We may think that 21st-century America is a food-worshipping culture, but we’ve got nothing on 19th-century China, where a craftsman carved and dyed a hunk of jasper to create a “meat-shaped stone.” (Yes, that’s its official title.) That’s what we call pork belly, quite literally, on a pedestal.
The lauded sculpture is one of the most prized holdings of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. It makes its American debut at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum today, June 17 — one of many pieces in an exhibition called “Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art From the National Palace Museum, Taipei.”
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But it’s easily the most mouthwatering. “It’s just so realistic, it looks like a real, mouthwatering piece of pork,” Jay Xu, the director of the museum, told the New York Times. No less than Anthony Bourdain, on the Taipei episode of The Layover, once called the stone “the pork of his dreams.” Not even real pork belly glistens quite like that.
And because gazing upon this work of art is likely to spark some very real hunger, for the next month 12 notable area chefs will feature pork belly specials — including Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s, and Michelle Mah of The Slanted Door. Porcine deliciousness guaranteed (though we’d order the specials just for the sweet pork belly button).
Pork belly with young coconut water, braised chiles and ginger from The Slanted Door.