For those who love both poetry and pork, the recitation and the recipe, Dongpo Rou’s silken layers hold a potent blend of both. This famous dish of Hangzhou, a city tucked near where the Qiantang River spills into the Yangtze Delta of eastern China, is named for its creator, the celebrated Chinese poet, Su Shi. Also known as Su Dongpo, he gave his name to the much-loved dish.
Stories are still told of how he forgot his simmering pork while playing chess or of the misunderstanding among his servants when he called for pork with wine. He was thinking a nice cup of spirits; they were thinking boozy stew. I like to think that while the pork belly simmered gently in wine and soy sauce and spices, the poet-cook composed or recite an afternoon’s worth of verse.
Once a month or so, my mother sends me a box from home filled with food. The last one, timed perfectly for lunar new year, included a batch of rice cakes. Before I even saw them, though, I knew there was treasure buried somewhere deep beneath her homemade peanut brittle, gingery mustard pickles from the last greens in her garden and bags of candied coconut used as packing material. The distinctive green-tea aroma of banana leaves had emerged as soon as the packing tape was cut.
Lucky me, the flu came visiting last week. Even after three days of sleeping in bed and swallowing nothing more than bananas and Advil, I could tell my uninvited guest had no intention of leaving. Time to get serious.
Cooking was out of the question — I could barely stand up straight with the long, invisible spikes piercing both sides of my brain — so I smiled as sweetly as possible at my husband and said three words: Pho ga. Please.
With a decidedly new take on the happy meal, the folks over at GOOD have filled their upcoming March/April issue with stories and photos about food along with their usual provocative round-up of art, politics and culture from around the world. Excellent visual design and a refreshingly straight-forward take on sustainability distinguish their pages. My friend Stewf introduced me to GOOD last year, on a camping trip no less, and since then I’ve been a loyal reader.
I’ve always wondered why street food was not as popular in the US. And then I started trying to understand health codes, land use policy, business permits, tax laws, risk management briefs, and sidewalk obstruction ordinances. I soon lost my appetite. The confusion was enough to make me give up on ever enjoying hot rice cakes while sitting on a plastic stool leaned up against a park wall or discovering the best roasted yams ever at the entrance to a post office. Continue reading “Eating Space: Food in the Open”