Pork 37: Roast Pork (燒豬肉)

“Roasting a whole pig requires above all, patience. The interior of the pig should be roasted first so the pork’s fat is infused into the skin, making it tender, crisp, and full of flavour. However, if one should start by roasting the skin first, the fat between it and the meat will melt away and drip into the flames, producing roast pork with skin that is charred and tough with poor flavour.

This same technique applies when roasting suckling pigs.”

持牲單::燒豬肉
凡燒豬肉,須耐性。先炙裡面肉,使油膏走入皮內,則皮鬆脆而味不走。若先炙皮,則肉上之油盡落火上,皮既焦硬,味亦不佳。燒小豬亦然。

I like how the photo’s has that fogged-up soft-focus look, almost as if the viewer is getting all misty-eyed looking at the chucks of roast pork. (Credit: HFueenCube)

I have to be honest, out of all the roasted meat items, or siumei (燒味) in Cantonese , roast pork (燒肉) is one of my least favourite. If we do a head-to-head comparison, roast suckling pig has far crisper skin and tender meat, roast duck is more flavourful, and charsiu is like eating candy. At the end, roast pork really does not have much of a leg-up over other items in the suimei universe. Except maybe that weird coloured cuttlefish.

Note, this does not mean I don’t eat roast pork. It’s just that when I do, I do it more as an intellectual exercise than for leisurely enjoyment, like reading “The Grapes of Wrath” rather than a “Travels with Charley”. When the ingredients consists of just a whole pig with some salt and oil, any fault in technique and preparation is laid bare to the diner. Eating roast pork, you can’t help but appreciate the art and technique of making it, and also see the skill of the chef.

This actually makes roast pork a great benchmark dish for testing out a new siumei restaurant. Any place that can make a roast pork with crisp skin and flavourful juicy meat commands respect and deserves repeated patronage. It’s just that when you go back, order something else other than roast pork.

I for one prefer a dish of roast duck and pork rice, or “chaya fan” (叉鴨飯).

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