My late father had a special liking for Cantonese cuisine. He loved amongst others the Cantonese style suckling pig and roasted pig heads. Perhaps not many people know that traditional Foochows do not roast meat the way Cantonese do. My father however also loved to cook one special dish on occasions like birthdays and the various festivals - the soft and slowly boiled knuckle with ginger and wine (and a dash of soy sauce). This dish is called "Chin Niik/Pork" and is indeed a fantastic dish which my family loves since all those long ago days. The skin and the meat can become so tender during the slow cooking that a chopstick can slice the flesh!! Today's posting however is about the suckling pig ....and I do have Ann(a Cantonese) and her family in mind ...
A good side dish to go with the suckling pig is pounded and stir fried Tapioca leaves fried with some ikan bilis and ginger - Some cucumber pickles would also be a good accompaniment. Another side dish is brinjal tempura. So this meal we had with the suckling pig is actually quite a cultural fusion of cuisine!!
(My son pounded the tapioca leaves which I gathered early in the morning from the nearby border land. Tapioca grows wild in most places and indigenous food gatherers are often seen picking the tops in the morning in the ulu. I often get mine whenever I go for a walk in the nearby river banks.)
A suckling pig (or sucking pig, according to the OED) is a piglet fed on its mother's milk and slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks. Suckling pig is traditionally cooked whole, often roasted, in various cuisines. It is usually prepared for special occasions and gatherings.
The term derives from the word "suckling", which refers to a young mammal still being suckled.
The meat from suckling pig is pale and tender and the cooked skin is crisp and can be used for pork rinds. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous due to the amount of collagen in a young pig.
(The suckling pig we ordered as take away is already chopped up nicely - almost exact rectangle pieces ready for the chopsticks)
The suckling pig is also known in other cultures by other names.
Lechón is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonial possessions throughout the world. The word lechón originated from the Spanish term leche (milk); thus lechón refers to a suckling pig that is roasted. Lechón is a popular cuisine in Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America and considered as the National Dish of the Philippines. The dish features a whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal.
In most regions, lechón is prepared throughout the year for any special occasion, during festivals, and the holidays. After seasoning, the pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The pig is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action.
Balinese cooking has a type of suckling pig called Babi Guling.
Presenting a suckling pig to a welcomed guest is a good gesture but bringing home one to mother is an act of filial piety. The soft flesh is easily eaten when mum does not have enough good teeth to chew. And the crunchy and crispy skin melts in the mouth.
A well roasted suckling pig at Chinese any dinner is a cultural feather in the cap worn not only by a good chef but by the gracious host.
To my family eating a good suckling pig once a year is a joy in itself....and a celebration of life!!