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[Video] Savory pig’s trotters, jokbal

Walking down the streets of traditional markets, some might be shocked by the graphic scene of pig’s trotters hanging upside down. Upon closer look, you will find that the trotters display their fat toes too.

Many Koreans actually enjoy eating these trotters. Called “jokbal,” the dish is go-to late-night soul food. It is also representative of Korea’s delivery service culture, as it arrives at your doorstep even in the middle of the night, typically 30 minutes after ordering. 

(Video shot and produced by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

Jokbal is made by steaming pig’s trotters in a rich broth that includes various seasonings to eliminate the distinctive odor of pork. Moderating the unpleasant smell with strong seasonings determines jokbal’s taste.

The form of jokbal varies depending on the season and preferences. In summer, naengchae jokbal, or cold jokbal salad, is preferred. The dish is characterized by a strong taste of mustard on a base of soy sauce.

Jokbal (Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo / The Korea Herald)
Jokbal (Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo / The Korea Herald)

Many people here opt for spicy dishes when they are stressed, and Buljokbal is the right choice -- fiery enough to numb the palate. Unlike the usual jokbal, the trotters in bulokbal are not sliced, meaning diners have to debone them using their teeth.

Of course, the original jokbal remains the perennial favorite, with its savory taste accentuated by the accompanying condiments. Its texture is also exceptional. Filled with collagen, the pig skin is chewy and delicate. Jokbal is good for your skin due to its high collagen content, at least according to women who swear by it for their youthful appearance.

Pig’s trotters can be found in Europe as well. There is a German dish called “schweinshaxe,” or roasted pork knuckle. Its taste is quite similar to jokbal, but unlike its Korean counterpart, it does not use the toes of a trotter. 

Jokbal (Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo / The Korea Herald)
Jokbal (Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo / The Korea Herald)

Jokbal is complemented by a side salad made with Korean leeks, which is the perfect accompaniment as its fragrance moderates the odor of pork. The usual set of condiments include a tiny salted shrimp dipping sauce and a special sauce made with fermented soybean paste.

Diners often wrap a slice of the trotters with lettuce or a sesame leaf, after dipping it into the sauce of their choice.

One can also add some garlic and leek, building up a mouthful of flavors. Or, to fully appreciate the dish, chomping on the toes without minding others is the way to go. 

(Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)
(Photo by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

By Im Eun-byel (
Korea Herald daum