I’ve been eating chà bông ever since I was a kid. My grandma used to sprinkle it atop hot plain porridge and serve it for breakfast. For some bizarre reason, chà bông is known as “pork floss” in English. I loathe the term, but must admit that it is catchy and intriguing, especially for the uninitiated.
Here’s a little back story on the mysterious meat bi-product:
Rousong, also called meat floss, pork floss, or pork sung, is a dried Chinese meat item that has a light and fluffy texture similar to coarse cotton. Rousong is used as a topping for many foods such as congee, tofu, and savory soy milk. It is also used as filling for various buns and pastries, and as a snack food on its own. Rousong is a very popular food item in Chinese culture, and evident in its ubiquitous use in Chinese cuisine.
Rousong is made by stewing cheap cuts of pork in a sweetened soy sauce mixture until individual muscle fibers can be easily teased apart with a fork. This usually happens when the collagen and elastin that normally hold the fibers have been cooked out of the meat. The teased-apart meat is then strained and dried in the oven. After a light drying, the meat is mashed and beaten while being dry cooked in a large wok until it is completely dry. Additional flavorings are usually added while the mixture is being dry fried.
Five kilograms of meat will usually produce about one kilogram of rousong.
These days, I buy chà bông from a vendor in my neighborhood for 12,000 VND per 100 grams. She sells pork and chicken varieties that pretty much taste the same. I will conduct a blind taste test in the near future to confirm this hypothesis.
While I still love eating chà bông with porridge, my favorite preparation is with pasta. Nui chien (pasta with eggs) is one of the first dishes I ever learned how to cook—I think my aunt taught me how to prepare it when I was ten years old. The original recipe calls for Maggi seasoning sauce rather than chà bông, but I find that the salty stringy meat really enhances the overall flavor and texture.
The ingredients for this dish are simple—pasta, olive oil, eggs, salt, pepper and chà bông. After the pasta is cooked, I transfer it to a frying pan with a bit of oil, salt and pepper. Then I crack in two eggs and let it sit for a while on medium heat because I like my noodles golden and crispy.
I also like my eggs not-so-scrambled, so I keep the stirring to a minimum. Once the pasta is nice and fried and the eggs are fully cooked, I plate it, sprinkle a generous amount of pork floss on top and dig in. Since The Astronomer is not a fan of eggs, I make him an egg-less version that he likes quite a bit. Whenever I’m too lazy to go out for lunch or dinner, this is my go-to dish. It’s quick, easy and tastes like home.
How do you eat chà bông? And do you love or hate the term “pork floss?”