In Anthony Bourdain’s last cookbook “Appetites,” he featured a sandwich, that captured his heart when he was in Macau. His recipe is a loose interpretation of a street food he had in the southernmost part of China. Bourdain called it a Macau-style Pork Chop Sandwich and labeled it the best recipe in his book.
At first you think this recipe is far too simple to be all that good. But like peanut butter and jelly on bread, the sandwich exceeds the sum of its parts. It’s essentially a pork chop on either a piggy roll, as the Macanese call it, or a pineapple roll. But, if you’re willing to wink at convention, you can just flop the chop atop a bowl of greens or use sliced white bread, as Bourdain did.
The meat is crispy on the outside, juicy and flavorful inside. It gets that way because the pork is first marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, black vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, 5-spice powder and brown sugar. You might have to make a trip to the supermarket for some of those items, but I’m tellin’ you, it’s worth it.
The Bread Quest
I had so many questions about this Asian street food. I emailed my friend Alyson Dickerman, who spent much of her childhood in Macau. Back in the 80s, I visited the family, but I don’t recall having seen this street delicacy in what was a Portuguese colony until the China reclaimed it in 1999.
Alyson couldn’t recall the chops either, though she did perk up at my mention of the piggy bun. She ate them as a kid with lots of butter, she recalled. She alerted me that Portuguese pineapple bread has no pineapple. The buns have the markings of a pineapple on the outside, a crispy crust and fluffy center. She also noted that Macanese food is something that everyone who claims foodie status needs to try. “Quite exquisite,” she said, and offered me some of her recipes.
The Search Continues
Next I called Wei Hong Chinese Bakery on Grand. They’d never heard of pineapple bread or even piggy bread. This was not a good sign. I was beginning to know why Bourdain suggested using white bread. Next, I called Global Foods, nada. But then I called Jay’s International. Bingo! They had pineapple bread! But only on Thursdays. By the time I got over to South Grand, they had 3 buns left. I grabbed ’em along with some 5-spice powder and headed for the farm.
Pork and Pears
Once I got the ingredients, making the pork sandwiches was a breeze. First, there was some pounding of the cutlets to flatten those little piglets before they wallowed in an egg and Panko-flour mixture. Then I fried the chops about 5 minutes on each side and nestled them between bread slices. You can add chili paste, if you want, but no need; purist keep it simple.
Our visitors arrived in time to help with the pear picking. Th old tree is loaded this year. They’re hard as a rock, but will soften over time. We sent our new friends on their journey with some pears for the road and probably a few ticks and chigger bites to remind them of their afternoon in the Ozark outdoors.
Anthony Bourdain’s Macau-style Pork Chop Sandwich
4 boneless pork rib chops or cutlets (about 6 oz. each)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup Chinese rice wine
- ¼ cup black vinegar
- 1 Tbs. sesame oil
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbs. five-spice powder
- 1 Tbs. dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups panko bread crumbs Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cups peanut oil, for frying, plus more as needed
- 8 slices white sandwich bread
- Chili paste, for garnish
- Pound the pork to ¼ inch thickness.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, five-spice powder and sugar. Place pork in a zip lock with the marinade, making sure everything is coated, seal and put in fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 12.
- Remove chops from marinade and brush off garlic. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of water and place flour and Panko in separate bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper.
- Add the oil to a heavy-bottomed frying pan (I used my large cast iron) and heat over medium-high.
- Test the oil with a pinch of breadcrumbs and make sure they sizzle.
- One at a time, dip chops in flour—coating thoroughly, but shaking off excess—then into the egg, then into the Panko, pressing lightly to help it stick.
- Add the chops to the oil, cooking in batches if necessary. Cook about 5 minutes/side. Remove the chops and let drain on a lines sheet pan or paper towel. Season lightly with salt.
- Serve on lightly toasted bread with chili paste, if desired.