Date
23 May 2017
Lardo, the Italian cured pork fat, tastes great only in extremely thin slices. Photo: HKEJ
Lardo, the Italian cured pork fat, tastes great only in extremely thin slices. Photo: HKEJ

Italian lardo from Florence: rich, creamy and intense

Once you step out on the streets of Florence, I bet you’d find it hard to resist going on a shopping spree.

Who could when confronted with temptingly exquisite Prada shoes and Gucci bags with price tags that are discounted twice on average?

Then cheerful salesladies would remind you to avail yourself of another 30 percent off at checkout. And don’t forget, any purchase above 150 euros (US$158) is eligible for a tax refund as well.

That’s why most tourists in Florence just let their adrenaline do the job as they visit as many boutiques and shops as possible in this ancient but wonderful city.

However, people of my age would rather take it easy, enjoy the sights and treat ourselves to satisfying meals.

And so before setting out on our “vigorous exercise” for the day, my friend brought me to a famous restaurant, which is known in the area as “the canteen of lorry drivers”.

I thought the moniker meant it would be a poor man’s eatery, but no. The place has an interior design that befits a five-star hotel, and its offerings are only slighty cheaper than those served in touristy districts.

A lot of the diners were having Fiorentina steak, but we thought we should keep our lunch as quick and simple as possible. We ordered pasta with black truffles and desserts.

When I saw the generous portions of the dishes, I realized why it’s called the canteen of truck drivers. I was already half-full after finishing the starter soup.

After our lunch, as we were walking to the exit, we passed by the preparation table where a waiter was slicing salumi or Italian-style cured meat.

The red slices were the renowned parma ham while the snowy white ones were lardo.

Lardo, the cured fat from the pig’s back, was what I was interested in.

My first encounter with these slices of pork fat took place 10 years ago – also in Florence. I hesitated for a long while before I finally put a slice into my mouth.

I also held a glass of red wine just in case I had to swallow it down with the help of some liquid.

Such precaution, it turned out, was unnecessary. Rich and creamy, the lard melted beautifully on my tongue as it filled my taste buds with an intense fragrance of smoked oil.

I felt it slide down my throat and finally settle in my guts.

The experience was unforgettable. I decided to bring home to Hong Kong a kilogram of lardo, but it wasn’t a smart decision. 

It was a torture for me to cut the fat into thin slivers, and I gave up before finishing the stock.

Since then, I would only make small purchases of pre-sliced lardo.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 1.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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DY/AC/CG

a veteran journalist and food critic

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