I'm not a big meat-eater. I like meat, for sure, and I'm not saying that I don't bite into even the best of veggie burgers wishing it were a hamburger. But there are several reasons (environmental, financial, PETA-induced guilt) why I limit myself when it comes to animal-based foods. Mushy veggie burgers aside, there are plenty of meat alternatives that are almost as good as the real thing—except, I'd argue, for ribs.
I will say I've never tried a rib alternative (is it too on-the-nose to say seitan sounds hellish?), but I can't imagine a passable substitute for a bone-in dish. It seems like Yaletown Vietnamese restaurant House Special is with me on this: their reopening menu is about a third vegan or vegetarian, but the egg yolk pork ribs are all meat, baby.
A small disclaimer: the hulking pork ribs maybe aren't the best thing to order if you don't wish to look like a starving Tyrannosaurus rex in front of your dining partner. This dish is for family/close friends/nonjudgemental partners only. Don't kid yourself with that knife and fork. Chopsticks? In your dreams. You can't help engaging in a kind of prehistoric massacre when eating off a bone.
And said meat was falling off the bone. The ribs were crispy and tender, the pork fried in a salty and spicy duck egg yolk (that's right, two of Old Macdonald's precious pets in one!) and served with cilantro, lime and jalapeños. They were impossible to put down once you took a bite—once you sink your teeth in, you're a goner. Anyone who tries to take the rib from you is also a goner. The dish is meant to be shared, but I wasn't shy about telling my dining partner that rib #3 was all mine. Because I'm not a big meat-eater, when I do eat meat, it's gotta be good. And not to get too political here, but I think this pig's parents would be proud of her post-mortem accomplishments.
As I mentioned above, House Special's new menu has lots of new veggie-forward plates (think turmeric crepes, mushroom vermicelli, and lemongrass tofu) and veggie options for their staple dishes (like vegetarian housemade sesame buns). Vegans, check it out. Non-vegans: get the ribs.
Photo by House Special.
Egg Yolk Pork Ribs, $14
1269 Hamilton Street