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Robbie Burns: Haggis, a Scotch Egg, and a Happy Meal

Chinese Happy Meal Chinese Happy Meal
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This weekend, a good number of us took pause to partake of a wee dram of whiskey (single malt scotch preferred), haggis, bashed neeps (mashed parsnip), and tatties (mashed potato). Some may have tucked into cock-a-leekie soup (chicken and leek), cullen skink (smoked fish “chowder”), or a Scotch egg to start. Soda bread may have accompanied.

We celebrated the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns with food, friends, and a recitation of his poetry.

Now, the prospect of eating haggis, a savoury sausage made of a sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver, and lungs), onion, suet, spices (black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg), and salt, can be a tad unappealing. What did Mike Myers’ Charlie Mackenzie character say in “So I Married an Axe Murderer”?

“I believe most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare!”

Burns Supper of Haggis, Sweet Tatties, Mushroom Conserva and a Scotch Egg

Burns Supper of Haggis, Sweet Tatties, Mushroom Conserva and a Scotch Egg

[Our serving of haggis and single Scotch egg came freshly made from The Piggy Market (400 Winston Avenue). We had but to poach the haggis in lamb stock.]

On the outset, Scottish cuisine doesn’t seem particularly daring given Scotland’s rolling hillsides, coastal waters, and fertile land. The country produces for export whiskey, beef, strawberries, raspberries, milk, and cheese.

[Well, the Scots were briefly obsessed with everything deep fried. One may still find deep fried doner kebabs in Glasgow.]

Scotland’s national dish was more than likely an exercise in frugal necessity. When it comes to agriculture, raising livestock is an expensive and risky proposition. Cultures, whose cuisines celebrate offal, learned to cook nose to tail, wasting nothing.

You will find similar dishes in French, German, Spanish, and Chinese cuisines. Though, North American Chinese cuisine reflects the more squeamish new world appetite.

The duality that is Chinese cuisine in North America (and, to some extent, Chinese identity) is the subject of the most recent issue of David Chang’s quarterly magazine, Lucky Peach. It includes a great run down of oriental “choy.” There is a diagram-packed primer on dim sum, complete with phonetic pronunciations of dishes. Legendary Martin Yan himself is the subject of an article.

With Chinese New Year upcoming, we attempted the recipe by Chef Danny Bowein, formerly of Mission Chinese Food. It exemplifies “fish out of water” Chinese fare: authentic cut of meat, not so authentic adapted preparation.

Pigtail Nuggets with Nori Fries

Pigtail Nuggets with Nori Fries

Bowein’s Chinese McDonald’s Happy Meal consists of tempura pig tails and nori fries.

Chinese Happy Meal
[Adapted from Chinese McDonald's by Danny Bowien, Lucky Peach Issue 5: Chinatown]

Jointed Pork TailsPork Tails Cured

Pork Tails Ready to BraiseBraised Pork Tails Chilled

Fries, Prepared as per Package InstructionsSeasoned Starch

Dredging and FryingPlate and Serve

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 lbs pigtails (divided at the joints)
  • pork rub to coat (8 tbsp brown sugar, 3 tbsp kosher salt, and 1/2 to 3/4 tsp each freshly ground pepper, cloves, star anise, and whole dried chiles)
  • pork or chicken stock to braise the pigtails in
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 carrot, roll chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly sliced
  • corn starch
  • rice starch
  • flour (all purpose or pastry)
  • salt to season
  • soda water (chilled!)
  • vegetable or canola oil to fry the tails in
  • roasted nori
  • frozen fries

Prep:

  1. Salt wash your pigtails and dry them with a tea towel or paper towels.
  2. Generously coat your tails in the rub.
  3. Place the tails in a container and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Preheat an oven to 275°F.
  5. Place the pigtails in a roasting pan with the bay leaves, carrot, and onion.
  6. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours.
  7. Once the pigtails are braised, let them cool to room temperature in the liquid.
  8. Grind your nori into powder either using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder.

Method:

  1. Sift together 1/3 cup each, flour, corn starch, and rice starch.
  2. Pour some corn starch into a pie plate and season with salt.
  3. Heat a pot half filled with oil to 350°F, monitoring the temperature with a thermometer.
  4. Pour enough chilled soda water into your starch to form a loose pancake batter. Do not over mix.
  5. Dredge your pigtails in the seasoned starch and then coat lightly in the batter.
  6. Fry for 3 minutes until crisp.
  7. Drain on a cake rack, set over newspaper.
  8. Meanwhile, cook your fries as described and coat in ground nori.
  9. Serve together hot.
Chinese Happy Meal

Chinese Happy Meal

The pigtails were strangely reminiscent of chicken McNuggets. If you haven’t tried pig tails, you would be surprised by how much meat there is on the bone.

The nori fries were salty and pleasantly iodine-y.

Now, back to Chinese New Year dinner planning…

Mild-mannered IT professional by day and food blogger by night, I founded foodiePrints with a single intention, to share my love of all things food. My first post shared a recipe. Many followed. Eventually, I learned Ottawa prepares and serves great food. Thereafter, I started meeting restaurateurs, chefs, cooks, farmers, and other local producers, all good people. Ideas for food-related content swirled in my head. foodiePrints grew into a place to put them. From exploring foreign and domestic cuisines to shopping for exotic ingredients and cobbling together my takes on dishes in my meager kitchen, there are stories to tell. Welcome to foodiePrints. Here, you will find stories about food and drink, cooking, and eating in Canada’s capital. Be it food-related or just food-for-thought, I hope you find something tasty here.

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[...] thin enough to pour as pancakes. This would be the same batter used to make the Chinese “happy meal” from the Fall 2012 edition of David Chang’s Lucky [...]

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