Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pork Galore

What food item is cheaper than beef in France and maybe in other European countries yet is loved by both the French and the German? Yup, my title gave it away. The adorable, plump pig...the other white meat.

In the spirit of the USDA trying to tell the world not to restrict U.S. pork imports by changing "swine flu" to H1N1 flu, we begin our porcine journey from the BBQ pits of Salt Lick in Austin, TX.

Salt Lick BBQ Pit

Salt Lick, like I said before, is awesome. The sausages are juicy with minimal chunks of hard fat. The pork ribs have a crispy exterior and tender underneath. mmm.

While in Paris, I noticed that beef was super expensive, and the only daily protein I could afford are pork and eggs (still expensive compared to the U.S.). The open air market on Rue Cler just a couple blocks from my apartment has a good assortment of pork goodies.

The roasted jamboneau (ham hock or ham shank) is delicious as is or you can slice it up for a sandwich. You must save the bone and boil it in a pot of water for an amazing broth. You can't get canned chicken broth in France, and broth just isn't broth when boiled with a bouillon or bouillon powder. I got around that issue by saving clam shells, shrimp shells, fish bones, pork bones, lamb bones, and chicken bones for my pho soup base. So much better than canned or powder broth!


You can also get a variety of fromage de tête head cheese, sausages, and pâté at an Italian prepared food shop on Rue Cler. I never tried any of the sausages because I didn't have an oven to broil them, and I didn't want to stink up my studio by pan frying them. I'm not a fan of head cheese, but I bought them when my mum came to visit because she adores the combination of consommé jelly and pork.

saucisse et fromage de tête

I desperately wanted to buy some pieces of the cochon de lait farci (stuffed baby pig) but this prepared food shop was a couple of metro line switches from my apartment, I was doing research at the musée Cernuschi, I couldn't buy and eat it on the spot because it's only 9:30 AM, and the shop would close before I finished my research. When I had time to go back to the shop on another day, this shop went out of business!!!!!! Quelle dommage! I was furious with myself. To hell with my research! I should've indulged myself that day.

Cochon de lait farci

When my mum came to visit, I took her to Au Pied de Cochon for their famous pig's trotters. She's a fan of eating everything a pig can offer, whereas I'm just into the ribs and shanks. I'm not opposed to trying everything within reason at least once so I ordered one trotter.

pied de cochon avec pommes frites et sauce béarnaise

The trotter is baked with a very salty breading and then dusted with fleur de sel. I saw no point in adding more flavor by dipping into the béarnaise. It was a chore consuming a pig's foot. I rather my meal not consist soley of fat and cartilage. There was absolutely no inkling of muscle meat! I managed to get half way through and begged my mom to forgo the "finish everything you order" rule. Since doggie bags don't really exist in Europe, I couldn't hide my rudeness of leaving my plate half full. Mom came to my rescue because she happened to have clean ziplock bags in her purse! I slyly slipped my half eaten trotter into the bag when no one was around.

Mom fully enjoyed her meal of cartilage: pig's nose, ear, tail, and trotter. I tried a piece of the nose, and it took forever for me to swallow because it became progressively stickier as I chewed. The tail on the other hand was awesome because it was the only piece of meat that actually contained some muscle! I robbed it from my mom right off the bat.

Cartilage Platter
Although this post is all about pork, I have to add that if you go to Au Pied de Cochon, you must order their onion soup. It's the best I've ever had.

onion soup
Now we hop from France to Germany, home of the Schweinehaxe (pork knuckle)! We stopped by Köln (Cologne) on Christmas Day so most places were closed. Dom Im Stapel Haus (Frankenwerft 3550667 Köln Altstadt/Dom Telefon: 0221- 258 21 49 Open 9AM-1AM) was open and offered an unforgettable lunch. We ordered the gekochte (boiled) Schweinehaxe and the gegrillte (grilled) Schweinehaxe. Both were better than any of the pork I had in Paris. The boiled knuckle was more tender, while the grilled was texturally more pleasing because of the crispy exterior. I prefer the huskyness of German meat dishes to that of other cuisines, but their veggies, sides, and bread I can do without (starch based).

gekochte Schweinehaxe and gegrillte Schweinehaxe
My mom got her ability for eating everything a pork has to offer growing up in Taiwan. During my visit, I've tried a Yunnan (雲南) style pork's ear (猪耳朵) salad and a Shanghai (上海) style 蜜汁火腿 (honey ham) with lotus seeds and toast. Pig's ear can be quite refreshing, and the Chinese like to eat it as a cold dish appetizer not just in the Yunnan style. Most of the time you can find a marinated in soy sauce version (滷猪耳) in the prepared foods section at your local Asian supermarket.

Yunnan style pig's ear salad
Shanghai food in Taiwan is better than Shanghai food in China because many of the traditional chefs escaped Communist China in 1949 to Taiwan. The traditional repertoire continued in Taiwan, while the Shanghainese cuisine in China underwent changes in the new political climate. You can still order traditional Shanghainese food in China, but the taste is different than in Taiwan. According to my parents, the Shanghai dishes in China are sweeter (doesn't mean better).
One very famous Shanghainese restaurant in Taiwan is 極品軒 (Ji Pin Xuan). The honey ham here is so addictive. It's a dish you must order at any Shanghainese restaurant. The ham is steamed with honey instead of baked, and it's always piled on top of lotus seeds and served with white toast. This was my brother's favorite dish, until he stopped eating pork.
Shanghai style honey ham with lotus seeds

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