2019 is the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese calendar. The pig is the twelfth of all the zodiac animals. People born in the Year of the Pig are said to have a beautiful personality and be blessed with good fortune. In Chinese culture, pigs are a symbol of wealth.
In mainland China, Chinese New Year is usually referred to as the Spring Festival. It’s traditional for everyone to go home to their families for New Year’s Eve dinner, and pork will invariably be on the menu. The Chinese love their pork and they have a particularly varied repertoire of pork dishes.
Indeed, statistically it is probably thanks to the Chinese that pork is the world’s most consumed meat. The pig was one of the first animals to be domesticated; the killing of a pig in rural communities was often an annual event, celebrated with a special feast.
Seven Culinary Wonders
Yet consuming pork is considered taboo by two major religions (Judaism and Islam), and some of the reasons for that are explored in The Seven Culinary Wonders of the World, a fascinating book by a London author, Jenny Linford, who has written for the Financial Times, Time Out London Eating and Drinking Guide, and the British Library’s Food Stories website.
Although it has recipes with the “seven culinary wonders” in the starring role, Linford’s book is not so much a cookbook as a story that takes the reader on a fantastic culinary journey, exploring the origins and cultural history of seven familiar ingredients.
The seven ingredients? Pork, honey, salt, chilli, rice, cacao and tomato. They are all ingredients that are taken for granted, consumed every day without a second thought, but each has its own fascinating history and purpose, and Linford brings all these rich and diverse cultural stories to light.
In a nod to the Year of the Pig, here is her recipe for Barbecued Pork Ribs. Although they initially need long baking, the preparation is minimal and they can be finished off quickly over a grill or barbecue.
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Recipe For Barbecued Pork Ribs
3.3kg (3 lb) baby back pork ribs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
400g tinned tomatoes
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Season the pork ribs well with salt and pepper. Wrap them in two layers of aluminium foil, place on a baking tray and bake for 2 hours until the pork is tender.
Now make the barbecue sauce. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and fry gently for 10 minutes until lightly brown. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the tinned tomatoes, water, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, tomato purée, ketchup, honey and smoked paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring now and then. Use a jug blender or hand blender to blend the barbecue sauce until smooth.
Preheat the grill until very hot. Unwrap the pork ribs, brush generously on all sides with the barbecue sauce and grill for 5 minutes on each side until glazed. Serve the sticky ribs with the remaining barbecue sauce, potato salad, sweetcorn and coleslaw.
Recipes and photos from The Seven Culinary Wonders of the World by Jenny Linford. Published by Quarto Publishing and reproduced with the permission of Murdoch Books.
This story originally appeared in PS News online.