My first encounter with pork floss was in Taipei. We had just gotten off the plane and because my group was there on the invitation of the Taiwanese government, the first stop was the Tourism Office where there was the usual welcome and briefing. I remember coming down from the building and feeling thirsty. I neither spoke nor read Taiwanese so I didn’t quite know where to get a drink nor how. What if no one understood me? Should I just point or would that be considered rude? Then, I saw a familiar sign. 7-11. Surely, the drinks at 7-ll would be in a glass-door fridge just like all the 7-11’s in every country so I figured it shouldn’t be so hard getting something to drink there.
So, I went, and some of the other members of the group went with me. I was just going to get a drink, really, but there was the siopao (steamed pork buns) in the glass steamer on the counter and I couldn’t resist. I ordered one, bit into the soft white bun and got the surprise of my life — the center was made with something that looked like reddish kapok (Java cotton) but with the distinct flavor of barbecued pork. And that was my introduction to pork floss although I wouldn’t learn its name until a couple of days later.
A few years later, on a trip with girl friends that took us to Kuala Lumpur, among other places, I’d find jars and jars of pork floss in Chinatown. Of course, I bought a jar and took it home feeling like it was a jar of gold nuggets. I would discover much later that pork floss is available in almost every food store in Manila’s Chinatown.
But what is pork floss?
Pork floss is made by stewing pork in sweetened soy sauce until fork tender. The meat is pulled apart until it looks like a mass of fibers then dried in the oven. Then, it is cooked in a wok where more seasonings are added until the meat reaches that peculiar stage where it appears coarse but is melt-in-mouth tender just like cotton candy. Is truly is delicious. But it’s more than just the flavor that makes it memorable — it’s the mouth feel, and you really have to try it to understand.
If you happen to chance upon pork floss and you decide to buy some (some groceries sell it by weight and you can buy as little as 50g. if you’re just curious), know that there are so many ways to enjoy it.
You can cook a meatless Asian style fried rice and sprinkle pork floss on top — generously — as the meat component of the dish. You can cook a meatless stir fried noodle dish and add pork floss before serving. Use pork floss as spring roll filling or as siopao filling like the one at the 7-11 store in Taipei. At hime, I even use pork floss as sandwich filling with plenty of mayo. It is so versatile and delicious every which way.
Just like any food product, pork floss, despite being dried meat, has a finite shelf life. When you open a pack of pork floss and you don’t finish everything in one go, it is always a smart idea to keep the rest in the fridge in a covered container and consume within two weeks.