Auntie Ruby Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Review Friday, June 21, 2013
(I have since got my hand on Codlo and did a little review here. Get your Codlo here.)
If you are still unsure about picking up Sous-vide cooking, Codlo may just help to get you going.
As followers of this blog will know by now, I am a huge believer in Sous-vide cooking for the home. You can check up on related posts and the devices I am using.
I have always been hoping that someone would design a Sous-vide device which is attractive and user-friendly. Currently, most SV appliances look like lab machines, more suited for geeks than home cooks.
So when Grace Lee from Codlo.com wrote in recently to inform me about their new Sous Vide project, it caught my attention immediately. Codlo is every bit how I imagined a Sous-vide device should be - and more.
Ed: I have revised and improved this recipe.
I am glad I can blog a dish which can be had for our daily dinners.
We are familiar with how good steamed fish can be. Do you know that steamed chicken or pork ribs, properly done, can be very good too? And when it comes to steamed chicken, the texture and sweetness stands out compared to other methods of cooking the bird. If you use Kampung Chicken, it will be fantastic.
My approach to this dish is inspired by the "Keong Choong Cho Yin Kai" served by the brothers at Public Pusing Restaurant in Ipoh.
You don't need to burn a whole house down to roast a pig
The last time I saw a whole roasted pig, I had to tip toe to peer at it.
A very young boy then, we were celebrating Chinese New Year. A roasted pig was brought in to celebrate the 9th day, an important day for Hokkiens to worship their deities.
I can still remember the faces of many adults, peering through the smoke from the burning joss sticks. Were they anticipating the offering or in worshipful devotion, I couldn't tell. There were unintelligible chants in the background. The lights seemed to be swaying and dancing through the smoke, keeping in step with the rhythms of the chant.
I suppose even deities need the right ambiance to enjoy their meals.
But I have never forgotten the sense of awe I had as I stared at a whole prostrated roasted pig, with it's head fully intact. Yes, pigs have heads and they come with pointy ears and all. Farmers do not rear headless walking roast pork bellies. We can easily forget that when we buy our cling-wrapped cuts off supermart shelves.
I was in Penang this week. We chanced upon a whole roasted pig. Again.
Now, 40-plus years later, I had a smartphone in hand to capture the experience. As the seller set up his stall, the queue was already forming. I knew this huge golden crackling beauty wouldn't be on display for long.
I did wonder - as I did when I was a boy - whether it was roasted alive. Its eyes were closed and as it laid worshipfully prostrated, it seem surrendered to it's destiny as an offering, may it be a deity or to a queue of hungry Penang folk (and one Singaporean).
It seemed like most did not bother which parts of the pig were being bought as long as there was some of that glorious crackling skin on it. Somehow, when the whole pig is roasted, the various cuts of meat become secondary to the skin. The "prime" rib becomes as anonymous as other cuts. Even the head with a higher skin-meat ratio is valued. I can imagine how good it will be in my Chai Buey.
The crackling skin is indeed a great equalizer.
It was a clever display of cleaver skills, as the seller reduced the whole pig, section by section, into bite-size slices. The cleaver was sharp, and you could hear it slicing through the pig effortlessly. It was a beautiful crisply sound.
Within an hour, the table was empty. A whole pig - gone in 60 minutes.
It seems to me that no one does roast pork as well as the Chinese. They taught the world that the tegument need not be cut off and thrown away. When roasted properly, it is even more prized that the meat itself.
So, how did the Chinese learn how to cook pork this way?
In a conversation with my Dad-in-law recently, who loves to cook (and eat) roast pork, he mentioned about this famous essay by Charles Lamb. I checked it up and indeed there was his rather humorous piece, "A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig." It appears that this English writer (1775-1834), like my Dad, loved roast pork too and came up with a theory of its origins. He claimed to have read about it in an old manuscript and published this essay in 1822.
|This is an illustration by Frederick Stuart Church from an|
1884 edition of "A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig".
A Chinese boy, Bo-bo, discovered roast pork by accident. Apparently, until that point people ate their meat raw, clawing or biting it from the live animal.
One day, while his father away, playing with fire, Bo-bo accidentally burned the pig house down. There was an unusual smell. He touched one of the burnt pigs and quickly licked his fingers to soothe the pain. Some of the crackling crumbs were on his fingers and for the first time, a human tasted crackling skin ("in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it"). It was so delicious that he gorged the skin and meat and excitedly told his father when he returned.
The father was horrified to see his son eating burnt pig. Bo-bo persuaded his father to try it. The father was equally enthralled, but warned that their roast pork must remain a secret. He feared their neighbours may kill them for thinking they could improve on the meat provided by God. Eventually, the villagers noticed that the house burned down more frequently than ever. "There was nothing but fires from this time forward", says Lamb.
A court was convened and they were doomed to be convicted. But their fortunes turned around when one of the jury wanted to take a look at the cooked pig. He too handled it, burned his fingers, licked them and from there, roast pork was no longer a secret. Soon everyone was setting fire to their home at regular intervals. Thankfully, the later realised they did not need to "burn the whole house down to roast a pig."
We can assume this is where the idiom originated from. This makes for a good and fanciful tale, somewhat like my April Fool food posts. You can read Charles Lamb's essay for yourself here. It is a good piece of literature.
And in case you want to try your hand at roasting pig but not the burn-down-your-house way, you can check out my modest methods.
You can't use my Sous Vide method for a whole pig though, unless you plan on immersing it in your long bath tub and then roast it in goodness knows where.
And if you burn down your house in the process, don't sue me.
|Cooking this at home? Don't even think about it!|
Hong Kong is just a 3-hour plane ride away from Singapore.
But it has taken me 50 years of my earthly life before I finally set foot on this famed city.
Taking in the scenic visuals, I got the impression that I had been in these locations before. Many scenes of this city have been embedded in my mind since I started watching HK TV shows and films as a child.