Pork Poems

This week I lost a tooth, which always puts me in a maudlin state of mind wherein I obsessively contemplate the nature of mortality, and I’ve been thinking the best way to be memorialized would be to have a food named after me. Here are some examples I can think of:

The sandwich (Earl of Sandwich)

John Wayne candy bar (John Wayne)

Oysters Rockefeller (John D.  Rockefeller)

Fettuccine Alfredo (Alfredo di Lelio)

Eggs Benedict (no idea, but it has to be someone)

Frangelico (Fra Angelico, duh)

Cherry Garcia ice cream (Jerry Garcia)

Earl Grey tea (some British prime minister)

Margarita cocktail (Rita Hayworth. Real name Margarita Cansino)

Melba toast (Dame Nellie Melba)

Pavlova (Anna Pavlova)

General Tso’s chicken (also has to be someone, right?)

Dongpo pork (Su Dongpo)

"I want Dong Po!" ... too obscure? I love 'Kickboxer'.

"I want Dong Po!" ... too obscure? I love 'Kickboxer'.

Dongpo pork is a new favourite recipe of mine. It is Chinese cuisine at its finest – simultaneously elaborate and simple. The ingredients are few but the pork must be boiled, reboiled, simmered in a sauce, fried, boiled again, then steamed. Why is it named after the poet Su Dongpo? No one knows. Almost certainly he didn’t invent it (who could imagine a poet going to all that work?). As Lin Hsiang puts it in Chinese Gastronomy, this dish is “…named after Su Tungpo, the poet, for unknown reasons. Perhaps it is just because he would have liked it.” And I bet he would have. When you are done, the pork is so tender the fat can be eaten with chopsticks.

Dongpo Pork

1 lb pork belly

1 tea bag (Lapsang Souchong for preference)

4 spring onions

About an inch of fresh ginger, slivered

1 head broccoli


1 cup water

8 cloves garlic, smashed

5 slices ginger

1 tablespoon peppercorns

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

Boil a pot of water and toss in the pork. When it comes back to the boil, drain the pork, clean the pot (go on, do it), put the pork back in and cover with cold water. Bring back to the boil. Boil 30 minutes. Fish out the pork, keep the water.

Heat up another saucepan with all the sauce ingredients. Add the pork and simmer for a few minutes, until nicely coloured. Remove the pork and reserve the sauce.

Heat up some oil in a saucepan (or wok). Fry the pork on all sides until well browned and the skin is crispy. While this is happening, steep the tea bag in boiling water for a minute or so, then toss the water and keep the tea bag.

browning belly

Place the pork in the saucepan of water again, and add the tea bag. Simmer 30 more minutes.

Cut the spring onions in half, and use them to make a lattice at the bottom of your bamboo steamer. Place the pork on top of this, then steam for 2 hours. You will need to top up the water a few times.

steaming onions

Don't forget to cover the steamer... unlike this pic

Don't forget to cover the steamer... unlike this pic

Cut the broccoli into florets and place in the steamer for the final 5 minutes of cooking time.

Place the pork and broccoli on a serving dish, reheat the sauce (thicken with cornflour if you like) and pour over the pork. Garnish with the slivers of ginger.

It’s a long process, no doubt, but there’s only one life to eat, enjoy, and enjoy eating. As the poet himself put it:

Shui Lung Yin by Su Dongpo

Drinking through the night at East Slope,
still drunk on waking-up,
I return home around midnight.
My house-boy snores like thunder,
no answer to my knock.

Leaning on my stick, listening to the river,
I wish this body belonged to someone else.
When can I escape this turmoil?

In the deep night, with the wind still, the sea calm;
I’ll find a boat and drift away,
to spend my final years afloat,
trusting to the river and the sea.

15 comments to Pork Poems


    With reference of your article we have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” in 1908 in restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in a street in central Rome, after leaving the restaurant of his mother Angelina. In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo and Ines, with the famous “gold cutlery”” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo” http://www.alfredo-roma.it/.
    We must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo” in Rome.
    We inform that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

  • War Pig

    I can see why this costs so much compared to other pork meals in Taiwan. It’s tasty and very tender, as you said, but I had no idea it was so fussy to make. Kou Rou tastes almost as good and is a lot less fussy to make

    Sheesh, Dongpo pork is like making French apple tarts where all the slices of fruit have to be exactly the same size and placed just so, all aligning to make a perfect spiral.

    You are a patient man. You suffer for your art and I admire that. I’m more like America’s Test Kitchen – always looking for a simpler way. I don’t make French apple tarts their way. I core the apples and slice them on a mandolin into rings and make it like that, which mom considers to be heresy at the very least and blasphemy at worst.

    Those are interesting facts about food names. I have eaten many, many John Wayne candy bars in C-rats in my life. They were okay and one of the few consistently edible parts of C-rats (along with the cans of PB&J). Almost everything else in C-rats needed copious amounts of Tabasco, including the hot cocoa powder mix. ;-)

  • Lizz Sake

    Hi. I found this site over a year ago via the comic. I have enjoyed perusing some of the recipes, popping in now and again to see if there was anything new that interested me.

    How horrified was I to find this post today: such a lack of respect, and such blatant mockery of mutilation and death of pigs. I merely cannot believe what I am reading.

    I simply do not understand how someone can take pleasure in the pain of others. What has ANY of this got to do with eating? This is like reading the grotesque; like a train crash from which one cannot remove one’s eyes.

