After being thoroughly enamoured by the movie ‘Chef’, I, for one, am always on the prowl for this ever-satisfying pork sandwich. There I was, a woman minding my own business, with Cubanos constantly on my mind whose eyes lit up the moment I saw Porkypine along Telok Ayer. Porkypine presented itself as a hole-in-the-wall joint with a singular focus on the famed Cuban sandwich and with specs like that, you know I’ll be there in a heartbeat.
What is a Cubano you ask, and why the obsession? Quite simply, it is a sandwich loaded with generous shavings of mojo pork, ham, basted with a liberal amount of mustard and mayo, and finally, toasted on a grill. There are many moving parts in this sandwich and lest you think it’s merely pork on bread—it’s not. If like me, you’ve watched those tantalising scenes of Chef Casper making this sandwich, you’ll completely understand my fixation.
What I tried
Part of Porkypine’s charm is that it is hidden away behind Curry Boom Boom. It’s another too-cool-for-school spot serving Butter Chicken (S$8), Vindaloo (S$8) and the like. I must say, the juxtaposition of curries against Cubanos is odd, but when two of your favourite food are in such close proximity, I’m not complaining.
So, you can enter Porkypine through the backdoor like the cool cat you know you are or through the front to show everyone you know where the good stuff is.
Settle down at the six-seater bar; you’ll be served a complimentary bowl of Plantain Chips with a homemade zingy hot sauce. A hot sauce that is equal parts addictive and fiery, you know you like it when fat beads of sweat drip down your forehead with every chip.
As each salty, sweet crunch tumbles down your throat, take a swig of the crisp and refreshing Mai Tai (S$18). One of the many drinks you can imbibe at Porkypine, this one has liberal shots of Los Sanzantes Mezcal that will prepare you for the main event.
With a space as snug as Porkypine, you have the best seat in the house to watch the assembly of your Cubano (S$18). It’s an even better opportunity to chat up with Chef Khley Dhillon on the anatomy of a perfect Cubano—a 101 in the art of making Cubanos if you will.
Like all good sandwiches, it all begins with the bread. Porkypine is a strong advocate of supporting local, and they get these rich, double-fermented Cuban buns from a local bakery. Already, I’m sold.
Of course, the real money is that mojo pork that has been lovingly slow-cooked for 24 hours. What you get is immensely flavourful, and tender pork that’s thrown on the grill along with a 10-day gula melaka cured ham to crisp up.
Yes, you read that right, gula melaka—my favourite kind of sugar and another homage to local flavours. A stickler like me would normally turn my nose at ‘localising’ things. However, the gula melaka delivers a beautifully subtle caramelly note that melds with their lard mayonnaise (be still, my heart).
All that comes together with tangy bread and butter pickles, Emmental cheese, and rush-up-your-nose mustard. And then, a little time on the grill to ensure all of them mingle and get to know each other.
A little nervous just like those butterflies on a first date, I took a bite of Porkypine’s wares. The sound of the crust is unmistakable, the cheese and velvety lard mayo making my heart sing. It’s hearty, flavorful deceptively simple, and ultimately satisfying.
From the toasted edges, the melty cheese, to the thick-cut shavings of mojo pork, sweet, smoky ham, and pickles, each element shines in their own right but waltzes together all at once. You’ll only have one thought as you lick your fingers—it’s good.
What makes a perfect sandwich? Sure, anyone can slap on some ham and cheese in between two slices of white bread and call it a day. What Porkypine does is much better, they’ve made something seemingly pedestrian taste so delicious that you have little choice but to buy another one to share it with your family.
The Cubano is a sandwich that will always be high on that pedestal, and I dare say that Porkypine has lived up to it. Now, the Reuben is another sandwich that long captured my imagination, but that’s another story for another time.
Expected Damage: S$18 – S$36 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
112 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068581
112 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068581