Recently I joined a few others for a Butchery Workshop hosted by Chef Tom Aikens at his restaurant, The Fat Pig by Tom Aikens, in Times Square. Given I have yet tried both of the restaurants he's currently overseeing (Fat Pig and also The Pawn in Wanchai), I am interested in trying his dishes, but I am even more interested in picking up some butchering skills from him, for this is not something I could easily get some hands-on experience with.
So after we gathered around at the restaurant kitchen where we heard Chef Tom gave us a quick 30 minute lesson on the anatomy of pig and some basic butchering techniques by jointing, we were separated into group where each group was given a suckling pig to "practice", using just simple equipment like a boning knife and a chopping knife, and broke the carcass down into the primal cuts - basically legs, loin, shoulders and belly.
The kitchen team of the restaurant already made our lives easier by cleaning up the carcass all nice and mangeable for us to work on. We then took turns in carefully cut through the joints to remove the forelegs and hindlegs, then the ribs and the belly and loin. We were a bit nervous at first not knowing how to start but I thought we got slightly better towards the end, managed to separating the whole suckling pig into different parts, which could then be used in different dishes. Probably not good enough to get a job in the restaurant kitchen, but at least we were not as clueless now.
The second part of the workshop involved the making of sausages. That's when Chef Doug, the resident chef at The Fat Pig, pulled out the sausage "machine", loaded it up with ground meat and showed us some basic stuffing techniques. And each of us were given the opportunity to get our hands dirty again and did some stuffing ourselves. Again, it's not as easy as it looked, but I think after some practices the sausages we made were somewhat passable for cooking.
After an afternoon of "hard work", we retreated back to the dining area and chill over wine and nibbles brought out from the kitchen just as they began the dinner service. Well what they described as just some simple pre-dinner snacks turned out to be like a grand feast of all goodies from pork cracklings to deep-fried pork ears with aioli, to meatballs with polenta to a few pork belly sliders for each of us to dig in. My favorite was the sliders with a few thin slices of pork belly with caramelized onions, mayo and mustard sandwiched between the brioche bun. For the stuff we couldn't finish, I packed some home and they made perfect snack for my late night TV watching.
Thanks Chef Tom and the team for bearing with us at the kitchen and for the wonderful treat and one-of-a-kind learning experience! While after that afternoon I knew for sure that a butchering career is out of the question for me (so is sausage stuffing), I will definitely be back for a proper meal at the restaurant next time, staying with just the eating part.
When? January 23 2016
Where? The Fat Pig by Tom Aikens, 11/F, Times Square, 1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong