Thai experts: a whole pig question
- Professor Salt Jan 30, 2008 05:55 PM
One day, I'm munching happily away on a Northern Thai pork dish at a particularly well known Thai restaurant. It's a terrific dish of lean pork loin bits in a vicious curry. I'm enjoying tender, high on the hog, muscle meat parts. Nothing wrong with that.
Then my mind starts wandering. I think any cuisine that reveres the pig is gonna make good use of parts like pig ear, snout, belly and (probably) do wonders with a whole pig on those celebratory occasions when folks throw a big party. And I suddenly wonder what this restaurant's kitchen would do with a whole pig.
The Chinese work miracles with a whole pig. So I'm guessing that Chinese diaspora in Thailand, Vietnam, et al have influenced whole hog cooking in those countries. Yet I've never seen it offered in Thai restaurants in L.A. (where I'm told, we have the largest population of Thai emigres in North America) .
Can someone who's been to Thailand comment on how it shows up there? Is it roasted until crisp-skinned like a Cantonese pig? How is it flavored? Is it strictly a banquet feast, or are they every day staples like in Cantonese BBQ restaurants, where busy folks take home a kilo for family dinner?
Question part two: how are the cheaper pig parts like pork belly (skin on?), and pig ears used in Thai cooking?
I've seen variants of Teochew/Hokkien kuay chup at Thai places. It's a offal stew in dark soy sauce, often with flat rice noodles.
You can also get the weird bits grilled on the street in Thailand. I have gnawed on grilled intestine, heart, and ears. Yum.
Yes the kuay chup is a noodle soup with various organ meats, yum! My mom's favorite street food in Thailand.
Another thing commonly done in Thailand -- just the skin is deep-fried. They are sold at random food stands kinda like pork rinds I guess. Also, various noodle shops will top off their noodles off with chopped up fried pork skin, so some bites have a little bit of rich, salty, crunchy porky goodness in them. This is the ingredient I sorely miss that I haven't seen in the dry noodle dishes at US Thai restaurants.
Thanks for the replies, all. If anyone can add more about the whole pig, I'm still all ears.
franprix, bits of crunchy pork rinds on Thai noodles sounds awesome. I can get chicharron carnudo (fried skin-on pork belly, with the meat still attached) in my local SoCal taquerias, so yeah, that sounds really good. I might have to go get some for lunch today now that you got me thinking about it.
re: Professor Salt
I lived in Bangkok for 12 years. I never saw anyone offering a whole cooked adult pig but they do make a barbecued sucking pig which is called 'Muu-Haan' ('Muu' means pig and 'haan' means 'turned' which refers to the turning of the spit as it sits over the charcoal fire). Like the Chinese, the Thai baste it in various things that cause the skin to get crispy, and usually sweet. Most of the larger Chinese restaurants in Bangkok will have it and I have seen Thais selling whole ones along side Phahon-Yothin Road near the Skytrain Station at Chattuchak Park. Out in the provinces you'll often see them being sold along side the roads. A popular dish in Bangkok Chinese restaurants is called 'Pig, Three Ways.' First you get a big plate of squares of the skin and you eat this exactly the same as you do Peking Duck. After that comes a dish of the little chops and other meaty portions (but no guts) and last you get a soup made from the leftover bones and chunks of meat.
All that I am about to say is a generalization. There are several regions to Thailand with differing regional specialties and tastes. I studied several times in Thai culinary schools both in the north and south. A whole large roast pig is a rariety, but seen for some festivals and holidays. The delicacy is the head sliced in half side to side so one half has the face and half the brain and the other half is the back of the head. then the meat is broken down and used in tons of other dishes. I've seen sucklings roasted most of the time, but one buys chunks or slices of it to make dishes at home.
I've seen all the cuts and body parts sold, with some partially or fully cooked parts like ears and skin. And of course sausages and all the offal and organs, they are used in all kinds of dishes. The fat tends to be trimmed and the hogs are butchered at a younger age. Oils, fats, butter, etc. aren't big parts of the Thai diet except for the minimum needed for frying and stir frying.
In Thailand most dishes are quickly cooked, on average it takes 8-12 minutes to cook the typical Thai dish, and they are more vegetable based with small bits of meat used for flavoring and accent. The food tends to be exceptionally fresh and healthy. Large dishes and meals aren't the norm. Usually one has lots of small meals with many different flavors throughout the day. Six small and highly flavorful meals, rather than 2-3 large ones, is the norm.
The staples are rice, noodles, curries, yams (salads of veggies and/or meats), stir fries, fish, occasional poultry and meats, vegetables, soups, and fruits.