Some people stuff turkeys. Others stuff peppers. Annie stuffs baby suckling pigs with 8 treasure rice. One of the most passionate people I know when it comes to cooking, Annie Leong is a cookbook author, avid home cook and a close friend to the Lin sisters (three sisters who are practically my aunts). What sets Annie apart is her dedication to create the PERFECT recipe — multiple baby pigs were sacrificed for the perfection of this dish, but trust me, they died for a worthy cause. Behold my encounter with the “Roast Suckling Pig Extraordinaire”!
For this recipe, which can be found in her newest cookbook, At Home with Annie, Annie took inspiration from the classic Italian dish porchetta. To prepare porchetta, you take a whole pig, gut it, de-bone it, stuff it with layers of meat, fat and skin then tie it up and roast it over an open fire. Annie gives the Italian recipe a twist, filling her pig with 8 treasure rice instead, like in the famous Chinese dish “Hundred Treasure Duck”. But before we get into the details, let’s say hi to Annie’s poodle Miss Muffin, who won best hairdo of the evening.
Ok, now back to the food. When we first arrived, a cutting board of Iberian and other Spanish varieties of ham from Annie’s recent trip to Barcelona was passed around along with other hors d’oeurves. If you haven’t had Iberian ham before, it tastes similar to prosciutto but with a subtle nutty flavor that is not overpoweringly salty. Even though I knew a marathon of eating laid ahead of me, it was hard to tear away from this cutting board.
After munching, I snuck into the kitchen to see what was cooking, stepping in just as the pig was pulled out from the oven. Laid out on the pan, the golden swine sported little ear and tail covers made from tin foil to prevent them from burning to a crisp.
After the pig was plated and the wine was poured, dinner commenced. Here’s the rundown:
Scampi linguine: Annie used large, fresh Italian prawns, which she deliberately left slightly undercooked, allowing for the sweet undertones of the shrimp to shine through. The scampi was served with al dente pasta and marinara sauce, and everything came together harmoniously.
Annie’s 8 treasure rice is a mixture of glutinous rice, Chinese Jinhua ham, Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallops, pearl barley, gingko nuts, lotus seeds, dry shrimp, spring onion, Chinese Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, sugar, and a dash of white pepper. Cooked inside the pork, the glutinous rice mixture was perfectly steamed and rich with flavor. The chewy texture played off the crispy skin and meat, all of which was then counterbalanced with a side of brussels sprouts, zucchini, and baby bok choy.
Since the Lins had already tried suckling pig version 1.0 not so long ago, Annie was nice enough to make an alternative entree: braised soy sauce short ribs. The meat was tender, flaking off when you touched it with a fork, and the mashed potatoes were creamy and smooth.
To end the night on a sweet note, Annie made a simple Napoleon with mixed berries. I’ve always preferred lighter desserts with fruit over heavy, chocolate desserts (I usually pass on the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake). To me, the Napoleon was just the right conclusion to the evening.
I end this post with a snapshot of my dad, eagerly diving into his plate of suckling pig. If you are brave enough to attempt Annie’s decadent pig dish (which is actually called “Roast Suckling Pig Extraordinaire” in her book) hop on over to Amazon.com and get a copy!