Monday, June 27, 2011

Filipino Pork Sweats at Mama Meena's

Groaning, I reached across the table and forked the first piece of lechon kawali-- deep fried pork belly-- as it was set down on our table. I stuffed it into my mouth and immediately regretted my decision as pork fat exploded out of the deceptively meaty looking bite. I wheezed and leaned back in my chair. My hubris rarely bites me in the ass, but this time it had punched me in the gut. Picking up my white napkin, I threw it on the plate, barely even able to say "seriously you guys, I'm not gonna eat anymore pork." Defeat (or probably just sweat from dehydration) washed over me and a dancing image of a flying pig (like this one) floated in the periphery of my vision before dissolving amid the realization that I could no longer even look at anything pork related on our table-- truly a difficult task when 90% of what we ordered contained hog (and I'm pretty sure there were bits of pork in my water too).


Only an hour before I'd stepped off the J train with an empty stomach and an overconfident gleam in my eye. Conveniently, the Woodhaven station lies directly on top of Mama Meena's Family Restaurant. Soon I would soon be feeling like the station: bloated and stretched across the street (and also painted green).

Sisig, a light appetizer containing pork ears, skin and other random bits of pig topped with a raw egg had arrived first. I think there was mayo in this version-- which I've never seen before (but I'm still new to Filipino cuisine), but others chalked it up to the egg white, though it tasted much richer and mayo-ier to me. While you can top the sisig with lemon juice for some much needed acidity, I'd recommend adding vinegar as well.

The porcine procession continued with chicarong bulaklak, deep fried pork fat from near the intestines. It seemed to be a slightly thicker cut of "ruffle fat" than what I've had before, giving the fried fat a distinct, chewy bite. I probably ate more than a few too many pieces.
Meanwhile, each table sported a plate of Crispy Pata (pork knuckle). This had the menacing look of the fried jaws of a dead alien, complete with a knife plunged into what I can only assume was its throat. Killshot! Through my ever increasing meat sweats, I panicked. Hallucinations overtook me and I envisioned this dish more as an enemy to be vanquished then an innocuous plate of meat at a narrow Queens restaurant. But this may have just been sweat in my eyes or residual alcohol from the night before. We'll never know for sure.

The lettuce makes it healthy.

Generous use of vinegar (suka) on all pork products may have been the only thing that staved off a complete collapse before the end of the meal, and in the picture of our post-lunch devastation you can clearly see the bottle almost directly in front of me. It was full at the start of our meal.

Get it away from me.

Surprisingly I didn't need to go outside for fresh air (that may be because I was pinned against the wall, surrounded by diners on three sides).

Halo halo topped with a scoop of purple yam ice cream managed to hide the nastier effects of pork sweats, especially for the train ride home (others who slept on the train were not so lucky). Rather than give in to the -itis, I clutched my stomach and rocked back and forth, fighting the wave of nausea while pondering my next meal.

Mama Meena's Family Restaurant
94-20 Jamaica Avenue
Woodhaven, NY 11421
Mama Meena's on Urbanspoon

James Boo graciously wrote up the full meal on Chowhound.

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