What Is Taiwanese Pork Paper And How To Make This Delicious Snack?
A couple years ago, I visited Taipei and came across a delicious Taiwanese snack at their famous Shilin Night Market.
It was offered free samples by a little stand in the middle of the bustling market, so I obliged by sampling all the flavors they had available. What my mouth was telling me was that I was eating basically beef jerky with no softness to it; the texture and taste was more akin to potato chips. They were so crispy that they’d snap into pieces between your fingers if you gripped them too tightly and each had a rich, sweet flavor to them.
What is Pork Paper?
Fast forward into my full-on addiction, I found that the snack was referred commonly in English as “pork paper” (crispy almond pork paper) or simply “meat paper” (I personally refer to the snacks as FUCKING HEROIN. Though it’s called paper, it’s not nearly as thin; it’s not quite looseleaf paper thin, but the thickness is comparable to two pieces of construction paper. I guess the best way to explain it is imagine a ruffles potato chip that’s made entirely of sheets of real pork embedded with small pieces of dried apple and almonds.
The nearly paper-thin pork chips are just-sweet-enough, super crunchy and really addictive. Like potato chips, they’re not really filling yet so satisfying that you can mow through half-a-bag without even noticing. There’s multiple nights that I spent laying in bed with my eyes closed shoving pork paper chips into my mouth. Pork paper is really the perfect combination of flavor, texture and lightness.
What’s in Pork Paper?
The great thing about pork paper is there usually isn’t any artificial ingredients. For the most part, pork paper is a combination of pork, apple, almonds, soy sauce and sugar. And lots of crisp (酥) — a whole lot of delicious satiating crisp.
Depending on the vendor, the thickness and shape of the pork paper varies. I’ve had them in sheets, frito-shaped delights and apparently cones — more on that in a second. They also come in different flavors, but what seem to be the most common was regular (usually apple and almonds) and a spicy version. What’s consistent about pork paper is that unlike most Asian and U.S. brands of beef jerky, there’s no MSG added to pork paper.
How Do I Get Pork Paper… LIKE NOW?
Soooo, let’s start with the obvious, if you’re in Taiwan then you’re in pork paper heaven. You just have to look around to locate some. I found a handful of outlets that sold the Kuai Che (快车) brand throughout the city. As of this post, there’s 10 or so locations in Taipei and Taipei City, including in the Xinyi, Zhongzheng and Datong neighborhoods.
As I mentioned earlier, you can also pick up some pork paper from the Shilin Night Market, I can confirm that there’s at least one vendor there that goes by “Two Brothers” serving three flavors of pork paper. The vendor at the stand was at the market in 2014 and again when I went back in 2017. This post talks about another Shilin street vendor with “cones” of pork paper that I never ran across and had the pleasure of completely raising my blood sugar. Researching further online, it looks as if these delicious (hot?) snacks can be found at the popular Raohe Street Night Market, too.
I’ve also bought pork paper in a couple random stores, so if you’re not near any of the Kuai Che outlets or aforementioned markets, you *should* be able to hit up a mom and pop store and eventually run across a bag or sixteen.
Can I Order Pork Paper Online?
After mowing through half my pork paper stock, I thought at the time that I couldn’t live without pork paper, so I began furiously researching (and sweating) pork paper sellers online. It didn’t take long to find King Long Foods, Two Brothers, Pork King and Kuai Che (快车) brand. So finding them wasn’t a problem but most of the sites were in Taiwanese and I wanted to have some shipped over to the United States. After several attempts to contact a couple of the vendors, I got into an email exchange with one of them:
They we’re interested in how many I wanted to buy. I was forewarned that pork paper products were a “fragile goods, do not recommend delivery to foreign countries.” Still, I was persistent and addicted; I craved pork paper. I was quickly coming down from my pork paper sweats and getting migraines (I wasn’t getting migraines). I made it clear that I was willing to pay the shipping. WHATEVER IT TOOK.
Ultimately, the conversation turned to U.S. Customs wouldn’t allow the regular shipment of “Taiwan meat” so I wasn’t successful trying to get pork paper to the United States.
Hello Sorry. Taiwan meat is not sent to the United States so we can not use the normal shipping methods to provide this service
I’d be interested to know if anyone has been successful in buying pork paper online and had it shipped to the United States. Since I haven’t figured out hos to get around US Customs, I found this awesome recipe to make it at home.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well with a sturdy serving spoon for about 2 minutes. Mixture will turn gooey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Prepare 5 to 6 sheets of parchment paper the size of a jelly roll pan (15.5in x 10.5in).
Spread a thin layer of meat mixture with a butter knife onto parchment paper. The meat layer should be about 2mm to 2.5mm thick. Leave an inch around the perimeter of paper clear of meat for easy handling.
Place a large piece of shrink wrap over the meat. Using a rolling pin, roll over meat to smoothen and even out the spread meat. Remove shrink wrap. Repeat until all meat is used up.
Transfer sheets of meat to jelly roll pans and bake in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 15 minutes.
The partially cooked meat should be nice and dry*. When it is cool enough to handle, cut each sheet of meat into 6 pieces.
Increase oven temperature to 425°F (220°C). Transfer meat and parchment paper to a broiler pan this time and grill for approximately 5 minutes. Meat burns easily at this stage. Adjust time accordingly.
Remove from oven. Flip slices of meat over with a pair of tongs. Return pan to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.