Executive chef Jordi of Agua was kind enough to allow me into his kitchen – one of Beijing’s upscale restaurants at the Legation Quarter. I went to help out and well, basically nose around to discover the inner workings of a top kitchen during dinner service on a Saturday night. There was a sucking pig party that night I was attending, an event that he holds monthly for friends.
I was tasked to shell king scallops last night and it was really good fun. My favourite childhood activity was cleaning out the seafood and meats that my mother prepared to cook. As you can imagine, I was thrilled at the dirty task that no one else in the kitchen enjoyed doing.
Basically, I learnt that roasting a suckling pig was all about common sense. The ideal little piglet should weight between 4.5KG- 5KG, any less or more than that, you compromise the flavors of the little piggy. Essential herbs used were sea salt, rosemary, thyme with cloves and cloves of garlic. Simple as that, then pop the piglet into the oven at 180ºC and leave it for about 60-90 minutes. The crispy skin turns golden brown and will smell like a rich explosion of flavors like Thanksgiving and Christmas combined.
There were little industry secrets that I watched and picked up while being moved around the kitchen and the whole process of running a dinner service was fascinating.
Due to the language barrier, (chef Jordi only speaks minimal Chinese), communication with the kitchen staff took place with sign language – that was surprisingly quick and efficient, more so than shouting over the sizzling stoves and buzzing ovens. Everything fell into place like a jigsaw in the span of hours and that was quite an eye opener for the kitchen elf like me.