I cooked some cracklings tonight, the way my grandmother cooked them a long long time ago.
When I was growing up, pork fat was a rare delicacy. Meat was rationed. It was difficult to imagine that one would waste the precious coupons on pork fat instead of good cut of meat.
My grandmother was an extraordinary woman, always working, never complaint and never indulged herself, except, she loved pork fat. Occasionally she took me to the food market across the street and bought a small slap of pork fat with skin. She cut up the meat, then pan fried the pieces in a wok over the coal stove.
The pan frying turned very quickly to deep frying. She scooped out the oil and stored it in a little black urn. The black urn sat on a rotten timber shelf, up high and away from the cats, looking like a treasure pot. In the wok, the pork pieces eventually turned into golden delicious cracklings which we shared with the whole extended family of about 10 people.
Over the next few days, grandmother and I enjoyed hot boiled rice with pork fat for lunches, flavored with a dash of soy sauce. My grandmother called it ‘lou fan’ meaning ‘mix the rice’. These were some of the most delicious meals I ever had.
I still remember our kitchen. The walls were never painted, darken by the smoke from the coal cakes. The small earthy stove was among piles of coal cakes, which we purchased from a small shop at the end of our lane way. From very young age, I helped to carry the coal cakes home, a few at a time, on top of a small timber slab. Our house cats slept on top of the coal cakes during winters for the warmth from the stove, waking up in the morning, looking filthy. The cats were working cats and expected to fetch most of their own food (rats). They ate scraps from the family meals, most of the time it was just some rice, vegetables and sauce. Unloved and hungry, they had anxious looks in the eyes that I could never forget. They had a hard life.
Today, we have shiny appliances in our kitchen and beautiful stone splash back. We have a beautiful dog in our household which we dearly love. He enjoys his home cooked meals with all the goodness.
As I enjoyed the meal, I really appreciate what we have today.
- 100-150g pork skin, fat on
- 2 cup of cooked rice
- 2 tsp dark soy sauce
- a little toasted sesame seeds, to garnish, optional
- a little green shallot (green part only), to garnish, optional
- a little salt
Place the pork on a rack, skin side up; rub some salt on the skin side of the pork; leave in fridge over night uncovered; dice the pork into small pieces (say 1.5cm x 1.5cm) before cooking.
Over medium to high heat, pan fry the pork skin pieces until there is oil; remove most of the oil as they appear; continue to pay fry until the skin has turned to cracklings, approx 30 minutes; leave the cracklings on a rack to cool (and dry out).
Mix the rice with some pork fat (say 2 tbsp) and soy sauce; serve warm with some pork cracklings.
Any remaining pork fat can be store in fridge or in freezer – very tasty for stir frying.
The recipe goes well with a simple saute green vegetable dish.