Is it a pig or a sheep? It is in fact the curly haired pig — the most sought-after pork from New York to London, which will soon be available in Northern Ireland.
The delectable porker, only available in a handful of countries around the world, was ranked in Vogue magazine’s top 10 foods to eat in 2009.
Despite its appearance, Co Down breeder Robert Boyle, the first to import the shaggy hog to Northern Ireland, assures us it is all pig.
The Mangalitza, known also as the curly haired pig, originally hails from Hungary or Austria and was first introduced into the UK in 2006 by breeder Tony York.
Popularised by TV chef Gordon Ramsay on the F Word — the furry favourites are now the toast of top restaurants the world over.
New York restaurants quickly followed the London trend along with top chefs in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
John Osbourne who supplies London restaurants said: “The Mangalitza is to pork what Kobe is to beef.”
While an American food critic raved: “It is the darling of pork-obsessed chefs, who love cooking with their succulent meat and plentiful lard.”
Millisle breeder Robert Boyle, hopes restaurants here will quickly follow the transatlantic trend. “I decided to bring them over because I thought it would be nice to bring a new breed of pig into the country,” he said.
“Also there was, of course, the novelty factor. People never know what they are looking at.”
English breeder Mr York told the Belfast Telegraph: “All I can say is the feedback from restaurants in London has been phenomenal.
“It has recently become the most prized meat in top London restaurants. If you eat with your mouth and not with your eyes, it is simply delicious. Because there are very few breeders the price is kept very high.
“The ham lends itself to dry curing. It has a high monosaturated fat, which is a healthier fat. It is a much healthier bacon product because the fat cooks out. It is also very juicy and tasty. When cured it is comparable to parma ham.”
James Street South restaurant head chef Stephen Toman is very excited about the new pig produce. He said: “I would be very keen to try the meat. We currently pay a premium for Spanish ham, so it would be great if this ham is up to that standard. We always prefer to use and promote local produce.”