Ten Great Pork Dishes in OC (and Long Beach)
Homer: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Lisa, honey, are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal!
Homer: HEH HEH! Yeah right Lisa, some wonderful, magical animal!
So without further ado, here are some of this writer's favorite dishes made from the wondrous, magical creature that is the pig. Write-ins of your favorite are, as always, welcome.
10. House Special Pork with Sauteed Kimchi at Koba Tofu Grill
This is drinking food at its best. Fatty pork is pressure cooked to tenderness, sliced into magazine-thick, bite-sized squares and kept warm on a hot plate as a mountain of tart and spicy diced kimchi refreshes the in-between bites like pickles. Bossam is what the dish is typically called, but pork is pork is pork. Pitchers of Hite beer are not actually required to enjoy this wheel of hog, but it helps. There's something about how a cold sip of lager cleanses your palate of the pig fat so that you're ready for the next helping, a thing that the sauteed kimchi also does. Both help in mitigating what you're actually eating: bacon. Sure, it's unsmoked, uncured and barely rendered pork belly, but it's bacon. Thick, quivering, sweet, porky and rich, heated by a sizzling cast iron platter so that the fat doesn't congeal at room temperature but in your veins.
9. Half Order Carnitas Nachos at Albertos
Ask for the carnitas nachos. And ask for the half order. It isn't as sopping wet as the chicken, not chewy like the carne asada, and occasionally you get those crisp-edged parts that's sizzled too long on the griddle. It is, by far, the best species of nachos at Alberto's. And what you get inside the Styrofoam container will take the shape of said container--meat, cheese in one melting solid mass, suffused with bits of onion, tomato, avocado and sour cream. This is a meal best eaten late at night when no one's judging, or when everyone's too drunk to care.
8. Banh Mi at Banh Mi Cho Cu
There may no porkier banh mi than the dac biet (house special) at Banh Mi Cho Cu. There may be pickled carrot and jalapeno, but what you taste is predominately the bread and the meat. You chew the gelatin jiggle of the pork fat from the slice of roast pig. You perk up at the salty funk of liver pâté. And you relish the smoothness of the white Vietnamese ham called cha lua. These are layers of pork-on-pork action, hugged by the pillow of what could be one of the best baguettes in Little Saigon--a bread with the lightness of helium, a crusty crumb that shed itself all over my shirt, and a refinement that plays against the rustic, uncensored personality of the cold cuts.