As I wrap up my week in Hong Kong, it’s fitting I end my stay on the highest of high notes. Let’s not bury the lead: I just experienced the best pork of my life, and this comes only days after I ate the best char siu ever. Lucky me.
It’s from a restaurant in the Wan Chai neighborhood called Seventh Son, an offshoot (after a well-publicized family dispute) of legendary Cantonese restaurant chain Fook Lam Moon. I came to Seventh Son to sample its signature roasted suckling pig, a dish that required advance ordering. (I can’t tell you how much the dish costs—my dear aunt treated me to dinner, but it was in the hundreds of American dollars.)
The suckling pig arrives split open like a book, its skin separated, cut into squares and denuded of meat and fat, and laid grid-like back onto the pig. It is reminiscent of a Peking duck presentation, with steamed crepes, hoisin sauce, and ornate packages of carrots, cucumbers, and celery.
There are but 20 precious squares of skin on each suckling pig. More could be found around the cheeks and by the hams, sure, but none you can pick up cleanly with chopsticks and experience its singular crunch.
Each square is trimmed almost entirely of fat. Just enough remains, though, that when you bite in your teeth encounters the slightest push back. The pleasure comes wholly from the texture: Brittle and crunchy, awe-inspiringly thin. What’s most admirable is the execution; to achieve a pork skin this delicate and crisp requires masterful technique honed over years. I was stunned by the craftsmanship of the chefs:
Once the 20 pieces of skin were consumed (regrettably, shared among nine hungry diners), the pig was brought off the table, at which point a server hand-pulled the meat and snipped off the ham bones and ribs. Perhaps it’s not fair to compare this to other porks I’ve tasted. This is a suckling pig, after all, only months old when slaughtered, so the meat bears an incomparable tenderness. Cantonese suckling pig is rarely about boldness of flavor; if anything it’s about the extremes of texture. We Hong Kongers love textural variance—the slipperiness of jellyfish and bird’s nest soup, the bounciness of shrimp balls, the contrast of crunchiness and succulence of roasted pig. When it comes to pork I can say without hyperbole I’ve had none better than at Seventh Son.
Let me teach you a Cantonese phrase if you ever find yourself in Hong Kong: Ho May Ah! I said this phrase aloud multiple times dining in this fine city, my birth home. I said it eating roast goose at 8:30 a.m., sipping milk tea at the cha chaan teng diners I visited, again eating Hainan chicken rice at my beloved Tsui Wah, and exclaimed a dozen times dining at Seventh Son. I’m a lucky bastard to utter Ho May Ah! so many times on one trip, and it was all, truly, “very delicious” indeed.