PEK is a canned pork product manufactured in Poland and sold worldwide.
At least, that’s the official line.
I had previously ingested PEK during the making of a short film about an encounter between a lonely man and some Mormon missionaries. This film was heavily based on fact, although we took some artistic liberties in having my character eat food that smells, and looks, very similar to budget dog food.
Eating it cold had not been a particularly pleasant experience. It was slimy, fatty and, not surprisingly given that’s it canned pork, exceedingly salty.
However, it had a meaty taste I just couldn’t stop thinking about.
Days passed, weeks went by, and I found myself unable to think of much else apart from PEK.
My body had been exposed to a new, exotic, substance the consumption of which seemed somehow profane.
It was as if by the mere act of opening up the tin and releasing the stink that I was actually breaking an ancient taboo, that I was performing a ceremonial act of transgression.
I was haunted by PEK.
So, I decided to return to my local ASDA and pick up a pack of PEK.
PEK retails at around £1 a can ($1.68 for my American friends, €1.23 for my European chums).
Once home I took my PEK in hand and examined it.
There were many serving suggestions, on pizza, in pasta, delicious hot or cold.
With a sense of distant foreboding, I took out my trusty can opener and set to work releasing the PEK.
The first thing you notice about opening a tin of PEK is the instant release of odour. It’s pungent and meaty, similar to what you might encounter if you shared a cramped car journey with an Alsatian that was breathing heavily in your face.
The second thing you notice is the clear fat which bursts forth from the can as you saw around its perimeter.
I won’t lie, there’s something strangely satisfying about it.
It’s not dissimilar, I suppose, to the enjoyment some people get from seeing spots get popped, or cysts drained.
Prising the PEK out of the tin I plated it so that I could observe it from all angles, and I then cut it into chunks.
As you can see from the pictures at one stage it seemed to want to reform itself into some sort of worm shape.
This was not my doing, I thought it best to hurry up and cook the PEK.
I opted to try it pan fried, a small splash of olive oil, on the hob at full whack.
Very quickly I realized there had been no need for the oil. There was so much fat in the PEK that it did a great job of cooking itself in its ’natural juices’.
It soon crackled up nicely. I got a great crisp on the exterior of the chunks, it felt good to see it change from a pale pink to a golden brown.
I told myself that this made sense, that I was doing PEK properly this time.
Satisfied that my PEK was ready to eat, I removed it from the hot pan and greedily dug in.
I was pleasantly surprised.
It had crisped up very nicely and the high cooking heat seemed to have killed off some of the dog foodiness that I encountered when eating it cold.
It had, I thought, the potential to make some very nice crackling if cooked in the oven correctly.
Perhaps I had stumbled on to a budget roast dinner in a can?
Maybe this was a cook’s cheat, a well-kept culinary secret, a unappetizing looking lifehack that would yield great pork dinners at a fraction of the normal cost?
The more I ate, however, the stranger I felt. PEK has a highly unusual mouth feel.
When trying to think of a comparable experience that my readers might have encountered all that came to mind was french kissing the family dog after it had gorged itself on the remains of a particularly bloated badger.
Even now, hours after having eaten it and having brushed my teeth twice, it’s still there on my tongue. I fear it’s taken permanent residence in my mouth.
I quickly hit a PEK wall. I was experiencing nausea, but I was actually more worried that I would gorge myself on the entire can.
Luckily, a neighborhood cat wandered in and I fed him the remainder of the PEK.
Wolfing it down, he crawled onto the sofa and passed out, where he’s remained ever since. His tiny cat chest seems to rising and falling, so I’m not too worried yet.
He may yet succumb to salt poisoning, if so I will undoubtedly experience some guilt and remorse over this. I will, not, however volunteer this information to his owners.
I had a great deal of unwanted thoughts entering my head after I had finished with the PEK.
When I closed my eyes I kept seeing visions of giant pink worms, fully sentient and experiencing unbearable agonies.
