From "The Whole Beast", page 10.
The hardest part was to actually secure the pig's ears. Even just two of them. It seems that there is a fairly large market for them in China. I would be lying if I told you I know why. If anyone knows, I would love to know.
First of all, if you have never seen or touched pig's ears, it is very disconcerting. They are big and they used to be on a pig's head. Obviously, but this is for real. It has veins running through it, hairs (which you must singe with a torch before cooking them), a thin cartilage that runs all throughout it (see photo below) and unidentifiable stomach-churning gunk.
Needless to say, I washed those babies well.
The recipe calls for either a ham stock (the liquid in which you boiled a ham) or a ham bone and other aromatics. I chose the ham stock, which I made. No rocket science here: you basically boil the ham and use the resulting liquid, skimming every now and then.
After that, all I had to do was cook the dry peas with a couple of onions and the pig ears in the ham stock. Towards the end of the cooking process I found that I needed to add some more ham stock to adjust the consistency (this is advice given in the recipe) since it was getting way to thick. It had a very good consistency, creamy with still a few discernible pieces of cooked pea. I pulled the ears and the onions out and then turned the heat down to low and kept the soup covered.
I rinsed the ears off and cooled them down. Then I cut them into a thin julienne. It is remarkable how gelatinous they were, even leaving a film on my hands that took a while to rinse off. I fried them until they were crisp. I had never had a fried pig ear in my life. It was good but even though I fried it well, it wasn't 100% crisp like bacon is. It was crisp, don't get me wrong, just not as much as I would have thought. But then I realized that just because it comes from the same animal it doesn't mean the end result will have the same texture. The cartilage may have had something to do with that. But in the end it worked well with the hot pea soup, adding a crisp/chewy consistency. I did add, as the recipe recommends, some of the ham I used to make the ham stock as garnish for the soup.
It is amazing to me how much flavor the ham stock adds. I didn't even have to add salt. My conclusion is that the soup came out well, and the recipe, although simple, yields very good results.