    How educated people who care of human rights, can then compartmentalize their compassion, and turn their backs on the innocent who are used for man to make a profit and nothing more,is unbelievable. There is no necessity in this. To discuss the part of an animal, and to objectify that animal is such a sexist thing to do and goes against all forms of feminism, and to put that on a blog for people to supposedly enjoy is macabre.

    I will continue to read the strip, but this is totally uncalled for.

  • I did not know about Kou Rou. I will try that next time I get some belly.

    I could see Tabasco working in cocoa.

  • War Pig

    Well, the GI, C-ration version of cocoa powder, at least.

    It was so fortified with vitamins that it had a metallic taste. We’d mix the cocoa powder and the instant coffee together, add water and Tabasco to taste, heat it up over a fuel tab or small fire and drink it right out of the canteen cup. If we had any leftover jelly we’d stir that in, too. Anything to cover that metallic taste.

  • Hmm. Maybe I’ll try to make that next time I go camping. If I can find any 1974 cocoa powder, that is.

  • Margarita cocktail (Rita Hayworth. Real name Margarita Cansino)

    I think that just blew my mind.

  • Another common origin tale begins the cocktail’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas where, in 1948, head bartender Santos Cruz created the Margarita for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee. He supposedly named it after the Spanish version of her name, Margarita, and it’s been a hit ever since. Just another origin of many.

  • War Pig

    Baby Ruth candy bar. Not named after George Herman (Babe) Ruth, but after Ruth Cleveland, the daughter of President Grover Cleveland.

    “Mr T” cereal, named after the bouncer/actor. “I pity the poor fool, who don’t eat my cereal.”

    Fillet of Beef Prince Albert, after you know who.

    Battenberg cake – probably named after one of the late-19th-century princely Battenberg family living in England, who gave up their German titles during World War I and changed their name to Mountbatten.

    Bellini (cocktail) – Giovanni Bellini, famous artist.

    Caesar salad – Caesar Cardini (1896–1956) or one of his associates created this salad at the restaurant of the Hotel Caesar in Tijuana.

    Chateaubriand – a cut and a recipe for steak named for Vicomte François René de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), French writer and diplomat

    Tetrazzini – In the early 1900s, opera singer Luisa “The Florentine Nightingale” Tetrazzini was a nationwide sensation. It was a popular tradition at that time to name dishes after the person who inspired them—or at least that’s what legend says Chef George Auguste Escoffier did.

    Graham Cracker – Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham invented this high-fiber snack of unsifted, coarsely ground wheat flour because he believed a strict diet would help curb unhealthy sexual urges.

    Earl Grey Tea – It is said that Prime Minister Earl Charles Grey of Britain named this tea after himself in the 1830s. He received tea leaves made with bergamot oil and citrus as a gift and later gave the recipe to the London tea establishment, Jackson of Piccadilly.

    Melba Toast/Peach Melba – When Australian singer Dame Nellie Melba was ill in the late 1890s, she was fed these crisp cracker-like toasts to settle her stomach. Chef Escoffier, who first created the crackers, named them after the singer, for whom Peach Melba is also named.

    Nachos – One night in 1943, across the U.S. border in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was working as maitre d’ at the Victory Club. When a group of military officers’ wives came in as he was getting ready to close down, he couldn’t find the chef, so he threw together baked tortillas, Cheddar and jalapeños—and nachos were born.

    Tootsie Roll – Austrian immigrant Leo Hirshfield opened a small candy shop in New York City in 1896, where his goal was to create a chocolate that wouldn’t melt as soon as the heat hit it. He named his sweet treat after his then 5-year-old daughter, Tootsie.

    Oh, what fun you can have with an internet connection. ;-)

  • Muzhik

    So, Daniel, has the tiny popcorn arrived yet? And was it everything I promised?

  • Sorry! Yes, the Tiny But Mighty arrived and after a few experiments I have determined it has ruined all other popcorn for me. Getting over the “chewy” factor was a hurdle and required me to drop my prejudice that popcorn should have the texture of styrofoam packing peanuts. Any suggestions for seasoning?

  • War Pig

    In South America, they use butter made from goat or sheep milk (or even Llama milk). Tastes different than cow’s milk butter. Also coarse salt.

  • Muzhik

    I’m afraid I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to popcorn — salt (regular or coarse) and sometimes cow butter.

    (NEVER artificial butter-flavored oil product! I have refused to return to some theaters when that was what they poured on their popcorn. I think they used it because it was the only stuff that could penetrate the “big, fluffy” kernels. Does that make me a popcorn snob?)

    Plus, the popcorn has to be popped in oil. I remember when air-popped popcorn was the rage because it was SO much healthier because it didn’t use oil. You then had to saturate the product in butter because it really was like Styrofoam pellets and couldn’t be eaten plain. I wonder what tiny popcorn would be like when run through an air popper?

  • War Pig

    Dunno about that, but most commercial places use palm oil sticks (about the same size as sticks of butter) that they melt and use to pop the corn.

  • War Pig

    I pop mine in EVOO with a dash of peanut oil (to increase the smoke point) for flavor. I use real butter, kosher salt and if I want, finely grated cheese on my popcorn. Parmigiana, Romano, extra sharp cheddar, Gouda, aged Swiss. Depends on my mood that day. I use Land o’ Lakes unsalted butter as it melts well and smoothly and does not tend to separate. I have also tried I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (olive oil blend) and it’s also pretty good.