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Dec 24, 2008 08:28 AM

Great Porkage in 2008

Yesterday I realized that as a result of a job change I was soon to be out of lunching distance of meatball pork sandwiches from Saigon Sandwich in San Francisco. I believe it is entirely impossible to become tired of this combination of slightly sweet, yet savory meat (I think of it as a homemade Vietnamese sausage) combined with the tangy pickled vegetables, cilantro, and the burn of jalapenos. A perfect sandwich, one I have enjoyed regularly since the mid-'90's.

This reverie led me to one of my current favorite obsessions for dinner--barbequed pork neck from Chai Thai Noodle on International Blvd. in Oakland. Oh, how much better has life become since I didn't have to be in San Francisco to enjoy the stylings of Thai House Express? And this pork neck, which I took a gamble on ordering one night, is now THE item I must order when I go. Cat fish larb, yes. Pumpkin curry, yummy. A new dish, with eggplant, pork, shrimp, and their light lemony dressing, most definitely. But the pork neck, which is one of those dishes that will probably send me to a much earlier grave, deserves a special discussion for its combination of smoky grill flavor, slight sweetness, and unctious pork quality. While there is no visible fat, the meat is always rich in a way that suggests it has more in common with the pork belly than the hock. Severely delicious.

I could probably list at least 10 more great pork dishes I had this year, but I'll close with a mention of the cornbread stuffing I made for Thanksgiving. I used Italian pork sausage I picked up from Trader Joe's, which caused me some anxiety as I was not sure how good it would be. Well, mixed with the cornbread, dried cherries and apricots, and all the usual Thanksgiving flavorings, this may have been my best stuffing ever. I entirely credit the sausage.

I believe it is my Jewish destiny to be so enamored of this meat.

Saigon Sandwich Shop
560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

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    1. Thanks for the tip on the BBQ pork neck -- it's something I never would have thought to order!

      Chai Thai Noodles
      545 B International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        The Supreme Purpose of pork neck is in pork bone soup. Any other use is sacrilege.

      2. The best sandwich I had this year was the torta al pastor at the El Tonayense Taco Truck near the Best Buy in SF. The grilled onions and peppers + salsa played very well off the pork.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ML8000

          After giving up on Tacqueria San Jose in San Francisco, I discovered the one in Oakland's Fruitvale. I order tacos al pastor w/no hot sauce, just the cilantro and onion. Then some pico de gallo at the table, a very small shake of salt, and HEAVEN. Thanks for the El Tonayense tip!

          Taqueria San Jose
          3433 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601