There are some foods and flavors that I used to take for granted just because I grew up eating them. This isn’t to say that I liked all of them, but generally the ingredients in my pantry could be boiled, sauteed, fried, sprinkled, or stuffed into a sandwich in some way that would make the whole affair flavorful and undoubtedly tasty. One such pantry item would be pork sung, pictured below.
Now this particular jar of dry, almost cottony stuff has been a welcome member of my family’s kitchen for as long as I can remember. I don’t think my mom grew up eating very much of it (read: commie food rations), but my dad ate it with toast or steamed breads as a kid in Hong Kong for breakfast or a snack. I ate it when I was a kid, my brother eats it in copious amounts with congee, and fifty years later, my dad is still eating it. No one’s died from it; in fact, nearly everyone I know who has tried it loves it. What’s not to like? It’s got great soy saucy saltiness, and a satisfying texture, though you wouldn’t think that tufts of dried pork would be appealing. It crunches a little bit and the flavor really comes together as you chew it.
Anyway, last week, I found myself wondering for the first time what exactly pork sung is. I couldn’t believe that after all this time, I had written it off as one of those inexplicably Chinese and strange ingredients that happens to taste good in carb heavy situations. So what is it? Pork sung is known in Chinese as rousong, and it’s made by stewing cheap cuts of pork in a sweetened soy sauce mixture until the meat is tender enough for the individual muscle fibers to be separated with a fork. The whole separated mixture is then dried in an oven and then again in a hot wok to ensure that the meat is, in fact, dried and ready for packaging. So what looks, seems, and sounds like something completely foreign is really pulled pork that is twice-dried. If you’ve ever been to a Chinese bakery or if you ever go into one in the future, you’ll probably see pork sung stuffed into a scallion bun or sandwiched between two very white pieces of bread, often with a Chinese hard-scrambled egg accompanying it.
I decided I would blend a little old-school with the new-school Vietnamese banh-mi sandwich craze. I took a banh-mi baguette that I got in Westminster and mixed up a little spicy yogurt sauce, julienned some cucumber, stuffed it with pork sung, and topped it with a little cilantro. It’s not anywhere close to what’s actually in a banh-mi, but it’s got the crunch that usually comes in the form of pickled carrots and daikon, the spice of the jalapeno, and the bite of the cilantro. It’s delicious, and one of the easiest and cheapest things you can make.
Ingredients: Baguette (or bread), pork sung, julienned cucumber, and any other veggies you might want.
Sauce: a combination of 1 tbsp. Fage Total 0% and 1 tsp. of Sriracha hot sauce. Simple, low-fat, flavorful, and delicious. Better than mayo.