Ode to the Q

Pulled Pork Sandwich from Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City, Kansas.

I'm officially heading off to Asia for an indefinite period of time at the end of March, so you'll soon see a whole installment of Global Eats- Southeast Asian style. I can't wait to sample all the street side offerings from Bangkok to Saigon, but for now I figure it's appropriate to give some love to the homeland and pay homage to those foods I probably won't find with regularity out East- starting with American Barbecue.

Last summer (2oo7) I had a Foodservice Management Internship at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Ks. I knew KC was the self-proclaimed 'BBQ Capitol of the World' so I decided I'd make a point of sampling the local legends. I must say, I was thoroughly impressed.

My best meal came from Gates BBQ, where I ordered the 'burnt ends' meal. Burnt ends are a Kansas City specialty and are comprised of the thin, tapered ends of the brisket that are too small to slice for brisket sandwiches. Instead, they chop up these ultra-crispy and smoky bits into bite size chunks for one to savor. They don't taste 'burnt' in the least bit, rather caramelized and extremely concentrated with mouthwatering, smoke-infused flavor.

There are endless regional types of barbeque across the states but a few stand out as the most universally recognized. Wood smoke is a MUST to earn the name BBQ. Don't even think about a gas grill, son. A very brief overview:

Kansas City - Thick and sweet (varying degrees of moderate spice) tomato-based sauces. Pork ribs are a favorite. Chicken and turkey also show up on menus.

Memphis - Use of dry-rubs (seasoning mixes applied to meat before cooking to enhance flavor and help create a crunchy exterior layer called 'bark') is a staple of Memphis Q. Pork ribs popular here as well.

Texas - Brisket and Beef ribs are specialties of the Lone Star State. Their tomato-based sauces tend to be a bit spicier than KC's.

North Carolina - They love their pulled pork out here. In Eastern Carolina it's traditional to BBQ a whole pig while out west they'll just use the shoulder. Either way, the slow-cooked pig is dipped in a thin, vinegar-based spicy sauce that's used more like a dip. The shredded pork sandwiches are topped with coleslaw.

Spicy Pork Spareribs from Phillip's BBQ, Los Angeles, CA.

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