Pork 8: White-sliced Pork (白片肉)

持牲單::白片肉
須自養之豬,宰後入鍋,煮到八分熟,泡在湯中,一個時辰取起。將豬身上行動之處,薄片上桌。不冷不熱,以溫為度。此是北人擅長之菜。南人效之,終不能佳。且零星市脯,亦難用也。寒士請客,寧用燕窩,不用白片肉,以非多不可故也。割法須用小快刀片之,以肥瘦相參,橫斜碎雜為佳,與聖人「割不正不食」一語,截然相反。其豬身肉之名目甚多。滿洲「跳神肉」最妙。

This is not exactly white-sliced pork but a spicier (and over-sauced) variant called white pork with garlic sauce (蒜泥白肉). Om nom nom nom… (Credit: Alpha)

Pork(List of the Ceremonial Animal)::White-sliced pork
This dish should ideally be prepared using a pig that one had raised in their own household. Slaughter the pig and boil it in a large pot until partially cooked. Turn off the heat and let the meat soak in the hot liquid for two hours before removing. [1] Cut off the well exercised meat from the thighs or shoulders and serve them thinly sliced. The meat should neither be hot nor cold, but pleasantly warm.

Northerners are especially adept to the preparation of this dish. Although Southerners try their best, they are not quite able to successfully make it. Note too that the successful preparation of the dish requires using the whole animal and cannot be made from an assortment of pork cuts from the market.[2] It is for this reason that when poor scholars [3] have guests over for meals, it is better for them to serve bird’s nest rather than white-sliced pork since the latter cannot be served or prepared well in small quantities.

The way to cut the meat for this dish is to slice it using a small sharp knife, mixing the leaner with the fattier slices of meat. The meat can be sliced in any manner desire, be it against the grain or obliquely. As well, broken or torn slices of meat should be served together with everything else regardless of appearance. In this case, one does opposite of the Sage’s admonishment: “Do not eat things that are haphazardly sliced”. By serving it this way, one can experience the many types and cuts of meat that can be found in a pig. The Manchurian “Ceremonial pork” is the best. [4]

Random notes:
[1]: One old Chinese day is split into 12 Chinese hours (時辰). Each Chinese hours is 2 hours. Incidentally, this “boil quickly and let it sit” method is same one uses to prepare white-cut chicken.

[2]: I don’t think anyone does this nowadays since one would have to find quite a large cooking pot and stove. I’ve heard of people buying a shoulder, lower ham, a belly and braising them together for red-cooked pork, but never for white-cut or white sliced pork. Usually it’s just one cut of meat boiled in a pot.

[3]: Aptly named the “scholars of winter’s chill”, hanshi (寒士) are the less successful scholars who did not perform well enough in their examinations to gain recognition and state employment to lift themselves out of poverty. While the term may literally describe the cold winds these individuals have to endure, it likely also points at their feelings of dejection from their lack of success.

[4]: Tiao shen rou (跳神肉) or literally “Jumping God pork” comes from the pigs sacrificed for the Tiao shen yi (跳神儀) ceremony. I think it’s something like a Manchurian version of Taiwanese da bai bai (大拜拜).

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