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For many, pork remains the crown jewel of meat. The smell of frying bacon is enough to get us out of bed willingly – even on a Monday morning. But while there are many parts of the majestic pig that receive their much-deserved love, there is one cut that is far too under-appreciated: its tail.
Pigs’ tails form a part of traditional cuisine in many countries, but in fine dining, they have long been seen as a waste cut. Now, thanks to the nose-to-tail movement, pigs’ tails are receiving some much-needed attention.
The Pot Luck Club first introduced pigs’ tails to South African fine-dining cuisine several years ago. Though they no longer appear on the menu, their memory alone holds a warm place in the hearts of many. Today, several other nose-to-tail eateries have taken up the banner, and are serving up pigs’ tails as a delicacy. The journey of this lesser-known tidbit mirrors that of the much-lauded pork belly, which was also seen as a waste cut but now can be found on the menus of every bistro worth its salt – and plenty of fine dining restaurants to boot.
Not only are pork tails versatile, they also contain the ideal meat-to-fat ratio. Writing for Eater, Chichi Wang says “pigs’ tails contain everything desirable in the pig, and in exactly the right proportions. Unlike oxtail, the tails of pigs come with the skin intact so that each segment is a perfect cross-section of skin, fat, tendon, and meat.” The skin, depending on preparation, can also take on a delectable crisp that makes this an addictive cut. The tails can also be crumbed and deep fried, as all the best things are. Paired with the right dip to cut through its richness, these oddly shaped snacks might soon replace bacon in your dreams.
“Like a ‘meaty mielie’,” says Giles Edwards of La Tête in Cape Town. Start at the skinny end and work your way down. You won’t regret it.
La Tête (Cape Town City Bowl)
Despite chef Giles Edwards’s menu constantly changing, this is the one dish so popular that it has a permanent spot. Giles lets the tails lie in brine for ten days before braising them in chicken stock and crumbing them. Next, they’re deep fried and served with a delicious confit garlic aioli (R35).
The Hog House BBQ & Bakery (Ndabeni)
Head to this glorious barbecue spot to try pigs’ tails with a maple-pecan glaze (R45).
The Chefs Table (Umhlanga)
Kayla Osborn’s menu is constantly changing, so check they’re on the menu before you visit, but the chef says she loves pigs’ tails. Her favourite way to prepare them is by slow-braising them for at least six hours in an onion, garlic and white wine concoction. They’re then fried until crispy before being served with a ripened mango- and vanilla-pod mustard. The crispy yet sticky pigs’ tails are perfectly complemented by the punchy mustard.
9th Avenue Bistro (Morningside)
Chef Charlie Lakin is another devotee of the nose-to-tail movement. Pigs’ tails feature occasionally on the menu as part of a heritage dish using Midlands pork. The menu also offers crispy pigs’ ears on occasion.
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