Pulled pork – sick of seeing it on every menu? Like bare brick walls, slate plates and drinks in jam jars it seems to have become another go-to menu listing used to add that ‘hip’ factor to distinctly un-hip places. Hence it’s become an almost dirty word in some food circles. At a Banter café discussion in Dublin recently three distinctly ‘hip’ café owners (The Fumbally, 147 Deli & Bibi’s) debated the question of whether it was OK to still serve it now you can get it alongside your chicken fillet roll in Spar – can it still be the filling of choice for serious food establishments? Well the answer is of course YES! As the panel agreed and so do I – as with all food fads and trends quality will prevail (we hope). So here’s my quick guide to picking the right pulled pork…
Firstly, what is it?
Usually a nice piece of pork shoulder, a fatty, hard-working cheap piece of meat. It requires slow, prudent cooking to achieve the desired pulled, juicy texture. It should be easily picked apart, hence the title ‘pulled’.
How did we all end up eating it?
Well I reckon it’s thanks to the wonderful genius that is David Chang. This Korean-American chef didn’t invent pulled pork but he did create a very particular and somewhat exemplary version of this dish. When Chang opened Momofuku in New York 10 years ago he reinvented casual dining and changed the restaurant game, starting off serving what he could afford to – pork shoulder being a great value ingredient. His famous pork buns, ramen and then in turn his bo ssäm became the talk of the town.
As New York food trends regularly do his slow cooked pork inspired countless imitators across the country, then the world, now with entire restaurants devoted to slow-cooked pulled pork. It is now fully a part of our modern food vernacular.
So what should you look for?
Proper pulled pork – well sourced, slow cooked, lovingly prepared pork that melts in your mouth and with a taste that lingers into your dreams at night…this is NOT something you can generally get at the local garage or greasy spoon. So please be pork aware.
Watch out for ‘Barbecued Pulled Pork’ in places that clearly don’t have a kick ass barbecue. To barbecue pork shoulder well, you need lots of smoke, lots of time sitting adjacent to smouldering coals, with fresh air coming in too. So if there’s no barbecue it sight I’m guessing the ‘barbecue’ flavour comes in the form of a sickly sauce added after it’s been cooked in a regular oven.
Also look out for anywhere you know there’s no kitchen! Subway recently made a big fuss of launching their pulled pork sub. Like the rest of it’s sandwiches, the pork is already pre-pulled and sits in little cardboard boxes behind the counter, only to be microwaved before being placed on your roll upon ordering. Yum…Pulled pork should be fresh, look out for places you know are actually cooking!
Got it. So where can I find it?
New York has Momofuku, London’s got the incredible Pitt Cue and lots more. But what about Dublin? That’s where I need some help – so much around, not enough time to try it all! Lovin’ Dublin has a list of their top ten places to eat pulled pork most of which are pretty good. And I’ve got to say we really excel at the pulled pork sambo here. Oxmantown always serve an incredible version 12 hour roast pork shoulder, gribiche, pickles & rocket on a Blaa as do their Capel Street neighbours Brother Hubbard aslo fellow Northsider’s 147 Deli. Still, I’d love to see some bo ssäm style done well here in Dublin – anyone know anywhere? Suggestions very much welcomed…
I’m hungry. Can I make it at home?
Yes! It’s easy, you just need to be patient and get some good pork. Here is it famous Momofuku Bo Ssam recipe. And The Guarian’s ‘How to cook the perfect’ always delivers…Felicity Cloake – How to cook the perfect pulled pork