pork is big in chinese eating. and there's one pork dish that stands a notch above others for a whole host of reasons. first of all it is allegedly created by a top-notch ancient chinese scholar/poet, su tung poh. secondly it is an extremely labor intensive and time consuming in preparation. check this out for main ingredients. pork belly. sea cucumber. either one of them demands masterly skills and meticulous handling. and then there are the vegetables. mui choy (preserved bok choy.), lettuce. without them this rich food is just one dimensional. now here is the kicker. this is, in the word of my cousin tommy, a risky dish to order. if it is a hair less than great it will ruin the whole meal because one bite of oily pork, or rubbery, oddly-smelled sea cucumber, or thinly-taste mui choy, or just a hint of greasiness anywhere, can really spoil your appetite.
so you can imagine my heart skips a beat when my cousin daisy decides to go for it. i'm like, okay, we're all in and let's pray. when the steaming dish arrives, it looks like a mound of dark brown earth. but there is something about it. it shines and it looks light. my cousins take one bite and i can see their eyes brighten up instantly. i dig in. and i am in heavens. where there is supposed to be fat there is only lightness in the like of being wrapped in a comforter. the taste profile is rich and clean all at once. the meat that has been slow cooked for hours is buttery, flavorful, with an ethereal taste that i have no word for it but 'pork fat magic.' this place really knows what it is doing. it uses the part of the belly that chinese calls 'five flower belly.' strips of fat and flesh alternate, thus making sure every meat fiber is moist while the texture is protected. the smokiness from browning the blanched and washed pork belly brings in that pleasing odor that only browning can offer.
yet, in my taste, the best of the best of this dish is the mui choy. first of all, this place uses high quality material. this mui choy is preserved from nice and plumb bok choy, not wilting leftovers. they soak up the essence of the entire creation, freshens it up and infuses the whole thing with an exquisite, flowery scent. now the luscious pig dances as an airborne ballerina. i brown bag every last bit of it. this on top of rice is a great lunch for the day after.
lucky me. i can enjoy pork and something from the ocean that has no scales while receiving the wisdom of torah. the joy of a chin-jew:)