Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen: Ham Hocks with Mongo (Mung) Beans

Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen: Ham Hocks with Mongo (Mung) Beans

by Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Annette Merfalen
Annie's Chamorro Kitchen

Ham hocks and beans go so well together. For those who’ve never heard of it before, a ham hock is the pork knuckle and is usually salt-cured and smoked. It’s typically cooked long and slow until tender, with added beans and broth for the ultimate comfort food.

The Chamorro way to cook this is with mongo (or mung) beans and coconut milk. (Read below for what my grandmother and mom think about this addition.)

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.

You’ll need:

Mongo Beans:

  • 1 bag mung beans
  • 1 tablespoon Dashida seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Water (initially, 2 inches above the level of beans)

Ham Hocks:

  • 1 package ham hocks (smoked, if you can find it), about 3-4 large pieces in a package
  • Water
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 package achote powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (omit if you are using smoked ham hocks)
  • 1 can coconut milk

You can find my full, printable recipe at the bottom of this page.

The first thing we need to is prepare the mung beans. Ideally you’ll do this the day before you intend to cook your ham hocks.

Place the dry beans in a medium sized bowl.

Add water and soak overnight. Make sure to add enough water to go at least 2 inches above the beans.

The next morning, pour out the soaking water, if any is left. Rinse once more and drain.

Look how plump the beans have become after soaking in all that water overnight.

Add the mung beans to a medium sauce pan. Add more water, enough for it to reach about 2” above the beans.  Stir in the dashida, onion powder, garlic powder, and black pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.  Simmer (covered) until the beans have softened, about 1 hour, stirring periodically. Add more water if required (you don’t want the beans cooking “dry”). Note: you should not need to add more water if you’ve soaked the beans overnight.

This is what the beans look like after one hour of cooking.  Remove the pot from the heat and set the beans aside. The beans will not be not fully cooked at this point.  It will continue cooking with the ham hocks later.

Place the ham hocks in a large pot.

Note: Smoked ham hocks are usually what’s used for this dish.  However, I could only find “regular, uncooked/raw” ham hocks. I will make a note of recipe adjustments where required for when using smoked ham hocks.

Add water until the ham hocks are submerged.

Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. Drain the water, being careful not to burn yourself. Don’t worry about seasoning the water at this point since the intent is to cook off a lot of the fat beneath the skin as well as to tenderize the meat.

Repeat the previous step once more (add water, bring to a boil, cook, drain).

After you’ve drained the cooking water, this is what the ham hocks should look like. This is optional, but I like to cut the ham hocks into smaller pieces and discard the thick skin.  Place the cut pieces back into the pot.

Add the diced onions, soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper and liquid smoke. If you’re using smoked ham hocks, omit the liquid smoke.

Cook the ham hocks as if you’re cooking estufao. Cook until the liquid has reduced—you want a relatively dry pot (no or not too much gravy/kådu). This should take about 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat.

When the liquid has dried down, add more water (as much water for the amount of kådu you want, but keep in mind that you’ll be adding coconut milk and the cooked mung beans got the pot as well). I added 3 cups of water.

Turn the heat up to medium; cook for a few minutes, just long enough for the water to heat up (achote powder dissolves better in hot liquid). Add the achote powder, stirring until it dissolves in the liquid.

Add the partially cooked mung beans to the pot.  Taste and adjust your seasonings at this point. I added a tiny bit more salt as the ham hocks I used were not smoked and needed a bit more flavor.

Turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 45 more minutes to one hour, or until the ham hocks are tender. If you want to cut down on the cooking time, you can transfer the mixture to a pressure cooker at this point. I like to cook this the slower stovetop method as I can periodically check to see if I need to add more water if it’s drying down too much. Speaking of which, if your mixture is drying down too much during this last hour of cooking, add some water, about a half cup at a time. Don’t forget that toward the end of the cooking time, you’ll be adding more liquid in the form of coconut milk.

When the ham hocks are tender enough to your liking, stir in the coconut milk.

My grandmother and mother never added coconut milk to their ham hock kådu. My grandmother always said you don’t eat pork with coconut milk. I rather like it myself.

Serve with hot steamed rice and enjoy!

 

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