Piggy Bits - 2019 The Year of the Pig
Published 13 February 2019

Welcome in the Chinese Year of the Pig by going the whole hog. We share some porcine highlights from this year's guide.

China is the world’s biggest consumer of pork, getting through at least 50 million tonnes each year. Closer to home, UK chefs are finding ever inventive ways to showcase pork's diverse charms.

Making a pig’s ear of things

Often overlooked in favour of choicer cuts, pig’s ears are too good to leave to Fido. Try the jellied version at The Garden Café in London, served with pickled radish and dandelion, or head to Scarborough’s Courtyard at Ox Pasture Hall where crispy pig’s ears accompany pork tenderloin. In Grasmere, kimchi brings a contrastive note to a pig's ear terrine at Forest Side.

A cheek-y little twist

Pig’s cheeks have made their mark on many a menu this year. We’ve enjoyed them stuffed into agnolotti with a porcini butter at Popolo in Shoreditch, with a rich cassoulet and a tart seasoning of leek ash at 111 by Nico in Glasgow, and as a confit on a chicory salad at Andrew Edmunds in London’s Soho.

A-head of the game

Why stick to the cheek and ears when you can use the whole head? This year we’ve seen pig’s head featuring in terrines, tortellini and even topping bruschetta. A particular highlight was the lasagne at The Royal Oak in Whatcote, which featured layers of braised pig’s head, sliced black pudding and roasted hazelnuts, its richness offset by a tart cider sauce. At The Leaping Hare in Stanton, a nugget of crispy pig’s head was set against a tangle of tangy kohlrabi, slivers of peppery radish and a spoonful of tart rhubarb.

An offal lot of flavour

At Chinese restaurant Hunan in Chelsea we tried the stir-fried pig’s kidney with preserved vegetables. Nearby at Claude Bosi’s Bibendum a tripe and cuttlefish gratin arrived with a cake of pig’s ear and ham, while Barshu in Soho served up the pithily named ‘fragrant and hot pig’s intestines’.

Worth hot-footing it for

It’s worth visiting The Roxburgh in Whitley Bay for the bao buns with pulled pig’s trotters alone. In London, French restaurants Clos Maggiore and Les 110 de Tallevant transform trotters into croquettes to accompany salads as starters. For the full shebang, Mayfair’s Sketch presents Iberico pork as a grilled rack in a hay cocotte with stuffed trotter, pig’s ear salad in mango vinegar, and luscious black pudding velouté boosted with spiced rum and chestnuts.

Going the whole hog

Of course, if you’re feeling opulent, suckling pig is where it's at. In Mayfair, Nieves Barragán’s El Asador is the place for wood-roasted suckling pig. At The Pointer in Brill, the ‘star attraction’ is Middle White suckling pig from the owner’s farm, or at The Whitebrook in Monmouthshire, Huntsham Court Farm suckling pig is perfectly partnered by caramelised celeriac, pear and lamb’s sorrel.

Gung hay fat choy!