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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stomach's Eleven and a whole suckling pig

Crisping the crackling on the suckling pig

I know. The irony of a post on suckling pig in the midst of a swine flu outbreak is not lost on me.

But this pig. It was consumed last week in a world where pork still made people happy. It made us very happy. Oh happy indeed.

Ru zhu quang ti
Barbecue whole piglet

Perhaps not so happy for the piglet. He in his silver-lined red cardboard box, skull flayed in two, and body subjected to a roasting by the barbecue masters at Emperors Garden.

Graphic? Yes, but if you eat meat, this is the reality. An animal died and we're determined not to waste any bit of it.

Suckling pig

Thanks to Chinese New Year banquets hosted by Veruca Salt, I'm certainly no stranger to the whole suckling and roast pig from Emperor's Garden. Unlike the whole ones she normally buys, this one is chopped and ready, and I have to say the spectacle of seemingly endless crackling is positively swoonworthy.

K seems to enjoy brandishing a blowtorch, and whilst she assures us that the pig was already in fine condition, she uses the flame to gently warm the meat and studiously blisters any crackling that may may possibly be improved.


We congregate around the table, chopsticks poised. It's a bit like Christmas really. And we're about to eat ourselves into oblivion.


The crackling. Oh my. The thinnest layer of fat is sandwiched by melt-in-your-mouth flesh and an earth-shattering shard of golden toffee-coloured bubblicious crackling.

Peking pancake with roast pork and hoi sin

At the start we have the pork on Peking pancakes, the delicate pancakes more often served with Peking duck. The soft pancake further adds contrast to the indescribable crunch of crackling. A slick of glossy hoisin sauce gives a caramel sweetness.

But the pancakes soon run out, and then it's just an all-out orgy of pork, fat and crackling. No conversation, just crackling turning into smithereens--like the sound of footsteps on gravel--and the occasional gutteral moan of irrepressible delight.

Liang bang hai ze

And because we're at the home of Pig Flyin', Stomachs Eleven is ready for heaven. His generosity boundless, we're treated to a banquet of dishes, some that accompany the suckling pig, others that are served directly after.

The jellyfish is purchased from the shop, but the cucumber salad is homemade, cool spears of green macerating in a dressing of garlic, sesame oil and vinegar. Both offset the richness of the suckling pig nicely.

Pai huang gua
Cucumber salad

Qian cheng feng
Thousand layer wind (pigs ears)

Thousand layer wind is such a poetic name for what is essentially a terrine of pigs ears. This is Pig Flyin's first attempt at this dish, and I'm impressed with its professional appearance. I relish the delicate crunch of cartilage against the soft wobble of gelatin.

La wei chao lian ou
Preserved meat stir fried with fresh lotus root slices

Wafer-thin slices of fresh lotus roots are stir-fried with preserved pork belly (like a Chinese version of speck) and shallots. We eat up our greens in the form of baby pak choy.

Bai cai miao
Stir fried baby pak choy

Zhu shen hua gu ji tang
Bamboo fungus and shiitake mushroom in chicken broth

I'm re-united with the textural revelation that is bamboo fungus, the delicacy I'd only just recently discovered at our dinner of hotpot. Here, Pig Flyin' has simmered the crunchy tube with its net-like appearance in a simple soup of chicken broch alongside shiitake mushrooms.

Yu rong dian chao dou ya
Fish cake and bean sprout stir fry

Oh the feasting. It continues.

A stir fry of fish cake and bean sprouts is a happy jumble of vegetables and protein but it's the steamed egg dish I fall in love with, a simple but supremely elegant dish that's cooked slowly over a low flame and topped with the complex saltiness of prawn roe. It's soft and slippery and without an air bubble in sight.

Xia zi zheng shui dan
Steamed egg with prawn roe

Mei cai kou rou
Red braised garlic pork with preserved vegetable

Red braised garlic pork is our final dish, a humble and hearty homestyle offering. The thick chunks of pork belly have a generous layer of fat, the skin tinged a reddish-brown colour, and the flavours of soy and garlic mingling with the flavour of the preserved mustard greens.

The feast

Gao shao san bao
Three vegetables with sugar and shallots

The Chinese theme continues with dessert. The pot of three vegetables with sugar and shallots is a dish Pig Flyin' learnt from his grandmother. Thick batons of sweet potato, pumpkin and taro are slowly cooked into a kind of sweet stew. It doesn't resemble a Western
concept of dessert, and I struggle to appreciate its heavy starchiness as a post-dinner treat.

Fan sha yu tou
Sugar-coated taro

The sugar-coated taro, on the other hand, was quite a surprise. Taro is characteristically mealy, but it was disguised here in a thick coating of coarse sugar crystals. I watched Pig Flyin' make this dish using caster sugar and water. The dish, he explains, came about when someone's toffee went wrong, but the resulting rubble of sugar was soon embraced as a worthy dish in itself. The addition of shallots adds a vegetably oiliness to the dish that somehow works too.

The taro inside

Sugar and shallot rubble

With thanks to Pig Flyin' and Mrs Pig Flyin' for hosting another fantastic meal once again, and Stomachs' Eleven for their translation skills and eating expertise.

