Taiwanese Pork Candy

As a kid I was never huge on lemon drops and lollipops. Those types of sweets, to me, have no depth and therefore were not all that addictive. Instead of sugary sweets, I always begged my mother to buy me sausage-on-a-stick from a Black Bridge window shop a block from our apartment. These were Taiwanese sausages, which are not pan-fried, but gently roasted upon open flame. They are also sweeter than any type of western sausage, so through roasting, the sugar sweats through the casing and caramelizes on the outside. The pork fat also renders out, and together with the caramelized sugar, forms an irresistibly crisp-golden skin enrobing a juicy, delicately spiced pork filling.

It’s been a decade since I first moved to BC, since then I’ve never tasted another sausage quite like the ones I so loved. One time, a recipe for pork jerky happened to fall into the hands of my mother from an old friend. Quite naturally, we tested it out, and to our pleasant surprise, it bore commendable similarities to my nostalgic cravings. Before you know it, we had tweaked the spices to the perfect balance, and the result was better than bacon. Unbelievable.

It’s not pork jerky, it’s not sausage, it’s not bacon.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you…

pork candy.

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Ingredients for one sheet of pork candy:

454g organic lean ground pork

80g dark brown sugar

30g oyster sauce

10g fish sauce

5g rice wine

5g garlic, mashed to a fine paste

To make the pork candy, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with the rack in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix just until the pork becomes stringy. Spread the mixture into the sheet pan to a 1/2 cm thickness, using a spatula.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until caramelized, and the edges are crisp. If it doesn’t seem to be browned sufficiently, increase the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool completely before peeling off the parchment and cutting into squares. These will keep for up to a week wrapped loosely in parchment then closed in a cookie jar, or freeze in a sealed bag for up to two months.

Because of its surprisingly long shelf life, they have become a staple in the care-packages I mail to my brother who lives in Ontario. He requests them every time, and makes sure that they are always gobbled up long before the cookies start disappearing. Pork candy is also delicious sandwiched with fresh pickled cucumbers between toasted slices of white bread that’s been brushed with honey on the inside.

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