Fried Pig Ears.

8 May

The last time I was at Magnolia was for a crawl fish boil, where I proudly demonstrated how to eat one of those suckers – head/brain sucking included. And because of that, while the Haight remains an area I scarcely venture into, this corner pub on Haight & Masonic remains in my heart a “fun eat place”. To see fried pig ears on my long-awaited return simply affirmed my belief that Magnolia is awesome.

Now pig ear is not an unfamiliar ingredient for most Taiwanese and Western Chinese people. It is one of the stable “braised flavors.” The “braised flavors” are small plates consumed at local eateries, usually served with cool beer or Chinese grain liquor. In a sense, quite similar to yakitoris at traditional izakayas; or put simply: Taiwanese bar food.

These “braised flavors” are prepared with several different ingredients, then served singularly or paired according to the customer’s preference. Common ingredients include various beef, chicken and duck parts (meat, innards, feet), tofu/bean curd products, and of course, pig ears. They are usually braised in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, grain alcohol and a few Chinese herbs, for 25 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the ingredients. They are then removed from the pot to be chilled in the fridge over night, and served cold with sprinkles of parsley.

Long story short: that is how I remember my pig ears growing up. Braised, chilled, and thinly sliced. The skin part has the soft yet chewy texture of a tougher jello, with the cartilage in the middle crunchy to bite, soaked in the aroma of sweet soy sauce. It is a fun food!! That said, the fried version, as listed on their menu, was not something I was familiar with. When it was served, the little fried strings of pig ears sat there, topped with a mayonnaise-based buffalo sauce, looking like the baby of curly and shoe-string fries: all oddly curled and tangled.

And “bizarre fries” is what I thought to myself when I ate it. The pig ears were breaded then deep fried, forming this brilliantly crisp entrance to the chewy goodness on the inside. Then, as my teeth – as if in slow motion – penetrated the chewy layer, it snapped the thin soft bone on the inside and form that delicious crunchy sound. There it is – albeit Americanized and in an aioli, it is still my fun food!

It was a perfect marriage too, with my tall glass of Prescription Pale Ale. The slight bitterness in that aromatic beer washed down the deep fry smoothly, returning my mouth into that clean, fried-pig-ears-craving state again. The deep fry treatment suddenly made sense alongside this fuller-bodied beer (Taiwanese beers are really light), how the caramel-like malt flavor compliments!

Because I like to see just how many ways I can eat my dishes, I drizzled a bit of Youk’s Hot Sauce for another layer of hot, tangy flavor. It cuts the fattiness nicely, and, quite frankly, eating at a bar without some form hot sauce is just silly.

For the grand finale, I took some fried pig ears, paired it with a bite of house pickle, then washed it all down with the remaining of my beer. What a lovely, lovely day.

On our way out, I noticed that the couple sitting right behind us got an order of fried pig ears as well. I gave them a mental high-five, secretly wishing that I had inspired them.

Magnolia Pub & Brewery: 1398 Haight Street | San Francisco, CA 94117 | 415.864.7468


2 Responses to “Fried Pig Ears.”

  1. Kat Manalac May 9, 2011 at 9:30 AM #

    Delicious! I love how you outlined the various ways to ingest these bizarre fries. And thanks for the lesson on braised flavors.

  2. Cheri May 9, 2011 at 4:51 PM #

    Love it 🙂

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