Korean Eating: Don’t Throw Away the Pig Skin!
No part of the pig should be thrown away!
We went out for dinner this week and enjoyed some delicious pig skin. I learned that my neighborhood, Mapo, is actually known for its pig skin restaurants and now I understand why there are so many here. There’s hardly a night out for pork on the grill that doesn’t end with some chewy, but also crackled at the beginning if done just right, pig skin.
When I was first introduced to the dish, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it, especially since the nipples were still visible protruding from the skin. I was told it was good for my complexion, but as most foods in Korea are introduced by first explaining their purported benefits, I was still skeptical. Health benefits or not, the texture and taste had me more worried. Worried I should not have been, the meat was scrumptious.
Pig skin is called dwaeji ggupdaegi (돼지 껍데기), “dwaeji” being pig and “gupdaegi” being shell, cover or skin in Korean. If you’re in a pork restaurant the menu will probably just say ggupdaegi though and it’s a safe assumption that it will be the skin of the pig and not the skin of another animal that will be served up.
The dish is best served on a grill. It will come in square sections and once on the grill it will start to curl. When the edges have curled up and to the center, it will need to be flipped over and spread out to get both sides done evenly. After a little more grilling, it’s time to slice it up and let it continue to cook. Some people prefer to eat it at this point when it’s a bit chewy, this diner prefers to let it cook a bit longer until it’s crackled and has a bubbly surface. It is certainly not a menu item to be shunned.