Suckling Pigs and Chinese Wedding Banquets

Stephanie Yuen (Chinese blogs: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/stephanieyuen/?variant?zh-hans )

Ever wonder why the first course of a Chinese wedding banquet is a platter of crispy-skin suckling pig?The first course at a Chinese wedding banquet - roasted suckling pig

In the old days, the suckling pig was a symbol of ‘virginity’, referring to the purity of the bride who before the wedding night has never courted anyone; and from that night on she is the ‘woman’ of the groom.  Evidently and thanks to the widely practiced ‘freedom of the body and mind’ and ‘woman’s liberty’, the symbolic meaning no longer holds true.   

Thankfully, Chinese stick to their wishful thinking regime and ritual practices, the suckling pig still leads its way, in the form of a platter, at most Chinese banquets. As far as the goodness of us epicureans’ glutton enjoyment is concerned, who (sorry, my vegan friends!) would want to forfeit the succulent texture and the symphony of flavour of the suckling pig?

A plate of perfectly roasted suckling pig

According to Richmond’s BBQ King Chow Hung who runs ‘Master Hung’s BBQ House’ on Garden City (at Blundell), the perfect weight of a suckling pig is around 8.5 kilos. Those with short snouts, short tails and small ears are the best. Authentically, suckling pig is roasted by hand over open fire of wood and charcoal which takes approximately 3 hours to complete the roasting. Today’s high-tech equipment taking over the sweating labour and manual skills, this also becomes a history.

While it is very likely to see suckling pigs hanging in the vertical oven inside the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant or BBQ store, the flavour and texture withheld nicely, but of course, it will never be the same as the hand-held roasted ones. The crackling (crispy skin) of a young pig is so divine and delicate; it is what the real gourmand goes after.  The skin should never be chewy or dried if roasted to perfection. To keep the skin crispy, ask the store clerk to slit open a tiny opening at the four corners of the take-out box when purchasing an order or two of the Crispy skin roasted pig.

These days, you can even pre-order a whole suckling pig for special occasions, parties and celebration. The price tag runs from $150 to $200 per pig.

Oh yes, you can make your own home-version of the roasted pig (not suckling pig). Master Hung has given me his easy-to-do recipe to be shared with readers of my newly released ‘East Meets West’, available every where, including Barbar-Jo’s Books To Cooks on W. 2nd (Burrard & Fir).