Max’s Beer Braised Patatim

Made Hungry By A Billboard

bill boardInching through the unusually heavy traffic on C-5 two weeks ago, I came across a huge billboard advertising one of Max Restaurant’s newly launched dishes which is the Beer Braised Pata Tim.

And almost instantly, my curiosity was aroused and my appetite was whetted.

What could be more delicious than the combination of my drink of choice (beer) and one of my favorite Chinese dishes (pata tim)?  All the more, Max’s being one of the country’s better restaurant chains raised my expectations and had me thinking that it would come up with one of the tastiest renditions of pata tim.

What exactly is pata and what’s so great about it?

If you look at the standard cuts of pork, you won’t find pata.  It isn’t pig’s feet alone and it isn’t the picnic shoulder alone or the ham hock alone.  Pata is actually the shank plus the feet and it can be from the picnic shoulder or the ham.

In most restaurants, when one orders pata tim, one usually gets the shank from the picnic shoulder and feet.

If you love meaty tasting meat, most people (including my parents) will tell you that the meat closest to the bone usually has the strongest flavor and pork shanks have the porkiest pork meat you can find.

But there isn’t a lot of meat in shanks and there’s a fairly large amount of tendon in most shanks.  Not a lot of people around the world love eating tendon, but in parts of Asia it is considered a delicacy and is prized because of its soft, gelatinous texture.

Because it doesn’t have a lot of flavor in it, the dishes that usually use tendon are usually spicy and savory.

Now, the thing with pata is that it has both delicious bone meat and tendons together with the added bonus of delicate pork skin with very little fat.  It’s a great package where the meat flavors the tendons naturally.

What is Pata Tim?

The basic pata tim is pata which has been boiled tender in a combination of water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and star anise.  The flavors of the basic ingredients are sometimes enhanced with fortified wines (sherry, for instance) or liquor (bourbon or rum).

Some times, instead of star anise, some people use root beer or sarsaparilla — in which case, it would be good to hunt-down real root beer rather than rootbeer flavored soda.

There are a number of recipes for pata tim, however, it should not be mistaken for paksiw which includes vinegar as one of the flavoring ingredients.

What is Beer Braising?

Braising is cooking with a combination of moist and dry heat. Usually, meats are first seared and then either put in an oven or in a pot where it continues to cook in its own liquid or its liquid with the addition of other liquids (like water or broth) until fork tender.

The braising liquid almost always includes an acidic element, which can be tomatoes, wine, or… yes… BEER.

Beer is actually a great meat flavor enhancer and meat tenderizer because of its chemical composition.

So, theoretically, beer braising will result in an extremely meaty flavor while at the same time yielding a lot of fork tender meat and tendon that almost melts in your mouth.

What’s more is that because of the braising process, you’d expect the braising liquid to reduce into a thick flavor-rich sauce and that was what I was expecting of Max’s Beer Braised Pata Tim.

Expectation Vs. Reality

One of the things I really love about Max’s is their really good service.  Apart from being ushered to your table and being informed quite well about any new dish they may have, you can always be assured that when they say your order be at your table in 10 minutes — it will be there in 10 minutes.

At the Sta. Lucia East Branch of Max’s, the service was as expected.  My wife and I were ushered to a pretty good table and we were carefully handed our menus, but before the waitress could tell us about Max’s new dishes I already blurted out that I wanted the Beer Braised Pata Tim.

I’m not sure, but I think the waitress almost clicked her heels when she heard my order.  She informed us rather enthusiastically that the new dish was just recently launched last October 15 and it was part of a whole range of dishes that Max’s had come up with.

I said, “Great! Go and bring on the Pata Tim!”

The 25 minutes that the waitress said it would take to prepare the dish went by quickly as my wife and I caught up with some shop-talk — which usually revolves around our six year old kid Zac, the news of the day, her upcoming enrollment in a law school and the business.  And, just as I was about to wind up one of my stories, the pata tim came.

max's beer braised patatim

It was a feast for the eyes… then I stuck the large serving fork in the shank… and that’s when the first hint of trouble came.

The fork’s tines went through the skin with some effort, but didn’t go all the way through the shank and stopped at the point where I guessed the tendons as well as meat were.  At that point, I was already ready to have the dish sent back to the kitchen because, the way I figured it, if the pata tim wasn’t fork tender it would be chewy as heck.

But being the optimist that I am when it comes to food, I forged on and used the serving knife, which did better than the fork.  I managed to cut up a couple of small piece for my wife and made sure she got the meat part because she isn’t too crazy about tendon — which I love.  There was still a bit of effort involved in cutting up the pata but not enough to make me give up.

When I took in the first bite, that was actually when the disaster became undeniable.

It was too salty and then after a bit of chewing, the gaminess hit the roof of my mouth and exploded in my nasal passages like some crazy mutant wasabe nightmare — it was as if all of Manila Zoo exploded in my mouth and did a zumba dance on each smell/taste receptor I had.

I mean, there’s a difference between gamy on the level of wild boar gaminess and there’s gamy of the sort that would be like sticking your head inside the arse of the Manila Zoo elephant.

We concluded the “meal” by telling the waitress all that we had been through and if she had offered a shoulder to cry on, I would have sobbed uncontrollably.

Will I Order It Again?

Not unless I was punishing myself for some terrible misdeed like… well… I don’t think genocide wouldn’t be bad enough to deserve eating Max’s Beer Braised Pata Tim AGAIN.