Chef just returned from a junket to the Far East where he was invited to speak at a couple of Wine and Food trade shows and an Asian Sommeliers Conference. Truly though, you can really only go on a “junket” to the Far East. This is the proper use of the word. No one ever says they are going on a “junket” to, say, Reno; or Fresno. No, a “junket” has to be a trip to some place so far away they show it with one of those maps of the world, like in an Indiana Jones movie, that has the little animated airplane with the moving red line behind it as it hops from city to city, country to country, continent to continent.
Anyway, he was in Singapore for a few days, then Hong Kong. I asked him if he ate anything really cool, and he told me tried Durian in Singapore. A Durian is an Asian fruit both prized and despised at the same time. It is praised for it’s custard-like texture, flavor that defies definition as to whether it is sweet, savory, or fruity because it is all of the above. But the most endearing and revolting quality is the smell. It is like eating creamy pineapple-strawberry-custard that smells like ripe fontina. Definitely one of those “how the hell did anyone figure out you can eat this” kind of foods. The Durian, even in it’s whole, uncut form, is so pungent that these signs are common on public transit in Singapore:
And while there is no posted fine, trying to carry a concealed Durian would be like trying to covertly eat Cornuts at your desk when you were in fifth grade; there is just no way you’re not getting busted.
The other bizarre yet delicious food he mentioned trying was whole fried baby pig at Lei Garden, a Michelin One Star restaurant in Hong Kong. These are not Terrier-sized suckling pigs, the little beauties you see turning on spits at Hawaiian Barbecues, or lying on a platter with an apple in its mouth. These are small, barely football-sized little guys, pulled directly from the tit, then fried whole so they have a crackling skin and bones you can crunch and eat like you were eating a whole quail.
If you have ever been to a “wet market” in Asia, you know that this is by no means the most bizarre thing eaten in the region. A culture that has no compunction about eating frogs, dogs, rats, or horses is not going to even blink at the idea of eating a just-born porcine. And being the dedicated pork aficionado that I am, it is certainly an intriguing idea. I just don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t know if I am grossed out by the very thought of it, or afraid that I might really like it. Then what would I do? It is certainly not a food product one finds readily available at Safeway, or even the local farmer’s market, here in the U.S. Will I find myself at the local pig farm with a burlap bag over my shoulder, cutting through chain link fences at midnight while my assistant holds a torch, saying something to him like, “Come, Igor. There is wild work to be done…” Or will I take to the streets and protest in front of the farm, carrying a sign that says, “It’s not a ‘Procedure.’ It’s Bacon!”
Anyway, I’m off on a something of a little junket myself tomorrow. SNMT will be on a brief hiatus as I am leaving for a four day trip to Atlanta that will bring fresh meaning to the old saying, “Write if you find work…” More on this story as it develops.
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