"I made this crispy B.B.Q. pork all by myself!"
We aren't having much luck with our Chinese B.B.Q. lately.
Man Yung is rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Not again! This crispy B.B.Q. pork is not only not crispy, it is oily and tasteless as well!"
And I thought that after the life lessons learnt in "The Crispy B.B.Q. Pork Equation", we would forever more only make totally failproof B.B.Q. purchases. After all, don't we order crispy B.B.Q. pork by the "bone" and not by the pound? Are we not "chums" with the B.B.Q. chef and know all about "secret handshake"? And aren't we always choosing the best B.B.Q. meats solely based on the flavour and texture due to the fat to meat ratio, irregardless of health and diet concerns?
No, we are not doing anything wrong - in fact we are doing everything right. But as we all know by now, the Crispy B.B.Q. Pork Equation is not about getting $10 of value for $10. It is not even about getting $8 of value for $10, or $6.99 of value for $3.99, etc.
Just look at these very annoying recent examples:
1. I made it myself!
We got invited to a pot luck party recently. In order for there to be variety in the food at the party, the hostess arranged for everyone to be responsible for a different dish. Mr. White will bring the sushi, Mr. Orange will bring the roasted chicken, Mr. Blonde will be responsible for the salads, and Mr. Pink will bring the crispy B.B.Q. roasted pork.*
* And afterwards we all went on a diamond heist. We have a very busy schedule on the weekends.
So everyone showed up at the party and brought their designated dish. All the food was delightfully enjoyed by all - except for Mr. Pink's crispy B.B.Q. roasted pork.
"Come on guys! There's still plenty left over! Don't you want some? It's good - I made it myself!" proclaimed Mr. Pink.
No, we didn't want any of the B.B.Q. pork. Instead of being crispy, the skin was as tough as leather. And instead of being tender and juicy, the meat was as dry as the Sahara desert.
Somebody quick, tell Mr. Pink that you can't make your own B.B.Q. pork in your oven to the same standard that you could get in any ol' B.B.Q. take-out in town! The B.B.Q. chef roasts the whole pig at once - a small piece of pork would dry out in the heat of your oven just like that. In addition, the B.B.Q. chef has perforated the skin with a professional grade needle brush like, hundreds of times in order to prepare the skin for roasting into a golden crispiness. A couple of stabs with a dining fork will not give you the same effect.
And really, Mr. Pink - how much would it cost to buy your crispy B.B.Q. pork from the take-out? $5.00 per pound? $6.00 per pound? Yes, you saved some pennies "making your own" but you really have wasted all your money and your effort when not even the dog would eat what you made.
TANGO EQUIVALENT: Those clever dancers who "poo-poo" taking lessons since they could save their hard-earned cash and learn everything by watching Youtube! And are they still wondering why no-one wants to invite them to dance at the milonga?
2. Refried, refried, and refried again
There's a fascinating B.B.Q. take-out at Peachtree Centre in Markham. Whenever we are in the plaza, we always make sure we pass by so we could gawk....in absolute horror.
"OMG Man Yung, just look at the colour on that piece of crispy B.B.Q. pork!" I whispered really loudly to Man Yung.
Yes indeed, it was something quite special to see. The pork was evenly BLACK - on the outside...and the inside!
The B.B.Q. duck, the honey B.B.Q. pork, and the B.B.Q. chicken didn't fare much better.
We've tried to surreptitiously take a photo of the B.B.Q. counter but the B.B.Q. chef was always hovering nearby glaring angrily at gawkers like ourselves. We didn't want to risk getting a meat cleaver thrown at us so we just pretended to pass by on our way to another store.
In order to save money and reduce waste, the B.B.Q. chef took the stale B.B.Q. leftovers from the previous day - and he just deep fried them again and hung them out for sale the next day. Moreover, he never roasted a whole pig - he'd buy just a section, for example, half a rib cage, and roast that. And as you can see in our cautionary tale in #1 above, the best results are reached in roasting the whole pig at once. If you roast only a part of a pig (especially in an industrial-sized oven) or refry your meat again and again throughout the week, you will get a product that is closer to being charcoal than meat.
