- Thi N. Jan 30, 2002 01:50 AM
There's a certain texture of pork that recurs in different cuisines. In Vietnamese cuisine - there's this fluffy dried pork. It looks like jerky, but it feels more like... savory porky cotton candy. You can buy it in little plastic jars in Chinese grocery stores. Eaten over rice. Scared of it when I was a kid. Learned to love it.
I first encountered that texture in something freshly cooked at Antonijiro Denise's - a crisp fried carnitas taco, where the pork was ever the hard-fried outside or the inside and... fluffy on the inside. Like you'd taken regular pork and pulled all the fibers apart and made it stringy, then you did it again and made it - uh - gossamer, in a kind of porky, chewy way? How to describe? What if a spider spun a spiderweb after eating a pig? (This is like a bad acid trip version of Charlotte's Web, sorry.) No, that's not right. Anyway, imagine fried pork cotton candy, kind of melt-in-your-mouth-fluffy and chewy, and all deeply flavored with pork. I think the fluffiness really added and deepened the pork flavor. Special slow release form - all that pork *surface area* in the fluffy pork.
Anyway, that only existed at the East LA branch of A Denise's - the Hollywood branch had good carnitas, but it wasn't magically fluffy. And the East LA branch, in my book, went bad downhill in the last year. Last three times I went, no fluff - just oily, greasy globs of old fried carnitas. Maybe I went at the wrong time. But it made me sad. I started to give up.
But! I have found fluffy pork again! Thanks to a posting by some wonderful chowhound, sending me to El Cochinito, a cuban joint in Silverlake in the same Sunset strip mall as Algeria or whatever. They recommended the chicken, which was OK, but the roast pork! Had it twice, with my friend Rachel (chowhound handle: Rach) - both times, goddamn fantastic, and just-right fluffy. Chime in here, Rach. Crackling outside, dry-fluffy-chewy-magic inside.
Indeed - the pork strove toward perfection and in its desire to break free from the stringy dense existence it had been taught was it's fate, it burst forth. But alas, social norms and a crispy garlicy skin contrained it and it had to settle. But when you reach for the stars... indeed the pork was possibly the juciest and fluffiest i have ever? eaten. and my devotion to pork is legendary - after all i am jew dating someone with the last name Bacon.
Liked the chicken, really liked the shrimp in garlic sauce, though it was quite small. appetizer portion perhaps?
most of all enjoyed Thi's company...
In Vietnamese cuisine, it is also eaten over plain, white congee. Delicious. Mom always made that for us to eat when we were sick.