Day Five: Duck tongues and Bbq pork
January 25, 2007

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Bbqpork After our morning session on Tuesday, it was decided that we'd go for Dim Sum for lunch.  "You'll like this place," Stephen told us.  "They have the best BBQ Pork.  Movie stars come here for the BBQ pork."

I love Chinese BBQ pork, but I've always thought of it as a commodity item.  You can buy it at any of ten or twenty Chinatown butchers, and countless restaurants.  We always buy it wherever we're closest to, and it's always pretty much the same.  Oh, sure, there are a few places we avoid, and yes, sometimes the pork is better than others, but usually we credit that to inferior or superior quality of the individual pig that was used that time.

The restaurant is clean and bright, and has a large fishtank in front with a giant eel and some very menacing crabs.  Stephen reads us some of the options from the Chinese menu.  Fried squid, shrimp dumplings, duck tongues...

"Duck tongues!" I squeal.  Stephen looks sorry that he mentioned them.  I think he was trying to shock me.  Joe looks mildly regretful as well.

"Okay, duck tongues," Stephen says.

Stephen orders and several items begin to arrive.  Shrimp wrapped in a flaky pastry.  Some kind of noodle in a soy-based sauce.  Deep-fried squid -- this is worlds apart from pub calamari.  The squid resists the teeth initially, but then yields a soft and rewarding fleshiness.  And then there it is:  the BBQ pork.

One look tells me that it's clearly different from what I've eaten before.  This isn't the tasty, somewhat dry, pleasantly chewy BBQ pork that hangs in shop windows both in Chinatown and here in Hong Kong.  This is high quality, well-marbled pork, fresh from being slow-cooked for hours,  drizzled in honey, and then rushed to the table.  The outside is crispy, flavorful as bacon, and sweet from the honey, and the inside is soft and chewy and yields unfettered porkiness.  This is pure heaven.  I'll remember this for a long time.  From here on out, whenever I'm having BBQ pork with someone else, I'll tell them:  you don't know what real BBQ pork is like.  I'll be the annoying guy that claims that everyone else's experiences aren't worth a damn, because they've never been to Hong Kong, to this place.  They just don't know.

Even though we haven't finished this plate of pork, I request another one.  They don't seem surprised.

Ducktongues In the meantime, though, the duck tongues arrive.  I'm a bit surprised.  They're short, plump, and juicy-looking.  My only other experience with duck tongues was of seeing packages of them at 99 Ranch in Irvine, CA, a few years ago.  I remember them being long and skinny,  resembling nothing so much as the tongue of a large snake, but with visible taste buds.  But these don't look anything like that.  So what was that a memory of?

Unlike beef tongue, which has the skin removed and the meat taken out, a duck tongue definitely feels like a tongue in your mouth. In fact, rolling the tongue around (which you will inevitably do) feels like nothing so much as french-kissing a duck, and then biting its tongue off and swallowing it.  It's kind of like bestiality and sadism all at once, though because it's only kissing, it has a bit of a sentimental aspect to it as well.

Actually, you don't swallow the tongue immediately; it has a bit of cartilage or soft bone running through the underside.  You must separate the meat from the cartilage with your tongue and your teeth, and then pull the cartilage out of your mouth.  It's not the most ergonomic of foods, but it has a certain sex appeal.  Or maybe that's just me.

One of the last dishes is Shark Fin Dumpling.  My guide to Dim Sum says that they don't actually have shark fin in them, but this one seems to.  Stephen explains that the ability to make these large dumplings is rapidly becoming lost.  Inside is a very soupy mixture, he explains, and it takes a certain technique to be able to wrap the soup into a dumpling and cook it without having it leak out, and fewer and fewer people are willing to go through the trouble to do so.  You put a splash of red vinegar onto it and you're good to go.

(Chinese Red Vinegar, btw, is another revelation.  It's critical to the taste of a number of Chinese dishes.  I've had some really good red vinegar out here; I wonder if I can get equally good vinegar Stateside?)

January 25, 2007 in Hong Kong | Permalink


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When I'm fat and happy from gorging myself on bbq pork, I hope you find as poetic a way to describe me as: "The outside is crispy, flavorful as bacon, and sweet from the honey, and the inside is soft and chewy and yields unfettered porkiness."

Posted by: Reca at Feb 2, 2007 8:32:36 PM

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