Ethnic pork concepts ranging from casual-dining street food outposts to dim sum shops from Hong Kong are expanding in the U.S., thanks to rising consumer demand. More consumers now than two years ago say they would be very likely to order Asian and Mexican pork dishes for dinner, according to new data from Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report.
Moreover, two-fifths of consumers now say they are interested in trying pork dishes made with ethnic flavors and ingredients, up from a third of consumers in 2015. This proportion is higher among young consumers. Here are six emerging concepts benefiting from diners’ growing interest in Asian and Latin pork dishes.
1. Pok Pok
With locations in Los Angeles, New York City and Portland, Ore., this Thai casual-dining concept incorporates plenty of authentic Thai pork dishes. Options feature a range of different pork cuts, such as Chiang Mai pork sausage, rinds and collar. A fifth of consumers are interested in ordering pig rinds at restaurants at least occasionally. Pok Pok refers to its boar collar rubbed with garlic, coriander and black pepper as “northern Thai drinking food.”
Meat-heavy concept Lardo says it “worships at the altar of bovine & swine.” Nine of the 14 sandwiches at the two-unit fast-casual sandwich shop in Portland, Ore., include pork, including Korean Pork Shoulder with kimchi and Pork Tonkatsu topped with yuzu slaw and miso vinaigrette. Nearly half of consumers say they would order pork shoulder at least occasionally if it was available, according to Technomic. Sides and snacks at Lardo also lean pork-heavy, with options such as crispy pig ears and chicharrones (pig skin) with Korean barbecue seasoning.
3. Tim Ho Wan
Referred to as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Hong Kong-based Tim Ho Wan launched its first U.S. outpost last month to long lines in New York City, where it’s slinging dim sum for about $4 to $5. Consumers are increasingly likely to demand barbecue pork for lunch and dinner, shows Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report, and Tim Ho Wan’s menu includes baked barbecue pork buns and steamed pork spare rib. The barbecue buns are also one of the most highlighted dishes in Yelp reviews.
4. Carnitas Snack Shack
One of consumers’ favorite taco joints, San Diego-based Carnitas Snack Shack specializes in a pork-centric menu. Naturally, carnitas are spotlighted in dishes such as tacos and tortas, which about two-fifths of consumers say they would be likely to order for lunch or dinner at a restaurant at least occasionally. However, pork takes other forms on the menu as well, from pork belly hash tacos and sides of chicharonnes to daily specials such as sweet chili pork wings.
5. Hawkers Asian Street Fare
Growing casual-dining chain Hawkers Asian Street Fare spotlights Asian street food-style small plates, including pork options. Dishes include BBQ Pork Char Siu, consisting of wok-seared roasted pork tenderloin, as well as Crispy Roast Pork Siu Yoke with seasoned pork belly and grilled lemongrass pork skewers. A fifth of consumers overall and a third of 18- to 34-year-olds say they would order pork belly at least once every few months if offered.
Another favorite among consumers, three-unit Guisados in Los Angeles spotlights several different pork preparations in its taco range. Young consumers are especially interested in these handheld options, with nearly half of 18- to 34-year-olds expressing interest in pork tacos for dinner at restaurants, compared to two-fifths of their older counterparts.
The Cochinita Pibil taco features Yucatan-style shredded braised pork cooked in a sweet red achiote spice, while the Chicharron taco contains pork rinds simmered in chile verde and the Chuleta en Chile Verde taco features diced pork chop in chile verde. Guisados also offers a Quesadilla con Chorizo, formerly a secret menu item that contains chorizo and queso panela served with chipotle sour cream.