Tag Archives: barbecue

Dim Sum: Char Siu Bau (BBQ Pork Bun)

Purple Dot Cafe – Seattle, WA – 11/14/2009

Name: Char Siu Bau
Primary Ingredient(s): BBQ Pork
Type of Dish: Bun
Method of Preparation: Baked or Steamed

In the world of Dim Sum, it is the Pork Bun that is the “ol’ standby” for me. This is the solid ground which allows me to “advance to” and “retreat from” the more exotic fare. There is a reason for this, which I will get to in a moment.

The buns can come to you in two different forms – baked (pictured above) and steamed (pictured below). Both are worth your time, especially the steamed version. Those of us from Western traditions should try the steamed versions if only to understand that bread need not be baked in order to taste wonderful, or at the very least, unique.

What makes the dish is the filling, with the succulent, yet sweet, barbecue pork. The sauce provides a mouth-feel that balances nicely with the texture of the bun, and works in concert with the taste of the swine.

Can you tell that this is one of my favorite dishes?

In trying to understand my passion for this dish, I was able to make a connection between the baked bau and the dinner buns my grandmother used to make for Holiday feasts. Take away the pork filling, and it is as if the two buns were made from the same recipe, glaze and all. Of course these treats would be my safety zone, as they remind me of simpler times with family.

Sun-Ya Restaurant – Seattle, WA – 11/1/2009

Where’s the BBQ Love?

MSNBC, over the past two years, have listed foods that make America great.

Missing from both of these lists? Barbeque, which is the first food I think of when thinking of great American Foods.

Jus’ sayin’.

UPDATE: Lance notes that they do mention barbecue, just not amongst the lists, an item that I missed on my first perusal.

I really need to stop writing posts before my first coffee of the day.

Technorati Tags: Foods, BBQ

The Great Barbecue Controversy

As one of the few culinary aspects of American culture which isn’t dismissed by most foodies, barbecue allows those food snobs and elitists (said with tongue firmly in cheek) connect with the common man. But the question I have is simple – What the constitutes barbecue?

For background on my befuddlement, you have to understand my background: I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. To us, barbecueing meant turning on the grill in the backyard, and cooking hamburgers and hot dogs over heated charcoal or other open sources of heat. We also have BBQ’d ham, which consisted of putting chip-chopped ham in a slow cooker along with a few cups of Kraft BBQ sauce. We may have enjoyed teh food, but we obviously didn’t know what the hell we were talking about.

For the record: if you’re turning on the grill in the back yard and making burgers and hot dogs, you are, in fact, grilling and not barbecueing. If you want to mince words, think of it this way – grilling is almost always a fast process over high heat and barbecue is almost always a slow process near indirect heat.

Using this defintion, it allows for many variations not just throughout the country, but the world. For example:

Texas: Barbecueing to what others call “hot smoking”—cooking with both smoke and low heat for hours over woods such as oak, mesquite, or pecan. The meats most often used are Sliced brisket, sausage, and pork ribs. Sauce? Sometimes, but at cookoffs, meats are judged without sauce.

Tennessee: There’s debate in Memphis on what constitutes Memphis Barbecue. For some, it’s dry-rub ribs, made with a spice rub applied during or right after they’ve been cooked that represent the Memphis style. For others, it’s wet ribs, basted with a mild, sweet barbecue sauce before and after smoking that cooks into the meat over the 10- to 12-hour process. For others it’s pulled pork sandwiches. So, generally, its pork ribs, with a spice rub or barbecue sauce. If you want a barbecue sandwich, it’ll be pulled pork with sauce.

Kansas & Missouri: Beef is the meat of choice, although others can be used. Heavy use of sauce in this area, and is basted heavily in sauce during and after cooking. The sauce usually is rather rich, tangy and spicy. Dry rubs are also used.

Carolinas: The Carolinas are pork fans. Some areas cook the entire hog, others just the pork shoulder, some make pulled pork. The sauce is what makes the Carolinas unique. They tend to use either a vinegar and pepper based sauce (in eastern North Carolina), a tomato based sauce (the Piedmont area of N.C) or a mustard based sauce (in the Columbia, SC area).

What should you use as fuel? Anything you darn well please. Charcoal, Propane, Mesquite, whale blubber, whatever gives you the taste that you desire. It’s barbecue if it’s cooked with indirect heat for a long period of time.

It should be stated that slow cooking meat over indirect heat is not an American invention, although we’ve certainly worked on perfecting the technique. This technique has been used in Italy, Australia, Greece, the sub-Saharan regions of Africa…suffice to say this technique has been around. There’s proof that this technique was used in the neolithic era.

