If you were an “adventurous” eater during the early-to-mid 2000s, you probably got your fill of bacon, or at least grew weary of creative bacon applications. The strips of cured pork were in and on everything, from cocktails to dessert, like a kind of menu SEO, whether it made sense or not. I’m not blaming bacon; it can’t help that it’s a great product, but there is another porky garnish that deserves just as much attention: pork floss.
If you’re familiar with Asian cuisine, I’m not telling you anything new. Meat floss is a common finishing ingredient in many Asian cultures, and is made by stewing meat in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and seasonings until the muscle fibres can be pulled apart. The meat is then strained, dried, and fried to make a cotton candy-like fluff. It is often flavored with MSG. It rules.
You can get fish floss, chicken floss, beef floss, and rabbit floss, but pork floss (also called “pork fu” or “pork sung,” which are slightly different from each other) seems to be the most common, at least at the Asian markets in my city. (You can also order it online.)
Pork floss is salty, meaty, sweet, packed with umami, and good on everything. The texture is delicately, fleetingly crispy, and prone to wilting when sprinkled over hot, steaming foods, so add it last-minute to experience the most textural contrast.
It’s traditionally used to flavour congee, tofu, plain rice, or as a filling or topping for pastries, buns, and dumplings. You can also eat it on its own, like fluffy jerky. If you want to branch out from the traditional uses, you can do so with ease. If you would finish a dish with bacon, or even parmesan cheese, you can finish it with pork floss. I put some on my morning scrambled eggs, and my only regret is that I didn’t add more. Much like cotton candy, pork floss melts readily on the tongue, deflating and leaving you wanting more, so don’t be afraid to really pile it on.
My plans for my current tub of pork floss include a cool and crisp wedge salad, a fluffy baked potato, pineapple pizza, a grilled cheese sandwich, deli salads, a big stack of pancakes (with maple syrup), and a warm scallion pancake (I’m also not above wrapping it in a tortilla.) You can even go full 2009, and sprinkle it on a maple bar, over a dish of ice cream, or on a slice of chocolate cake.
Because it’s dried and fried, there’s very little water in pork floss. It will keep pretty much indefinitely in an air-tight container stored in a cool, dry place, but it’s so easy to eat, I doubt you need to worry about it “going bad.”