They called to me and told me of their plight and their sad origins; theirs had been an ancient culture who had always been a peaceful people joined in a psychic government, but a dark force had come from a distant star and enslaved them.
A name burned in my mind, I was compelled to write it down:
Perseus Endometriosis Kronos.
It means nothing to me, gibberish undoubtedly brought on by an adverse reaction to pork.
What else could it possibly be?
A postscript to this review; I contacted the consumer information line which was printed on the can of PEK. It rang off, but seconds later I was called back on my mobile by an unknown number.
A cultured British accent, male, warned me not to look too deeply into PEK, that one shouldn’t rock the boat old chap, and that PEK was perfectly happy being PEK and that everything had its place in the natural hierarchy of things. I was confused, I didn’t know how to respond.
The man was polite, yet there was steel beneath his voice. I found I could not argue with him, or say much of anything except to meekly agree that I would not be looking more deeply into PEK.
So, there you have it. My encounter with PEK. I’ve chosen to publish this article on here so that someone may make some sense out of it all and, I suppose, as some measure of security against the forces out there operating under the guise of processed pork manufacturers.
Bacon-Wrapped Potato Bites with Spicy Sour Cream Dipping Sauce
Makes about three dozen bites
1 pound small or medium red potatoes 2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh rosemary 1 tablespoon olive oil Freshly ground pepper 12 ounces to 1 pound thick-cut bacon 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream 1-3 teaspoons hot sauce Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Wash and dry the potatoes. Chop them into 1-inch pieces, keeping the chunks roughly the same size even if they aren’t the exact same shape. Put the potatoes in a medium pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Season the water with 2 teaspoons of salt. Once the water begins to boil, cook the potatoes for 3 to 4 minutes, until you can stick a fork into them without too much resistance. You want the potatoes to be almost, but not fully, cooked through so they won’t fall apart during the next steps.
Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Add the rosemary, olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper, and toss until the potatoes are evenly coated.
Cut the strips of bacon into thirds. Wrap each potato bite in a piece of bacon, securing it with a toothpick. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil spaced an inch or two apart. You may need to cook the potatoes in two batches.
Cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, then flip each piece. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is cooked through and as crisp as you like it. Mix the sour cream and hot sauce in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pile the potato bites on a plate and serve alongside the dip.
Salt, if you need it (I find that between the soy sauce and the pork its salty enough for my tastes)
½ cup Green Onion, sliced
1 tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated (Optional, you can also adjust ginger to taste!)
Sesame Oil (approx 1 tsp)
*Day old rice works best! The reason for this is that day old rice or leftover rice has less moisture, and fries better! If you don’t have day old rice, and least stick it in the fridge to cool for an hour. It makes a huge difference.
**Feel free to adjust amounts of everything on here, I never use exact measurements when I cook it, and these are the approximate measurements from my last batch!
In large frying pan or saute pan (one with taller sides is best) on medium to medium high heat, coat the bottom of the pan with oil, with a little extra. Add brow/yellow onions and garlic, and cook until the onions become slightly translucent, stirring frequently.
Add rice, and fry until its slightly brown, stirring frequently. If the rice starts burning or sticking too much to the bottom of the pan, add more oil (or even butter, if you like).
Add pepper, to taste. I just eyeball it.
Add the roasted pork belly, and continue stirring until its heated up.
Push all the rice mixture to the sides of the pan, making a bowl in the middle of the pan. Add a touch of oil and drop the eggs and ginger in the middle, frying until the eggs are cooked, then mix into the rice mixture.
Mix about 1 tsp of sesame oil into the pan. This doesn’t seem like much, but it makes a huge difference in taste, and smells amazing. A little goes a long way though!
Lightly drizzle soy sauce over rice. I typically zig-zag across the pan 3-4 times. Mix everything together, and turn off heat.
Stir in green onions until everything is well mixed.