Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pork Belly Meat Stick

My love affair with yakitori began five years ago in Tokyo. Never had I had such an appropriate beer snack to accompany light beer drinking (that 'light' refers to the style of cheap beer and not the quantity consumed). At a tabehodai (all you can eat), one might consume enough animal organs to construct a livestock militia. Izakaya (defined as 'Japanese eating and drinking establishment') was the thing I missed most upon my return, which is why I was delighted to see one open up right in Philly's Chinatown. My delight was peaked when I heard about their Tuesday $2 pint, $1 yakitori deal. Since the discovery of Yakitori Boy, my friends and I spanked this special to our benefit time and time again, and last Tuesday was no different.

It was a reunion of sorts, old college friends now dispersed across the country (half of us in the varied counties of South Philadelphia) meeting for food, drinks, and moderate debauchery. The term 'yakitori' refers specifically to grilled chicken parts, including gizzards,liver, and my personal favorite, hearts. Yakitori Boy has expanded it to include a couple of vegetable options, as well as the new object of my interest: pig. Pork belly, to be exact. Bacon, my old nemesis, in its purest form. Joey endorsed it heartily and it became the most ordered meatstick of the night. Round after round, we kept reducing the variety of our orders until it was essentially beer, pork belly, beer, pork belly, and the occasional quail egg wrapped in bacon.

The pork belly was seasoned with the same salty mixture that coated the chicken parts, but the pork's fattiness held it better. Lately, I've been convinced that the reason I don't love the bacon I've had is that it is too thin cut. The image of a half inch thick piece of bacon sizzling on a Korean BBQ griddle remains the goal in my mind, and this pork belly on a stick came mighty close to my aspirations. Pork fat doesn't have the same sinewy chewiness in the fatty portions of beef cuts. Rather, pork fat seems to melt and become a buttery concoction. In this case, there was not as much chewing as there was feeling the fat dissolve in your mouth. Simply seasoned, and with an easy texture, pork belly meatsticks won me over quickly.

This stuff is the kind of pork I can handle without too much guilty backlash, perhaps because I simultaneously drink copious amounts of beer, the forbidden fun. Of course, having old friends that have known of my dietary restriction for close to a decade watching me eat pork makes it somewhat of a spectacle. It's like having my 20 year old self staring at me and silently judging me, staring at the heathen he will soon become.

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