Pork in Asian Cuisine
The earliest Asian recipes for pork come from China, where a small, wild species was domesticated around 3000 B.C., about 1,500 years before Europeans domesticated the indigenous wild boar.
A Chinese recipe dating from 500 B.C. describes roasting a suckling pig in an oven buried in the earth. The pig was stuffed with dates and covered with straw mixed with clay. This ancient recipe is mirrored today in Polynesia, where pig meat is
celebrated as a marvel of the table.
Pork is the main animal meat eaten in Asia, and China is the world’s leading pork-eating nation. This accounts for the tremendous number of pork recipes in Chinese cuisine.
Despite the restrictions of Islam, which is the dominant religion in Malaysia, Indonesia, and parts of the Philippines and Singapore, Asians consider pork a truly versatile source of protein. It is economical to raise and has virtually no wasted parts. A versatile ingredient in all types of preparations, pork dishes rival those based on fish at banquets and everyday meals as well.
Generally, dishes made from pork are bathed in sauces made from soy sauce, ginger, and honey or sugar. In Indonesia, especially in Vietnam, a superior pork is obtained from pigs fed on chopped banana trunks. Vietnamese cooks consider this type of pork more tender and more deliciously flavored than other less carefully fed animals. In Laos, the national dish is made of fresh pork skin sliced into strips and roasted with mushrooms, string beans, and eggplant.
One of the icons in Philippine cuisine is lechon — suckling pig roasted whole over live coals and served with a tradi
tional sauce made of liver and pickled papaya relish called atchara. The recipes in this section demonstrate the versatility of pork and the many combinations that can be obtained with vegetables, seafood, noodles, and various sauces.