And the most horrible thing was - some intrepid customers still went to eat at that shop! Either they couldn't tell the difference, or they liked their meat to taste like coals and ashes - or, they were just cheap, because you can get a bowl of noodles with a side of really burnt B.B.Q. with a pop for like, three bucks.*
* But you can pretty much get decent lunch with a drink from any Chinese take-out for $3.00, so WTF, why are you guys still going to eat there?
TANGO EQUIVALENT: When not so good Tango Dancers decide to become not so good Tango Instructors.
They may be of the "undercooked" sort - they've only been dancing for X number of months, they have learned either very little or learned something wrong - but now they have decided that they are ready to out there and teach. Or, they might had been dancing for ages, but they learned how to Tango in the nineties from the luminaries of various "Traveling Tango Extravaganzas" - and therefore still have no clue about dancing in a social setting. Or, they have never been particularly talented dancers or have particularly relevant insights into dancing, but they have been dancing so long, it's time to "Graduate" and become Tango instructors.
What these chaps have to offer is not good to begin with or quite possibly refried, but some oddballs will still take their classes. As we had said, "Nobody could tell the difference/Some like the taste of ashes/Some are cheap!" You go girl! (guy!)
3. Looks good, but is not so good
We have been looking and looking for a good B.B.Q. take-out for ages. We thought we found a good one at Midland and Sheppard - but then the quality of their crispy B.B.Q. pork has suddenly gone down lately. We thought we found a promising one at Midland and McNicoll after we tasted some of the B.B.Q. duck there - but then we were disappointed AGAIN when we bought some crispy B.B.Q. pork today.
"I thought the B.B.Q. pork skin looked quite good on the outside, and it's kind of crispy - it has all the visual factors to indicate a well-roasted pig. But why is the meat so fat, and so tasteless?" asked Man Yung.
"You know what, I knew something was wrong when you told me that your order of two bones cost $13.00. As far as I know, the average cost of two bones is about $8.00 to $10.00 at the most." I replied.
As we might have mentioned before, the key to making delicious crispy B.B.Q. pork is to puncture the skin of your roast a sufficient number of times prior to roasting. This serves two functions. Firstly, it changes the texture of the skin so that when it roasts, it becomes crispy. Secondly, the holes allow the sub-cutaneous fat under the skin to liquify in the heat into oil and seep out of the skin during roasting.
It seems that B.B.Q. chefs have become quite innovative. Perhaps it's because their costs are up - wholesale food prices have increased, as have utilities and rent - or perhaps they just want more profit.
Instead of puncturing the skin all the way to the fat underneath, the chefs have just punctured the skin, short of the layer of fat. This way, the skin still ends up kind of crispy - but the fat has no way to escape. The resulting roast is heavier - and the B.B.Q. chef will make more money from it. So, our $13.00 has bought us the same amount of meat that we would have purchased in an $8.00 pre-B.B.Q. "innovation" order - but with $5.00 of extra fat. Our order is less tasty too because the B.B.Q. chef has applied the same amount of marinade, which has to season the 30% of extra fat remaining in the roast.
TANGO EQUIVALENT: Championship Style Salon Tango Clones. They look more elegant, they "walk" more fine. They win more prizes, they have better resumes and marketing and they make more money!
But they don't taste good at all - where's the music, where's the soul? Apparently , these "Barbie and Ken Championship Salon Tango dolls" are manufactured somewhere in China so that the people who are attracted by exterior appearance alone and can't tell the difference between "Zombie-like, by the rulebook going-through-the-motions movements robotically "timed" to the music (and yes, they can program that, down to the pauses and the footwork and stuff!)" and real, flesh and blood dancing will open their wallets for classes and more classes.
And what should we do with the remaining crispy B.B.Q. pork? "Don't worry, we'll add a little savoury shrimp sauce, some chives, and some Tofu, and turn this tasteless meat into a delicious "Big Horse Stand!"* said Man Yung.
* Big Horse Stand: A Chinese Tofu dish using leftover crispy B.B.Q. pork with strong stinky salty shrimp sauce as seasoning. This makes even the worst leftovers taste better. They used to serve this at horse stations to open-air restaurant stalls - therefore the weird name!