March 7 – Crown Roast Of Pork Day
I’ll have to admit, even in the stodgy, traditional areas of New York cuisine (Delmonico’s will shove its nose in the air at anything created in the past century), Crown Roast Of Pork isn’t all that celebrated anymore. A long-time traditional way to serve pork roast, a crown roast of pork is a rack of pork ribs–actually, two racks, tied together–trimmed so the white rib bones stick up in a decorative fashion. It looks very similar to a crown rack of lamb, which is the more popular of the “crowned” dishes, and was one of the traditional Christmas feast dishes. (Little chef hats on top of each rib are optional.) These days, however, a crown roast feels stuffy and old, like it would be what your grandmother’s grandmother would consider a fancy feast. Not to mention a crown roast, which is literally the whole ribcage of a pig, tied together into a ring, would feed a large family, and is very difficult to serve (let alone price!) at a restaurant with a high enough caliber to master it.
The ubiquitous David Chang, of the famous Momfukus all around the city, has put a modern spin on the large, roasted pork this food holiday represents. Though not ribs, his roasted pork butt (hehe, I said “butt.” :P) is slow cooked to perfection, and meant for a group of people to enjoy–no single serving butts here. You can find it at Momofuku Ssam Bar, his upscale meat restaurant in the East Village. Here, a $200 tasting menu for six to seven people will include the pork, called the bo ssam, which has been roasted for six hours to make it crumble-apart tender. The fact that everyone eats it in a traditional Korean style–pulling hunks of meat off the platter and wrapping them in provided lettuce leaves–maintains that same family-style feeling you would get from watching a Norman Rockwell character slice off each section of the crown roast at your Christmas table.
Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave (between 13th St & 12th St)
“The wrapping technique is a traditional Korean food genre called ssäm. Bo ssäm is something I have ordered before by pointing at menus in conventional Korean restaurants (not being confident about pronouncing an initial double-ess or about the nuance an umlaut implies for a Korean a), and I have been repelled by the plate of iceberg lettuce, unsafe-looking oysters and cold grey pork belly I got. Mr. Chang, following the method that has made him rich and famous, has taken this homespun dish and turned it into gold by deploying a better class of ingredients and tuning up the pork with a special sugar glaze.”–Wall Street Journal
“Put together a group and reserve a $200 enough-for-eight bo ssäm feast: a whole slow-roasted Berkshire hog butt accompanied by mouth-tingling garnishes.”–Food And Wine Magazine
“It’s rubbed with a simple mixture of brown sugar and salt, and slow-roasted for eight hours. By the time it’s hoisted to the table (with a flotilla of raw oysters, and lettuce for wrapping), it’s honey brown on the top and soft enough to eat with flimsy Japanese chopsticks. Is it good? Of course. Did it cause me to squeal out, like the other Meatheads at my table, and begin eating with my fingers? I’m ashamed to say that it did.”–New York Magazine
“The whole pork butt — meant to be eaten by six or more people — is a pigout as fatty and fantastic as any great barbecue joint’s.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Fourth course of PIG! A seriously massive hunk of on-the-bone pork butt came out, looking garish and gruesome and altogether delicious. Soft butter lettuce, 12 raw oysters, rice, and a trio of hot sauces came out with it. Then, we looked at each other hesitantly and started pulling at the meat with our chopsticks. As expected, it fell off in pure unadulterated porky shreds of goodness. We made pork-veg-rice-oyster lettuce wraps, dipped, ate, and made more wraps. And more wraps.”–Deborah D.
“I don’t always eat butt, but when I do, I prefer Momofuku Ssam Bar’s pig butt. You have to pre-order this dish and you need a team of at least 4 people. Probably 6 people if you dont want leftover or to feel like death. It’s 199 for the best meal of your life. It comes with a number of course that culimates in the plate of mouth watering, no knive needing, lettuce wrapping using, awesome sauce dipping, deliciousness of a pig’s butt. No matter how full you are, you will not be able to stop eating that final course. Caution – you may look like a fat@ss to your friends but no worries, they will be too busy pigging on the pig’s butt themselves to notice.”–Chris M.