Editor Note: Updated 13.11.20
A pig wrapped in a woolly sheep-like fleece might sound whimsical, but the strangely appealing curly coated hog does exist in the form of Mangalitsa pigs, what's more, they produce a meat so good it has been hailed as the 'kobe beef of pork'.
The rare breed with a 200-year-old Hungarian heritage (also known as Mangalica ot Mangalitza) has experienced a renaissance in recent years, garnering support from both farmers and chefs around the world. The breed that was on the verge of of extinction is now prized for its high fat content, incredibly concentrated flavour, and highly marbleised meat, all qualities that were once rejected in preference for 'white' low fat pork.
Whilst Hungary remains the largest producer of Mangalitsa pigs, their culinary popularity has spread to them being reared in both the USA and the UK in the last decades. British born celebrated chef April Bloomfield of New York's The Spotted Pig has also recently embarked on a venture championing Mangalitsa pigs on her new UK farm project.
Watch US mangalitsa pig farmer and previous investment banker Chris Andersen, as he shares his love of mangalitsa pigs in the clip below:
Mangalitsa Pork: A Superior Buttery Flavour
A descendent of the European wild boar and cousin of the black foot Iberian Pig, the Mangalitsa pig incorporates highly desirable qualities from both, yielding a very versatile meat.
A high monosaturated fat content make the pork ideal for curing and charcuterie, from pancetta to salami. While, when it comes to cooking, Mangalitsa pork is equally prized for the tender juicy meat it produces which requires minimal seasoning, or even the lard is equally popular.
Mangalitsa vs average pork meat
As already mentioned, one of the chief differences between Mangalitsa and normal pork is its fat content and profile. Normal pork has a higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats, while Mangalitsa is heavier on the monounsaturated variety, giving it a melt-in-the-mouth feel. Its lard actually melts at room temperature, making it easier for your body to process than other fats, and providing a very unique sensory experience. But the breed overall has a significantly lower amount of saturated fats than most commercial breeds, which is considered an advantage since saturated fats can be some of the most damaging to peoples’ health.
Pork in general is high in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin B1 (thiamine) and zinc, and Mangalitsa meat is no exception in this regard. One downside of Mangalitsa is that its cholesterol content tends to be higher than that of other leaner varieties of pork.
Mangalitsa on Michelin Starred Menus
Costes, the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Budapest, Hungary has had Mangalitsa pork on its menu since it opened.
Managlitsa pork has also caught the eye of top US restaurants including Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Le Cirque, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Eleven Madison Park, Insieme and Vandaag featuring it on their refined menus. The lard has also proved popular amongst pastry chefs with former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl calling it “the single best pastry fat I’ve ever found. Mangalitza’s are the prettiest pigs. And their lard is perfect in pastry. Easy to roll out, very flaky, lovely, fresh flavour”.
Chefs have also been keen to sing the praises of the quality of meat. When chef and butcher April Bloomfield first tasted Mangelitsa pork she commented to the New York Times: “It took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, windows steaming from the roasting pork in the oven. Back then pork tasted as it should: like a pig. This pork has that same authentic taste.”
Chef Devin Knell, executive sous-chef at the French Laundry went on to say: “Unlike workaday pork, Mangalitsa is marbled, and the fat dissolves on your tongue — it’s softer and creamier, akin to Wagyu beef.”
And to finish, watch this mouthwatering video of a Mangalitsa as it cooks and sizzles, in all its glory.