Earlier this month, a wonderful surprise arrived in my mailbox: a gift from a friend who had visited Japan recently. She’d asked for my address, and I assumed she’d send a lovely card. Oh, but no! This gorgeous little work of art was nestled in a beautifully wrapped box! The tinned copper turtle looks more like a piece of jewelry than a kitchen tool. I’ve been holding on my palm and admiring it, afraid to put such a delicate thing to practical use. But now I’ve used it, the teeth are strong and sharp, very practical to grate garlic and ginger—more elegant than my utilitarian micro-planes.
“Pork. The Other White Meat.” is an advertising slogan developed in 1987 for the National Pork Board to encourage health-conscious consumers to consider pork as a white meat alternative to chicken or turkey. Thus the race to make pork as lean as poultry began. Americans wanted healthier, low-fat meat options, and leaner hogs brought a better price, so the industry had an incentive to breed pigs with less fat. Pork fat is not so easily come by here in the U.S.
based on the recipe in
The Japanese Kitchen •250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
- 2 ounces raw pork fat
- 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 Tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
Years ago it was easy to trim off a couple of ounces of fat from almost any cut of pork. Not so now! To make this popular ramen condiment, I bought a small package of thinly sliced pork belly, trimmed off the meaty stripes, then cut the fat into small pieces. In the original recipe, the pork fat and garlic are reduced to a paste in a food processor, then cooked in the oil (or lard) over low heat until barely golden.
Because I wasn’t able to remove all the meat, I cooked the chopped pieces of pork belly in the oil until they’d rendered their fat. I grated the garlic finely and added it to the skillet shortly before the pork was finished. When garlic burns it becomes bitter. Then I strained the liquid fat to remove the crispy bits and spent garlic.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Garlic paste keeps for a month in the refrigerator, in a sealed jar.
krzysztof kieslowski filmmaker