Why I Don’t Eat Pork

The topic of pork came up in a comment thread on Reddit in response to the question – what is something about your race (ethnicity) that other races may not be aware of?

A Chinese redditor responded that pork permeates a lot of Chinese food, even in dishes that aren’t pork-based. As a fellow Chinese, I concur. Not just because I live in the food space and am constantly researching recipes, but also because I have a strong aversion to pork. I don’t eat it, I gag at the sight of pork dishes, and, obviously, I don’t use it in any of my cooking.

Every time I mention this, especially to other Chinese folks, I get strange looks. It doesn’t compute, because the Chinese love pork. (I know Uyghur cuisine is pork-free, but I’m talking about the mainstream Chinese and their food.)

Also, I’m not just any Chinese, I’m Hakka-Chinese, and if you looked through a Hakka cookbook and eliminated the pork-based dishes, you’d struggle to fill a brochure with the remainder.

I also get hostile reactions from some Malaysian Chinese because it’s a sensitive topic and I guess they see me as a betrayer of my own race by not using pork in my cooking. Some write off my food without trying it, on the assumption Malaysian hawker food can’t taste good if it doesn’t contain pork/pork lard/pork crisps etc. (entirely valid point if you love pork).

So when did my anti-pork sentiment start? I actually don’t remember ever eating and enjoying Chinese favourites like char siew pao or siew yoke (roast pork), but as a very young child, I do remember loving a particular broth my mom used to make using pig tails (we Chinese use all parts of an animal in our food).

I loved munching on the pig tails, but even then, my family would marvel at how strange it was that I wouldn’t eat any pork except this dish. Until one day I bit into a pig tail that was especially chunky and fatty, vomited, and never touched it again. This all happened when I was about 5 years old, so it’s been like fifty years.

When I followed my stepmom on her daily food shopping (my mom passed away when I was six), I would wait a distance away and hold my breath when she visited the Chinese butcher, because I couldn’t stand the smell. I would get sick if I caught more than a whiff of it.

I get that my pork phobia is psychological and caused by the trauma of throwing up on a fatty piece of pig tail all those years ago, but the appearance, texture, smell and taste of pork makes me ill.

So, for those of you who are wondering, I adapt all porky Malaysian and Chinese recipes to be pork-free, not for religious reasons (I’m now a born-again Christian), not for health or ethical reasons, and not because I’m opportunistically trying to tap into the halal food demographic etc.

I do it for myself because I can’t stand it. Simple as that.

Final point – I’m sure I’ve eaten and enjoyed food that contains “hidden pork” without realising it – please don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.

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