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Posts Tagged ‘pork’

Last night during a night out on the town for Andre’s birthday, we came across a new Korean dish: Pig Backbone Stew. Wanting some food, we had two rules: it needed to still be busy at 12:30AM (we didn’t want to walk in somewhere that was about to close) and it could not have chicken feet on the menu. What we ended up finding was an interesting new stew that we may or may not go back for.

Photo by Anna Waigand

It came as a stew and was everything a stew should be: hearty, heavy and hot. It seemed a popular choice among the young, late-night Korean crowd seeing as almost all of the tables were full by the time we left. Drunk 20-somethings kept stumbling in, eating and drinking until their red faces stumbled back out into the cold again.

We were uncertain about what we were eating until a Korean with very good English (he studied in Australia for eight months, apparently) told us that it was pig back bone meat. With that mystery solved, we dug into the fragrant stew that was bubbling on our table. We combed through the spinal bones to find the meat that was still ever so loosely hanging on. It was the most perfectly cooked spinal meat that I have ever had (although I suppose that isn’t saying much). We jabbed it off the spine easily with our chopsticks and it arrived at our mouths juicy and tender. To help it go down, the hearty broth provided a vibrant Korean style taste (think: Korean chili powder with some garlic and green onions) with a miniscule kick at the end. Vegetables swam through the stew providing some extra flavor and a slippery texture.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The problem that we found was the amount of meat that actually came in the stew. As one might imagine, spinal meat is not very plentiful. The size and shape of the bones were much more impressive than the meat volume of the stew. So, it was a delicious meal perfect for a cold late-night on the town, but not something I would want to eat on a regular basis.

If you live in Seoul and would like to check it out, the restaurant was off of the Sinchon subway stop, exit 2. Take a left after the big red tube, then your first right, then your first left. It’s across from the chicken feet restaurant (you’ll know which is the chicken feet restaurant because it has a big picture of a man with chicken feet and it says “Chicken Feet Restaurant”). If you check it out, be sure to let us know what you thought!

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Photo by Anna Waigand

I was worried for a couple moments. After firing up the burner, the four test strips of cured pork quickly sizzled to life, but I was worried they would come out like pork that had sat in my fridge for a week and not actually bacon. They looked grey and extra fatty like the pork belly at the cheap restaurant across the street from our apartment.

They browned up quickly with black bits on the edges, but didn’t release much grease or liquid. I’d read that store bought bacon releases so much liquid because it’s wet cured, but I was surprised at how little fat came out of my bacon. Our one good knife combined with my average carving skills produced pretty thick and uneven strips, so we didn’t get that wonderful curling and wavy shape of store-bought bacon.

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Photo by Anna Waigand

After a couple of minutes in the pan we went for the all important taste test. I’d cooked up an inside strip of traditional bacon, a nugget of traditional bacon I couldn’t cut into a strip, an outside strip of Korean bacon and an inside strip of Korean bacon. I was worried the Korean flavoring wouldn’t come through strong enough on the inside of the pork slabs, but I hoped it would have given the outside pieces a nice kick.

I bit in and was delighted – it was actually bacon! It had that wonderfully sweet, salty goodness and a great red color with browned edges.

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Photo by Anna Waigand

The Taste Test

Traditional Bacon – All I thought at first was that I’d actually succeeded in making bacon – a great feeling on its own. Then I started to pay attention to the taste. The strip was thick without too much fat and was one of the better cut ones – long, even and not falling apart. The taste was nicely salty though I couldn’t taste much of the pepper that I put on during the curing. Also it could have been sweeter.

Korean Bacon – The outside strip, which had a much darker brown color from the curing, was way too salty. The salt was overpowering and made me get up for a glass of water. The inner piece was much better. It still had a good salty flavor but there was also a hint of spice and some depth to the flavor at the end of each bite. I could tell that some of the spices had sunk it, but I wouldn’t quite call it Korean flavored yet.


Photo by Anna Waigand

Lessons

1. When trimming the skin off, take some of the fat with it. Don’t worry, there will be plenty.
2. When slicing, beware of small bits of cartilage and bone. Don’t want them to ruin a delicious bite.
3. The slices on the outside of the slab will be seriously salty. Try to use them in a recipe instead of eating straight.
4. The traditional bacon was good, but I think I’d add either a bunch more brown sugar to give it a deep sweet flavor that you wouldn’t get in most bacon or a blend of savory spices for a more complicated bacon. Since I just got a care package from home with bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and sage I might have to try that.
5. The Korean spices made it into the pork, but only gave a hint of flavor. It was an interesting flavor, but I think to make it really stand out I need even more spices. Maybe more ginger, some diced chili peppers and more chili powder. I might also try to use chili paste or soy bean paste.

For a bunch more bacon slicing and sizzling photos go over to our Makin’ Bacon Flickr set.

Check out our first bacon curing post for the recipe for both flavors.

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