Those seeking an Asian recipe for pork will no doubt stumble upon dishes like sweet and sour pork, mu shu pork and barbecue pork. Its prevalence in Asian recipes lends evidence to the vital role the meat has played in Asian culture over the generations. Pork has a long history in Asian cuisine, with various social, economic, religious and geographical factors playing a role in its popularity in various Asian countries. Pork is particularly important in Chinese cuisine, where it has been consumed for centuries.
Pigs were domesticated in China from the wild boar around 8,000 years ago. Since then, pork has been a staple, highly esteemed and preferred over beef for numerous reasons. Historically, beef was an important labour animal and rarely eaten, in fact there was even a brief period from 831-833 when Emperor Wenzong of the Tang Dynasty banned beef because of his Buddhist convictions. However aesthetics also play a role in the Chinese preference for pork. The meat and fat are considered more visually appealing than that of beef, with a cleaner taste and smell. The Chinese also find pork easier to digest.
It has also been a popular food in Chinese cuisine across all classes. Evidence exists from the Song Dynasty that the main diet of the lower classes consisted of rice, pork and salted fish. The upper classes ate pork, too, with baked sesame buns stuffed with tenderloin a specialty. A recipe for pork that originates from this period is Dongpo pork, a pork belly dish said to be created and named after Su Shi, a famous poet and statesman of the time known for his love of food.
Beyond China, other Asian cultures demonstrate historical consumption. In Korea, records indicate pork has been consumed back to antiquity. In Vietnam, the meat was brought over from China resulting in such dishes as thịt lợn quay (roasted pork) and khau nhục (braised pork belly).
Pork is less prevalent in Asian countries where there is a significant Islamic population such as Indonesia, as Muslims follow the Islamic halal law which forbids consumption.