MACAO’S PORK CHOP PINEAPPLE BUN

  

IT CAN’T BE RIGHT.  IT SHOUDN’T BE RIGHT.

BUT IT MIRACULOUSLY IS.

History had it, that whenever two polar opposite cultures are smashed together, often under reluctant or even violent circumstances, despite hardships and losses, something mutated but beautiful eventually comes out at the other end.  That something, is usually food.

No doubt that America has its unspeakable history from the time of slavery, but what was left from its ugliness, was the unapologetic creole and cajun.  Taiwan’s predominantly Fujian and kejia culture (derived from China’s southern coast) adjusted to 50 years of Japanese rule by nurturing an uniquely categorized cuisine all of its own, which, some say, may be the last-standing pride of this politically fading island.  So on… what unfortunate events gave us the Vietnamese coffee, and so forth… what conflict left us the baba-nyonya?  Food, among sadness and realities, always knows how to find its own humble delights.  Food, is always optimistic.

And right now, standing in Hong Kong where such experiences were no stranger, I’m holding in my hand, a  glorious testament of such history.  A legacy from Portuguese’s colonial time in Macao, the pork chop pineapple bun.

Macao’s pork chop bun compared to Portuguese’s bifana, obviously, is another life.  It uses bone-in pork chops instead of cutlets, reflecting Asian’s general preference for flavour over convenience.  On top of which, it deploys soy sauce as part of the seasonings, and baking soda, a typical and effecient meat-tenderizing agent in Cantonese cooking.  But perhaps the most controversial act of it all is that, in one version, it stuffs the shallow-fried pork chop, without a blinking of an eye, in between an iconic pastry of this particular region.  The pineapple buns.

It can’t be right.  It shouldn’t be right.  But in between the crispy and salty edges of a well-seasoned and juicy bone-in pork chop, and the sweet and crumbly crust of a buttery pineapple bun, it miraculously is.  To be honest, I don’t even know why I doubted it in the first place.  Salty and sweet.  A proven equation that works.  Really, give it a chance.  No matter how unseemly and conflicting the idea may sound, like the clashing of the cultures that nurtured it, pork chop pineapple bun is a tasty mutation that made the best of it all.

And don’t forget to serve it with Hong Kong-style English milk tea.

  

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MACAO’S PORK CHOP PINEAPPLE BUN

Ingredients

    PORK CHOP BRINE:
  • 2 slices bone-in pork chops
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1?2 stalk celery
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 4 small shallots
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking soda
  • TO FRY:
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce + 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp potato starch or tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Canola oil for frying
  • TO ASSEMBLE:
  • 2 Hong Kong-style pineapple buns
  • Mayonnaise
  • Yellow mustard

Instructions

  1. TO BRINE PORK CHOPS: Use a scissor to sever the silver membrane around the edge of the pork chop at every 1/2" (the silver membrane will prevent the pork chop to be pounded thin, and will curl up during frying), then pound the pork chop thin with a meat-pounder. Since I didn't have my blender with me because I'm traveling, I only smashed all the aromatics in the brine (or you should at least mince them). But ideally, in a blender, blend water, celery, ginger, shallots, dark soy sauce, salt, sugar, white and black pepper together until smooth, then stir in the crushed garlics and baking soda (this is what tenderizes the meat, a common Cantonese technique), and submerge the pork chops in the brine for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, mix 1 tbsp dark soy sauce and 1/2 tbsp sugar together. And whisk potato starch, white pepper and black pepper together, then set aside until needed. Rinse the pork chops under water to get rid of any excess brine, then pat dry with a clean towel. Brush a very very thin layer of the sugar-soy sauce on the surface (this is not for flavouring, but for encouraging caramelization during frying, so you get a nice color before the thin meat is over-cooked). Then dust the potato starch-mixture very thinly over the surface of the pork chops (like dusting a working surface with flour). You don't even have to cover every surface, and be sure to dust off any excess. We don't want a thick breading, but just a little crunch here and there.
  3. Add enough canola oil in a deep skillet until it reaches 1" deep, and heat over medium-high heat. You can drop a bit of potato starch in the oil, and if it puzzles up immediately and enthusiastically, the oil is ready. Fry 1 pork chop at a time, until golden browned on both side, drain well, then fry the next one.
  4. Slice the pineapple buns in half, then rub a thin layer of mayonnaise on 1 side. Place the pork chop on top, then squeeze a generous amount of yellow mustard over it, then cap it. Serve immediately with Hong Kong milk tea.
http://ladyandpups.com/2015/11/29/macaos-pork-chop-pineapple-bun/

