If BBQ pork was a Hollywood actor, it would be Sean Penn. There is something very multi-faceted about this way of cooking pork that never feels to amaze me. Each cut has a unique flavour and character of it’s own, and whether it’s grilled, slow cooked or smoked, the integrity of good BBQ pork is quickly recognisable and rarely compromised.
This star quality is quickly gaining recognition in London. Recent months have seen a slew of BBQ related activity in the city. Jamie Oliver recently opened Barbecoa near St Paul’s Cathedral, and Red Dog Saloon is scheduled to open in Shoreditch in June. On the street side of things Anna Mae’s Smoke House continue to do a rocking Pork n’Slaw, and the recently opened Pitt Cue Co. on Southbank is quickly gaining a reputation for some of the best (if a touch pricey) BBQ pork this side of the Atlantic.
A man who needs no convincing on the merits of BBQ is Brick Lane’s Mark Gevaux (AKA The Ribman.) During our own brief stint there, Mark’s was one of the many twitter voices of encouragement spurring us on. Although our two weeks there were too frazzled/stressed/busy to meet in person, we kept up a friendly on line acquaintance nonetheless.
A butcher by background, Mark has been barbecuing pork ribs at the council-run end of Brick Lane for the past three years. Although he originally started out selling ribs by the rack, Mark quickly readjusted to sell pulled pork rolls instead. It’s a move that has proved immensely popular: the Ribman routinely sells out by mid afternoon every Sunday.
It’s easy to see why: whole racks of ribs are wrapped in tinfoil and barbecued, then pulled apart by hand and stuffed into large, soft rolls and drizzled with optional hot sauce. The meat comes off the ribs so easily that it’s virtually impossible to witness this spectacle and not want to dive in yourself.
Put simply, it tastes fantastic. Pulled pork can be hard to get right but Mark gets it spot on. The meat is tender, flavourful and obviously benefits from being cooked right on the bone. It also has a curiously light quality to it and goes well with the large, soft roll. Matched with the flavourful yet incendiary hot sauce, it’s a meal that requires no further improvement.
Then there’s Mark himself: passionate, knowledgeable and welcoming – we could have stood and chatted all day about meat, the street food business, and the apprentice, were it not for the mounds of pork that needed imminent selling-out of.
Cheers Ribman – in the words of another Hollywood great, “I’ll be back!”