Who is the most sought after dinner guest at hot-spots from California to Seville these days? We will give you a hint: he is hairy, fat as all get out, and known for his exquisite taste. Yes, we are talking about a certain pig that, while fairly well known around these parts, has become a delicacy abroad, especially at very high-class, expensive restaurants. Introducing Hungary’s latest star: the Mangalica! You can always spot a Mangalica because, unlike most pigs, our celebrity swine is dressed to the nines in a fleecy coat of fur. Mangalica is quickly becoming a foodie ‘must try’ and with good reason. But if you are dining out, bring a full wallet, because this pig is not a cheap date.
It is a curious fact that the Mangolica pig was almost extinct, having fallen out of favor with the bland tastes of Hungary’s previous socialist regime. Descended from the wild boar, Mangalica are also referred to as the ‘curly-hair hog’ because of their unique coat. They are also known for their pungent, rich flavor, primarily due to the fatty marbling of the meat. Because of this high fat content, the pig is sought after for premium sausages and salami, as well as hams and chops.
But the spotlight was not always on our celebrity pork. It is said that there were, at their darkest hour, less than 200 of these beasts left in Hungary, until a wise Mangalica enthusiast began breeding them back into popularity. These days over 60,000 pigs are produced yearly in Hungary, a far cry from the small family from which they originated. If you are a Mangalica fan, it pays to be in Hungary, where cuts of all sort can be had for a mere 8 Euro a kilo, fresh from various Hungarian butcher shops. Abroad, however, they command stratospheric sums. For instance, in Spain, where the Mangalica is commonly turned into ham, an 8-10 pound leg of boneless Jamon Mangalica can cost around 400 euro. At the French Laundry, regularly listed as amongst the top ten restaurants in the United States, the swine dish goes for over 40 dollars a plate. This makes Mangalica a rare treat and expensive dinner guest. But don’t be surprised if you see the pig appear in more and more venues. When you are a rising star, they will always save the you best seat in the house.