauce
- 2 lbs. smoked ham hocks
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 cup green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot red pepper powder
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
Place ham hocks in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until the meat easily separates from the bone with a fork. Remove hocks from water, allow to cool, take off meat from the bones and slice into 1-inch slices. Heat a wok for 1 minute over high heat. When oil is smoking hot add black beans and garlic and mash them together. Stir in the ham hock slices. Add green pepper, soy sauce, hot red pepper powder, and chicken broth, and stir continuously until well blended. Add green scallion and salt. Served hot, it is delicious.
The book did not include a photograph of the finished dish, so I had to imagine that, but I have cleaved fairly close to the original recipe, with one or two departures.
Ingredient Notes for my 湖南香辣火腿
Here you can see almost all the ingredients used in my version of 湖南香辣火腿 . The one thing not shown is the Stock called for in the Recipe Card below. I actually did not use the half-cup of Chicken Stock Mr. Chung uses (which seemed a little much to me), but rather used just a quarter cup of the poaching medium I used to prepare my Ham Hocks. Feel free to use a good Basic Chinese Chicken Stock yourself, if you prefer.
The Recipe Card below simply calls for ‘Smoked Ham’ but I have actually used a Smoked Ham Hock. This takes a little bit of preparation, as we shall see in a moment, but if you prefer, you can substitute a little Smithfield Ham, or the like. The Ham Hock, however, is preferable, I think, as you can leave some of the rind on the pieces, which adds a pleasing texture.
Here, I have used some Homemade Chopped Salted Chili (剁辣椒) instead of the ‘Hot Red Pepper Powder’ called for by Mr. Chung. Use that if you like, or use a good Chili Paste like Sambal Oelek instead.
The Green Pepper, by the way, was blanched before the above picture was taken. This gives it a lovey vibrant green that will survive the final cooking process.
Preparing the Ham Hock for 湖南香辣火腿
Here you can see the Smoked Ham Hock I have used. These are salted and hung after being smoked and you can still see the loop of cord passed through the end of the cut.
If you are using Smithfield Ham, or Jinhua Ham, or something along those lines, you can proceed directly by cutting it into pieces and then frying them. The hock, however, need to be preprocessed by simmering. This removes some of the salt and also makes the rind much more tender.
To do this, cover the Hock with water, add several slices of Ginger, and one or two Scallions, the simmer the whole thing for two or three hours. Once done, and you have removed the meat from the bone, the bone itself, and any leftover scraps can be used for stock, or soups etc.
Cooking and Serving Hunan Style Smoked Ham Hock
Stir-frying the 湖南香辣火腿 is very straightforward and described in the Recipe Card below.
I served mine as part of a simple meal for two, and included Fried Rice and Choy Sum with Oyster Sauce, as shown above. The recipe will serve four as part of a Chinese meal with two or three other dishes.
Your Recipe Card:
Hunan Style Smoked Ham Hock – 湖南香辣火腿
- 2 Cups Smoked Ham in bite size pieces
- 1 small Green Pepper blanched and cut into bite size pieces
- 1 Scallion sliced into 2 cm sections
- 1 Tbsp Garlic paste
- 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp. Salted Black beans
- 1 Tbsp. Chopped salted chili or Chili Paste of Choice
- 1/4 Cup Stock
- Heat two tablespoons of Oil in a pan over a moderately high flame.
- Add the meat, fry until the pieces begin to get a little crispy along the edges, then remove to a bowl.
- Add a little more oil to the pan, if necessary, the quickly fry the Chili and Garlic Paste until their aromas rise.
- Add the Scallion, followed by the Green Onion and Black Beans, then add in the stock and stir-fry until the liquid is almost evaporated.
- Stir in the Soy Sauce then plate for service.