When sampling other game or even wild animals, the taste is always compared to chicken. They say frog meat tastes a lot like chicken. Duck and goose, although they are far more rich in flavor than their far famous kin, are frequently measured up to the same standard.
Pigeon, on the other hand, since it’s a relatively obscure fare locally, is quite different to place on the chicken spectrum. In the Philippines, pigeons are raised as pets by enthusiasts but in Chinese cuisine and largely in Hong Kong, pigeons are a staple.
It also goes by the name squab, but there’s actually a difference between the two. Pigeon generally refers to their species while squab is a domesticated kind of pigeon that’s raised specifically for culinary purposes.
But for first-timers—like we were—you can always count on Google: and as per one of the websites, pigeon apparently tastes a lot like dark chicken.
At Pigeon Hole, The Grid’s new Chinese stall, pigeons are their specialty. From a previous post in Poblacion, it has relocated after much anticipation, bringing with it its hefty rice bowls, dimsum and noodles selections, HK roasts and, of course, their famous fried pigeon.
The fried pigeon (P850), whose body (sans the elongated neck and head) is roughly the size of a clenched fist (a big one at that), is served with not a sauce but salt and calamansi. Only when you take your first pinch at its thin meat will you realize what this dip is for—and I say “dip” because you can make a paste out of it or squeeze the calamansi all over the squab.
The skin is thinner and less fatty than chicken or even duck (maybe due to frying?). It is, however, not crisp all throughout but rather a bit chewy, elastic. One could note the gamey flavor of its meat, which some prize it for, especially when cooked simply as in pan-fried like steak. Fat is also noticeably absent in its meat, but Pigeon Hole has a remedy for that.
Pigeon Hole owner Aileen Lerma said that the secret to their fried pigeon is marination. “Apart from our secret blend of spices, perfect timing of marination is key to ensuring that the pigeon will be moist and rich in flavor. Too short a marination or too long a marination may produce a dry and bland taste.”
If pigeon is not your cup of tea, Pigeon Hole has other classic Chinese dishes to offer. There’s the beef brisket noodle soup, prepared Hong Kong Style with dried egg noodles. Its rich broth is a product of hours of simmering. Together with the tender flavorful beef, it is as comforting as a soup on a rainy morning.
We also tried their char siu buns, another mainstay in any Chinese dining establishment. Lerma shared that this dish also called honey barbecue roast pork is air-dried before it is slowly roasted in the oven. Against the background of the soft pillow-like steamed mantou, the sweet and tangy pork shines. Oh, and it comes swimming in drippings that can also add more depth to every bite.
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