So where does a dish originate? These days its seems we’re so obsessed with finding the roots of a recipe, or its cultural meaning, as some approach to finding its true soul. In these conversations about the first place something was first cooked or the first person who cooked it or the correct ingredients to make, we forget one important aspect of food, something that’s true for just about anything we eat: any dish is first eaten around a table with family and friends.
As we watched chef Ji Hye place the whole roast suckling pig on the table at her special Spice Week dinner at’s, we were suddenly struck by the incredible voyage of this incredible dish. A whole roast suckling pig laid out on the table is impressive enough, and its prickly-salty Sansho pepper rub was a breathtaking addition, but what really stood out to us about Ji Hye’s pig was its incredible journey.
The story starts decades ago on our first spice sourcing trips to Indonesia. Owners Philippe and Ethné visited the island of Bali- still the source of ourpepper and - and were treated to Babi Guling, the traditional roast pig of the Hindu population there. The deep, layered spice paste! The crispy skin! The whole village, enjoying together! This dish had everything, and it quickly made its way onto Philippe’s menu, a favorite piece to entertain special guests.
Two years ago we had the distinct pleasure of hosting the Zingerman’s partners at our home in Montreal. Épices de Cru owner Philippe decided out pull out all the stops- which we knew meant a whole pig was coming. True to form, the great chef stuffed our porcine pal with his favorite Roman spices and presented it with a dozen or so other knock-out recipes (we’re talking foie gras sushi here). With a good supply of wine, conversation, and an inexplicable human urge to be and celebrate together, the roast pig fuelled us well past our expected bedtimes.
Suffice it to say we had a wonderful evening.
Now, Philippe has always been impressed with Ji Hye’s chef skills, but he had no idea how deep a culinary connection they’d established until he heard she was adding a whole roast suckling pig to her special spice menu. Of course, she added her own twist, one unknown to us: a sansho pepper rub, deep with flavor and tingling sensation. It was a delicious revelation, one without peer, a totally original dish.
So, mouths filled with glistening pig, we were delighted to see how this great family dish made its way into Ji Hye’s heart and onto Miss Kim’s menu. From Bali to Montreal to Ann Arbor, a new dish is born. New foods and ideas are, more often than not, developed around a table. Can you trace the story of a dish to find its true origin? When pigs fly.