Banner image photo credit: Odette restaurant
By now, we should be no stranger to lard. The crispy cubes of deep-fried pork fat are an essential garnish for popular local favourites such as bak chor mee (minced pork noodles), fried rice or wanton mee, adding a rich if indulgent touch to these dishes.
Think of lardo as the gourmet version of lard. "Lard is just the pure fat from the pig, and it becomes lardo after it has been cured and spiced," says Jean-Philippe Patruno, chef-owner of modern European restaurant Dehesa
. "It's like saying pig and pork — you don't say pig cutlet; you'll say pork cutlet."
To be sure, while lard is usually made by rendering fat and then leaving it to solidify, the process of making lardo goes into a little more detail. Its origins are deeply-rooted in Italy, where production of lardo is done by taking at least an inch-thick of raw back fat and wrapping it with rosemary and other spices, before curing it for over six months.
Strips of lardo are draped over grilled hamachi collar at Salted & Hung to add a richer dimension to the charred meat.
Now, the buttery white salumi is finding its place on more restaurant menus in Singapore. At two-Michelin-starred Odette
, for instance, the fine-dining French restaurant serves lardo butter (pictured above) together with its bread course. The whipped airy butter is infused with layers of the cured meat, giving the butter a savoury, smoky flavour.
Meanwhile at Dehesa, chef JP uses lardo as an alternative in his version of surf 'n' turf, a main course which usually combines seafood and red meat.
Says JP: "My problem with surf and turf is it's always one meat and some seafood, so it becomes like two dishes on one plate and can get quite heavy. By using lardo, we morph the dishes together nicely. Also, by grilling the lardo over the octopus, you get a very delicious smoky aroma that adds to the dining experience."
Salted & Hung
is another restaurant here where lardo features heavily on the menu. Under the hands of chef Drew Nocente, the silky white strips of cured fat are served with chilli and truffle honey on a charcuterie platter, or draped over the smoky charred flesh of grilled hamachi (yellowtail) collar. In this case, fat truly is flavour.