Spyware and construction contractors are very bad for my health. For instance, recently, the contractor who renovated my apartment asked for my help with cleaning out yet another spyware infestation. To express his gratitude he gave me a present that his sister brought with her from her trip to Ukraine. A piece of genuine Ukrainian salo.
Salo is an Eastern European staple that for some strange reason is virtually unknown in the West. Wikipedia describes it as salted slabs of pork underskin fat. It’s not really bacon – salo mostly consist of unrendered fat (bacon has more meat) and can be eaten raw.
If you’ve never had salo, it’s most similar to the taste and texture of little pieces of fat found in some harder kielbasas. In its fried form salo resembles bacon and pork rinds, except it’s much tastier. Also, you really can’t make exceptional borscht or fried sunflower seeds without high quality salo.
Here’s a piece (Ukr. “shmatok”) of salo on my official Jamie Oliver cutting board. I used my sashimi knife to cut it into thin slices – the best way to eat, in my opinion.
It’s kind of hard to describe the taste and texture of Ukrainian salo. The texture of it is hard, yet it melts on your tongue. It’s salty, fatty, garlicky. Your caveman instincts make your brain fire “wow, inhale this right now” messages, yet the little Surgeon General in your head tells you “wow, this will clog up your arteries good.” They don’t call salo “Ukrainian cocaine” for nothing.
The little Surgeon General in your head is wrong, though. Having come into possession of this authentic salo for the first time in years, I just had to kick it up a notch and make the _ultimate_ in unhealthy treif food. I had to make the legendary confection – “salo in chocolate”.
This confection started as a joke playing on Ukrainians’ fondness of salo. Then some Russian and Ukrainian restaurants started making it as an exotic delicacy. Then someone started to make a candy bar of that name. The Wikipedia article has more on that.
I tempered some good semi-bitter chocolate and dipped thin slices of salo into it.
The flavor is outstanding. Chocolate goes well with salty, fatty salo. It tastes as good as it is unhealthy. Overall, though, the quantity that I made is probably no worse than a movie theater popcorn or the bun of death from the vending machine at work. In fact, probably healthier.
If you are curious, you can find salo in most Russian food stores in New York. It will probably be lower quality Canadian salo, but it will give you a pretty good idea.
You can find more of my gastronomic adventures here.