My Rectilinear Life


Dalian, China
December 11
US expat living in China. Another 40-something woman experiencing mid-life crisis, only this time in China, with dumplings.


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SEPTEMBER 30, 2010 7:10PM

Pork Pastries 不好吃!

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Who knew that a pork product could be made that I wouldn’t like?  Such is the case with a product known around our house as “meat hair.” The actual name, in English, is pork floss.  In Chinese it is zhu rou song song. (Argh, I can't get Chinese characters in my blog text!) Character by character that translates to “pig meat loose loose.”  The real translation (courtesy the ever-handy Nciku) is “a condiment made of finely shredded preserved meat.”  Honestly, no matter how you say it, or shred it, it is not edible.



Bread Talk sells pork flosss. That extra s makes it special.


Bear in mind that I am not turned off by weird pig meats. Recently our family was treated to a lovely dinner at the Beijing apartment of a Chinese friend’s aunt.  The table was a smorgasbord of porcine anatomy.  My daughters dug into the ham, while Jimmy and I munched ears, snout, and feet. This was an awesome meal!

The Li family does us right

There was a time when Americans, just like the Chinese, made use of every piece of an animal they slaughtered.  That time was not so long ago.  In my childhood years in Alabama, every beer or convenience store I entered had a jar of pig’s feet on the counter.  They probably still do. Nobody in my home ate them, but I’m sure plenty of our neighbors did.  And my grandmother was known to scarf down souse with uncommon vigor.  Her death brought an end to our family’s head eatin’ days, but somebody still loves it, ‘cause somebody still makes it.


Made with pig parts. And love.


So nothing in my previous experience prepared me for the disappointment of meat hair. Meat hair is chiefly used in the preparation of pastries.  Chinese pastries are generally gorgeous and frequently disappointing.  They lack both the sweetness and the richness of Western pastries.  They can sometimes be charming for the same reason: instead of smacking you in the face with sugar they deliver just a simple, slightly sweet and unique flavor.  But the savory pastries almost always let me down, because they are often overly sweet, too.




I fell into the lion's jaw.


So here is the quintessential Chinese pastry experience.  You enter the bakery and spy several shelves of creative, attractive pastries.  Look!  Isn’t that lion’s head cute?Is that chocolate on the face? Hmm, what’s the mane?  Is that some sort of spun sugar?  Zhe ge shi tang ma?  Uh, no. That’s meat hair. I think it might have been cured with formaldehyde and high fructose corn syrup. This is like chewing cat fur. What’s that inside?  Smoky pork fat.  My pastry is stuffed with smoky pork fat!



A terrific place to put some chocolate.  Wasted.


Seriously, give me a crunchy slice of ear any day.


Bonus video: I gave Hazel the Flip video camera the other day when she and Jimmy took a walk to the bakery. Drop some dramamine before watching.



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pork floss, pork, expat living, china

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I've had the same experience in a Chinese bakery here in San Francisco. The pastries look amazing, and while some live up to my expectations, many others do not. But then, that's all part of the adventure.
In Japan, people constantly slip mayonnaise into everything, the prime example being a "strawberry bun" which was actually filled with strawberry and mayo....
I really like your blog!