10 Comments

  • where has this been all my life?!?! i could probably live off of bolo baos (with some dai baos thrown in for variety). and i find these “fusion” foods (banh mi and budae jjigae come to mind right now) so interesting; there’s so many nuances behind why seemingly discordant items came together.

  • mandy you totally get a gold star for shooting this post on site in HK (am i right? doesn’t look like your kitchen!)

    plus: why, oh, why, am i cursed to live in a country where one should approach the procurement of pork products like buying crack cocaine?!

    unrelated: can’t wait to hear what you think of the new lucky peach cookbook! i recently visited the NYC two bridges neighborhood and raided the supermarkets for missing pantry items from both the cookbook and your taiwanese beef noodle soup post (o’yeah – totally scored that exact brand of chinese bbq sauce). alot of their recipes have your name written all over them!! oh and don’t get me started over Xian Famous Foods X_X

  • I’m normally a thinker but wow, you’ve outdone me on this one, Mandy! What an interesting way to look at the suffering that took place in centuries past. I’m glad that at least food and all the awesomeness that surrounds it is alive and well here in the States. So true! Food is always optimistic. Err…well, most of the time unless my hips have grown an inch or two. :P

  • Mandy,

    When I saw this, my first thought was, “This is the sexiest effing sandwich I’ve ever seen.” Well done… I am drooling.

    Any idea where I can get my hands on one of these sandwiches in NYC? And/or the pineapple buns?

    • Alexandra, you can definitely find pineapple buns in Chinese/Cantonese bakery shops (in china town), but you may have to make the pork chop yourself. I’ve only seen this in combination here in Hong Kong and Macao :)

  • Sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing this. Will be giving this a go one night this week :-) SimonSounds amazing. Thanks for sharing this. Will be giving this a go one night this week :-) Simon

  • I am suppose to be looking for using tamarind paste in the preparation on duck confit, but only kept coming across sauces utilizing tamarind paste with duck confit, when I stumbled upon your recipe blog. I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewers:a most talented cook, photographer, writer, etc. and, in all probability possess talents yet to be discovered. I then saw a picture of you which answered my current queries: Is she in the Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter age category? How are such seemingly long expenditures of time and effort put forth while doing so many other endeavors? Why is there such an array of recipes with an Asian touch and creativity? Well, your detailed picture gave knowledge to me that the “Lady” is barely beyond Spring, thus her energy. Her culture is of Asian ancestry, and previously, her homeland, answered the Asian touch and creativity.

    For the most part, I avoid being stereotypical, but there are some truisms to stereotypes. For an example I am an “Other” race foodie and prior excellent cook who loved to prepare and purchase the best of the best, but as I rapidly entered my Winter years and slid into the beginning of Autumn, I discovered a decline in physical and mental ability — not to mention the waning of energy, but cooking remains a high priority.

    This is where I am enlisting your talents. PLEASE submit some recipes that do not demand so much effort. Age, for me, has brought with it a modicum of LAZINESS. But I have retained a need for the best of the best. If you decide to broaden your expertise and acknowledge my request, I have kitchen appliances and tools abound, nor am I on any special diet, nor am I attempting the many “healthy low fat” food fads — one only lives once, is my motto.

    Oh, and if I still lived in the Los Angeles area, pineapple buns would be a cinch to obtain. Olympic Blvd and downtown L.A. are legendary Chinatowns. But aghast, I currently live in boring Cincinnati! Thank Goodness for internet travel.

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