Why? Because smoking preserves meat. Smoke can contain many components, including phenolic compoundsm which slow fat oxidation, and organic acids and aldehydes, which inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus. Barbecueing changed the way we could get our protein. We could now store meat for months, and have it for dinner in the middle of winter. It allowed us to stay in one place, and not have to hunt for other protein sources. That’s a pretty impressive pedigree to have for a cooking technique.

Self-indulgence time. I dig word etymologies. And barbecue has a relation to several other terms which I find fascinating. Barbecue seems to have come from the Carib word of babracot, which was the cooking pit/grill technique the Caribs used to cook their meat. The French, while in the area of the Caribbean, had a synonym for babracot: boucon. Boucon is the source word for the English term buccaneer. Why? Because these soon to be pirates got their start on the island of Tortuga, grilling various meat products.

I find this stuff trivial, yet endlessly fascinating.

Another note: The spanish word for dried meat is charqui, and is the basis for the word jerk or jerky, which loops back to the Carribean jerk Chicken. So when you have jerked chicken, you’re having Carribean Barbecue.

Down and Out at the Low and Slow

On Sunday I found myself driving my Mini Cooper to the SPILSAPBBQSC (The acronym that I have given to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Low & Slow Pro BBQ State Championship). To say that it was a disappointment is an understatement on par with saying that “Kraft food products are evil”. The extent on how sad and unfortunate this event is will never be known unless you go there yourself.
If you are the type of masochist who gets off on sitting in Emergency Rooms, signing up for College Courses or waiting for the Boston Red Sox to win a world series, then the SPILSAPBBQSC is for you. Let me explain the type of sadism that the promoters of this event inflicted on the mass audience:

  • There were a dozen or so competitors for the title of Washington State BBQ Champion. But none of them could sell their products, and none of them could provide free samples of their product until after the judges had sampled their wares.

    Due to this, only one or two of the competitors were providing samples of their products at any given time.

  • If you wanted BBQ, you couldn’t get any BBQ from the competitors. So there was one food vendor who was allowed to serve BBQ to the general public.
  • As for other non-bbq food vendors? There were none. That’s right. This was a food event that attracted hundreds of customers, and there was only ONE food vendor. See the picture to your left? That was the line to the food vendor. The food vendor is that tent with the red awning waaaaaay in the back. So if you wanted food, you had to wait 45 minutes in line.
  • There was no beer being served…At a BBQ event…What the hell were they thinking?
    Oh sure, there was a beer garden. But it was no where near the event. It was 200 yards way at an arts and crafts festival. And it was a sad, sad place indeed.
  • It rained…And yes, I blame that on the organizers as well.

And they wonder why the big BBQ events don’t take the SPILSAPBBQSC seriously. In the part of the nation that has provided BBQ salmon, and grilling on cedar planks, there’s quite simply no excuse for how terrible this event was. Both Ballard’s Seafood Festival and Edmond’s ‘Taste of Edmonds’ were far superior in execution.

Seattle PI’s Pro BBQ State Championship

Call me a traditionalist, but I think that there are some food cuisines that should be left to the region in which they were discovered. This is why I view a Seattle BBQ festival with the same amount of skepticism as I would if there were oyster eating festivals in Texas or Kansas City.

But that’s not going to stop me from heading out to Sand Point Magnuson Park, (7400 Sand Point Way N.E.) for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Low & Slow Pro BBQ State Championship – or as I shall call it SPILSAPBBQSC, (which rolls off the tongue just as easily).

Because the SPILSAPBBQSC, for the first time, an official State Championship (as so ordered by a governor’s proclamation, which makes me wonder just how busy our esteemed Governor actually is), the winner of this event will not only win the grace and admiration of all PacNW BBQ-r’s, but also a chance to qualify for the two major competitions that remain in the season: the Jack Daniel’s Invitational and the American Royal. The fact that they only win a chance to qualify for these two major BBQ events speaks much to how serious the southern BBQ-r’s take this particular event, which is to say not so serious at all.

But that hasn’t stopped the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from going all ga-ga about this event,not only writing no less than six articles about the event in today’s Food section, but also sponsoring the dern thing….which speaks to how serious the food editors at the PI take their ideas of what conflict of interest entails, which is also to say not so serious at all.

But if your in the Pac NW, and like BBQ, by all means head up to the event. Wave hi to Tom Douglas, local Chef near-god or Wayne Johnson, executive chef at Andaluca. Drink some free Thomas Kemper (One of the two kickin’ soda companies here in Seattle). Or simply indulge in plenty of Good BBQ.