It’s a moment that comes right near the end of a Huang’s World trip to China, when Eddie is sitting down to eat with local Hunan cool girl Wei Liu. On the menu is what he calls “probably the most seminal dish in my life”, red braised pork.
After praising the dish’s texture and colour, Eddie gets emotional, saying, “There is the taste of good old times. You know, when I talk to my pops or my uncles or my aunts, we didn’t leave China on our own accord. There was a civil war, and a lot of our ancestors got killed, and they were forced to Taiwan. And my parents were born there ’cos they were the last of the bunch. And then they left Taiwan, as well … then came to America, and I was born there…
“As an overseas Chinese, you’re cut off from your history. …It’s really powerful to come home and connect with something in a story that you’ve tried to keep the fire alive for 33 years in America... It’s funny, isn’t it? To cry when I see the braised pork.”
The dish in question is the Hunan take on the classic Chinese red braised pork: “probably the most famous Hunan dish all time”, Eddie says in the episode (catch it Sunday night April 30, on SBS VICELAND, then on SBS On Demand, as Eddie travels to China with his parents to explore his heritage as a Taiwanese-Chinese-American).
“It's a real moment to come back home and eat this dish. The skin here is so bouncy. It’s, it's the perfect skin. It's jumping out the gym. The layers – the fat's all melted, and I think the signature of Hunan," Eddie says. "… you taste the chili, you taste the garlic, and there's a more toothsome texture. Shanghai braised pork, it's like knife through butter. Very soft. This is our Hunan braised pork.”
SBS Food asked him why it was such a big deal.
What was it like to be so moved by a dish?
Yeah, that was very unexpected. It was funny. We were doing the scene and it meant so much and, it was... I always tell people: I don’t happen to the show, the show happens to me. When we sat down to eat the well-cooked pork, which is a very seminal dish, to my personal history and the history of Chinese people... Yeah! I was overwhelmed, with the emotion of being in my father’s home province, and that was a very special moment for me and the crew. Pretty much everyone on the crew is an immigrant. Everyone is from a different place. A couple of people that are a few generations in America. But for the most part, we’re all immigrants and we all really related and felt that moment. So that was a special one.
I think the closest thing that Australians get is finding Vegemite overseas. So I can kind of relate.
Yeah, it is like that! And then what? Tim Tams, you guys love Tim Tams? Right? I always feel like Australian girls freak out when they see Tim Tams, and they’re wafers. Yeah, it’s whatever reminds you of home. It’s a very powerful thing.
So you also said, at the end of that scene, that your braised pork is better. How long would it take to talk through how you make it?
Oh... I would never tell you! [laughter] I would never tell you. The game is to be sold, you know what I mean? It’s not to be told, so I would never tell you. I know a lot of chefs, they... I don’t know. I’m a different kind of a dude. I never tell people my recipes. Or if I do tell you my recipe, it’s the wrong one. You should know that. If I give you one, it's fake.
Ha! Not putting out a cookbook then?
It depends how much they pay me. If someone pays me enough I’ll do a cookbook. I’m an entrepreneur.
Join Eddie as he visits Jamaica and China, Sunday April 20 from 8.15pm on SBS Viceland then on SBS On Demand.
A favourite of Chairman Mao, Chinese red braised pork is rich, sticky, savoury- sweet and very delicious!