Porks and Chops
My uncle in Calcutta would go to a lot of trouble for pork chops. They were a special treat at his house, served only when guests came from out of town. Good pork is not common in India; in this case he would leg it all the way to a single vendor in New Market's meat market to get the perfect cut. Later, when he became too old to try the journey himself, he would persuade others to go. It had to be that one vendor, and with good reason. Simply broiled and had with bread, they were wonderful pork chops - more than making up in a rich, robust taste what they lacked in tenderness. Now of course, cholesterol fears and a modernized New Market have put paid to the tradition for ever. I've only recently returned to pork chops. Never having tried to cook them, I can only comment from outside, but pork seems to strain a chefs chops more that one would expect. Perfectly competent chefs seem to falter at the attempt as diners scowl their way through dry, tasteless meat. Its easy to get competent fish or beef or even lamb chops at most good restaurants, but I've learned to be far more wary with pork. After a long hiatus my friend and I tried the pork chops at San Diego's much respected Blue Point Coastal Cuisine. Sure, it says 'coastal' and is even named after an oyster, but the waiter was very fulsome in praise of the meats. Unfortunately, he was also totally off the mark. A tough, dry, tasteless pork chop cannot be redeemed by nice sides and pleasant wine - and it was expensive to boot. This set my friend off to defend San Diego's honor. I was led this time to Hilcrest and a much smaller restaurant called (rather cheesily, I thought) California Cuisine. It was true californian, organic touches everywhere, outrageous hairstyles atop formally dressed waiters and a cool casual attitude that did succeed in being welcoming. And there, once I succeeded in navigating past an ordinary starter was a fantastically tender and flavorful pork chop. Possibly the best I've had so far. Inspired by that, I decided to brave the world of pork again at Chow Thai Pacific Rim - a new-york-artsy-warehouse interior hidden away in a strip mall in Plano, TX. Excellent spring rolls were followed by the inch-thick pork chop slathered in a dark fragrant sauce that promised greatness, but the first swish of the knife and hopes were dashed. It was, as usual, crumbly and tasteless, though redeemed somewhat by the unusual sauce. What am I missing? Pork is supposed to be a strongly flavored meat; how do I keep getting with these tasteless cuts? Its particularly galling after Bangalore (where the Coorgi influence made for wonderful pig) and Mumbai (where Konkani mothers did magic with swine).