The Nasty Bits: Grilled Pork Neck, Thai Style
Now I hate using this column as a personal platform for all my food neuroses, but here goes. As some of you may know, I started this column three years on the hunch that there would be an audience for the sort of cuts on the animal that I grew up eating—stomachs and livers, ears and hocks.
Probably one of the first solid foods I ate as a kid was neck bone, stewed in a soup with ginger and rice wine. The soup was flecked with all these bits of cartilage and tendon that took me the better part of an hour to gnaw clean. And I have been very grateful all these years later to find a whole community of eaters who share my love of these sorts of cuts.
So, in a way, I feel it appropriate to turn to you now with some not so great news. For over a week now, I have not wanted to eat offal, or meat of any kind. You could see how this could be problematic for anyone, but for me in particular it's been next to catastrophic. These neck bones, which I had marinated in fish sauce and sugar, were the last bits of meat I truly enjoyed. They were roasted, then served with a spicy tamarind dipping sauce—just the right complement for the fatty cut.
What happened after I ate these bones was this: I threw them in the trashcan and neglected to take out the trash that evening. That evening I set about my nightly routine—which involves a stack of books that I am reading at any given time—and about three books in, I heard an awful rustling from the trashcan, and looked up just in time to see a mouse leap out, darting into the corner. My roommate came into my room to find me almost crying in bed and pointing uselessly to the general vicinity of the trash.
I watched my roommate set all the traps. I watched him gingerly set down the traps while I stayed in the kitchen, cowering. A mere ten minutes later, the mouse was caught and disposed of...by my roommate. That night I lay there, still traumatized, and when I awoke the next morning, I found that I had no appetite for anything. Nada. Zilch. (If you are curious as to what I did manage to stomach, you can read about it on my weekly noodle column for Serious Eats New York.) For days I tried to make light of the matter. So what if the mouse turned into a pile of blood and guts when it died? Great! I love eating blood and guts. One of my favorite breakfast foods in Shanghai, city of my birth, is chicken blood soup, where cubes of congealed chicken blood, as soft as silken tofu, are simmered in a clear chicken broth. And you all know of my fondness for stomachs, either stir-fried with onions, or simmered and crisped up to be used as a filling for tacos.
But no, I haven't eaten a good piece of liver in over week, which is actually kind of a first for me. I always feel like a good piece of liver. Or at least, I did.
A few days after the whole mouse incident, I made up another batch of these neck bones, which can be either roasted or grilled. The meat was charred slightly on the outside, and tender inside—segments of meat that did not flake off the bone, but just about. And the sauce was tart and sweet, spicy and salty. In other words, there was nothing more I could have done to make that pork neck better, and still I did not care to gnaw, or even eat it once I'd deboned everything.
I don't know what I'll do if I never want to gnaw on bones again. I really don't want to think about it, but I'll tell you, I'm getting pretty concerned.
About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.