Going Whole Hog

The pig roast. So many cultures have their own versions of the whole-hog dining tradition, whether roasted slowly in a pit or rotisseried on a spit, finished with an apple in its mouth or with a fake rose jauntily shoved into its crispy-skinned neck like a grotesque tiara. Luckily for summer party-throwers – because nothing says summer like a whole pig sprawled out, ready for carving up for a crowd of friends – the latter comes already cooked, ready to knife apart and enjoy, so there’s more partying and less sweating. Ordering one, however, is a delicate process.

Thanks to an immensely diverse culinary scene here in Houston (which has been waxed poetic about enough times to finally get some national recognition), a pig roast is easy to pull together in a relatively short amount of time. And just in case you didn’t catch it earlier, there is actually no roasting involved. Here are the six easy steps to a roast-pig feast for you and 20 or so friends.

1. Three days before the party, head to the small but lively Dynasty Supermarket (9600 Bellaire Blvd., just off Beltway 8, 713-995-9832). Find the “barbecue lady.” They don’t accept phone orders. They will hang up on you if you try. Even if you call seven times in the span of three days. It’s worth the traffic. She will have a slight attitude, but don’t be intimidated, she won’t bite (hopefully). Make sure you leave with a receipt for pick-up. According to Barbecue Lady, “I don’t remember faces.”

2. Bring cash for a deposit. Paying cash will save you money. There’s a Wells Fargo conveniently located across the parking lot if needed. The down payment for a “small” 12- to 18-pound pig is $50, with $100 being due at the time of pick-up for a total of $150. Sounds pricey, but that’s a lot of pork. If you disagree, feel free to check out the giant ziplocks of leftovers taking up two racks in my freezer.

3. Make (or buy) a lot of sauces while you’re awaiting your precious piggy with the rosy crown. Suggestions: Korean barbecue (mix up soy sauce, sesame oil, sambal paste, sugar or honey and scallions). Traditional barbecue sauce, though I’m not even going to suggest a certain style since each household has their own preferences. Consider Southern-style barbecue sauce that is sweet, spicy and tangy, or something with tomatillos, jalapeños, cilantro, onions and the like. See how easy that was? Or, simply hit up your local taqueria for an array of their house-made salsas and do no work at all. This is where the beauty of Houston’s diversity comes in handy.

4. Buy lots of condiments. Pickled things from Super H Mart are fun to pair with the Korean barbecue sauce. Coleslaw, pickles and onions suit the traditional barbecue sauce, while chopped onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime go with the tomatillo salsa. Then there’s the option of picking up already prepared sides at places like Revival Market, Relish Fine Foods, Phoenicia, Central Market, Local Foods and more. Just to reiterate, the diversity of Houston does not suck.

5. Figure out a vehicle for moving your pork from a plate to your mouth. Tortillas work well, since “fusion” tacos are all the rage these days. There’s also bread, buns, rice and, if you’re really into messy things, tortilla chips for some super special nachos. Then again, you can just eat the meat by itself. That way you get the most out of the crispy skin that covers every inch of the pig. It’s still a mystery as to how the barbecue lady gets it so evenly crisped; a blowtorch, a deep fryer (is there one large enough to even do that?), a special roasting technique? No one but Barbecue Lady will ever know, and don’t even try to ask, lest you dare lose your chance at procuring that pig.

6. Invite a lot of people, ice the beer and make a rum punch. And don’t forget containers for leftovers, as you’re going to need them.

by Amber Ambrose, photos by Amber Ambrose | SideDish | Date June 8, 2012

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