View Larger Map

Emperors Garden BBQ and Noodle
215 Thomas St Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 9899

Open 7 days: 9.30am-11pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/29/2009 01:00:00 am


  • At 4/29/2009 3:31 am, Anonymous Yas said…

    OH. MY. GWAD.
    I've got to go have the pig!! Ever since I've read an article about Shinki roasted pig (local speciality from Okinawa Japan) I've been dying to try!

  • At 4/29/2009 6:28 am, Anonymous Simon said…

    The split head is somewhat imposing, even for a meat eater such as myself. Was that eaten as well that night?

    The pork looks absolutely fantastic, with accompaniments most of which I wouldn't have expected in the home. Was this just dinner with friends or was there a special occasion involved with this dinner?

  • At 4/29/2009 8:42 am, Anonymous billy@ATFT said…

    I am rather gobsmacked with K's patience and blowtorching the pig inch by inch.... things that people do for a nice piece of crackling.

  • At 4/29/2009 9:51 am, Anonymous Steph said…

    Um, WOW! I nearly ate my screen when I saw a picture of the roast pork on the pancake. *sigh of envy* That's it, time to befriend awesome cooks so I can go to awesome dinner parties like these!

  • At 4/29/2009 12:58 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    It's confirmed, Pig Flyin' is my new food hero.

    Such a diverse menu of deliciousness.

    I had no idea you could get whole piglet pre-chopped. This makes so much sense. Do you know if they charge more for this?

    My dilemma of suckling vs roast has been solved. Maybe Dad's idea to torch the skin was not so silly after all.

  • At 4/29/2009 2:15 pm, Blogger Forager said…

    Yum! I want!! This totally reminds me of family dinners. So much bbq goodness.. I think I have to head to chinatown tomorrow and satisfy my new craving courtesy of this post!

  • At 4/29/2009 3:01 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    That looks like a massive feast even for eleven people!

  • At 4/29/2009 6:45 pm, Blogger Tina said…

    That is one MAJOR feast...! I know the skin isn't exactly healthy, but it's one of my irresistable guilty eating pleasures.

    And not wanting to hijack, but check out the first pic here http://foodboozeshoes.blogspot.com/2009/02/inner-views-of-chinese-new-year.html for ... the other half of your piggy :)

  • At 4/29/2009 10:17 pm, Blogger Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    omg. that is one huge feast!
    i want to know how to make that steamed egg dish...
    i've tried those taro things before, they're really good!

  • At 4/30/2009 12:11 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Yas - lol. And ooh a specialty roasted pig from Okinawa sounds droolworthy too!

    Hi Simon - There was actually a fight over the pork cheeks which had supreme layers of fat. And this was a dinner at Pig Flyin's, and that's always an occasion it itself!

    Hi Billy - Well she was only doing touch-ups :) The pig was already roasted with excellent crackling, although I think she really does have pyromaniac tendencies! lol

    Hi Steph - Pig Flyin' is a most awesome cook indeed. I am very very lucky, and so grateful too :)

    Hi Veruca Salt - I know, isn't he amazing? He has such patience and willingess to always put on a feast.

    The pre-chopped piggie was great and the crackling was so deliciously good. Not sure about chopping costs but I can find out.

    Do you have a blowtorch? And lol. I didn't know your dad had suggested that idea!

    Hi Forager - Oh I want to go to your family dinners! lol. Hope you enjoy your crackling in Chinatown!

    Hi Arwen - It was an insane amount of food for 11 people. I could only manage 1/3 a piece of the red-cooked pork. Totally porked out for a week afterwards too!

    Hi Tina - Oh yes, crackling is right up there in terms of utter deliciousness. And other half? I hope you realise that the pigs are flayed, ie. cut down the middle and spread flat, unless there's an 8 legged pig I'm not aware of! :) Very jealous of your tour though. Lucky you!

    Hi Betty - I want to try that steamed egg dish too. Apparently it involved some mirin, soy and dashi. The taro was great - I loved the crunchy sugar coating!

  • At 5/05/2009 2:50 pm, Blogger terri@adailyobsession said…

    the richness of the piggy is well-balanced by the simple refreshing dishes tt followed. whoever made the orders sure knows her food! n everything looks like what u can get in the best restaurant in china. this surely is one of sydney's best chinese restaurant? i'm noting this for my next visit to sydney.

  • At 5/05/2009 11:14 pm, Blogger Jo said…

    hi grabyourfork! may i please know how much the suckling pig was? thanks!

  • At 5/06/2009 1:52 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Terri - You do realise that we were eating at someone's house? Only the suckling pig was from Emperor's Garden BBQ - all the rest was homecooked by the amazing Pig Flyin!

    Hi Jo - The price of the suckling pig will vary depending on its weight. I don't know the exact price of ours, but I'm guessing it was about $200 to $250 - ring Emperor's Garden (number provided above) to check.

  • At 5/06/2009 2:08 am, Blogger Jo said…

    thanks for the info! last time i had suckling pig was 10 years ago in malaysia and my mouth waters just looking at your pictures. and a big thank you for sharing that green cake. such a coincidence cos a workmate brought in a whole cake today and we had no clue what it was. we thought it was ice cream!

  • At 5/07/2009 1:02 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jo - Wow, that is a coincedence regarding the Princess Cake. Hope it tasted delicious too!


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