I’ve always loved the idea of packaged pork crackling, but no matter the brand, every bag has tasted of sheer disappointment. It’s always the same – tough, pallid, bone-dry pig skin that looks and eats like those foam packing peanuts.

Pascal’s Pork Scratchings are different. Imagine a fresh pork roast or porchetta cooled down, chopped up and immediately sealed in a bag. That’s the vibe. Each gnarled bite has a generous layer of still-soft fat, plus a crisp, obnoxiously crunchy shell. A bag of Pascal’s takes me back to Christmases past, picking at the leftover roast several hours after lunch. The first bag I tried, I finished alone, in one sitting. It’s that moreish.

Founder Richie Pascal lives on NSW’s Central Coast, but his family comes from Seychelles, a tiny archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean, east of Africa. When he was growing up, his dad cooked scratchings in this style a few times each summer – possibly a tradition inherited from the British, who controlled Seychelles until 1976.

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“I always said, ‘Dad, you should bring this to the market. Go to the market, people will love this,’” Pascal says. “[But] he was never a business-savvy person, he was just, ‘I work 9–5, I look after my family and that’s all I need to do.’ And he never had confidence, because it’s such a different product to Nobby’s or any other pork crackling in Australia.”

In the UK, there are three distinct varieties of pork snacks. Scratching is usually fried once and retains a hard finish. Crackling is cooked twice at a higher temperature, resulting in a softer finish. And pork rinds or puffs are typically boiled to remove most fat, dried at a low temperature, then fried to produce the dry, airy snack I’ve so often been disappointed by.

Pork puffs seem to be the only widespread variety in Australia, which is what led Pascal to finally launch in 2018, telling his dad, “If you show me how to cook it, I’ll make it into a business.”

“I can only really go off what I see in the market and what our customers tell us,” he says. “But we have testimonials from people all around Australia, especially people originally from the UK, that say, ‘I’ve looked everywhere here … but once I found yours, that was it, this reminds me of home.’”

Four years on, the business is still relatively small. Two or three times a week, Pascal and his two employees cook roughly 200 kilograms of pork, resulting in about 80 kilograms of product, which they package up by hand.

The scratchings are fried just once, in pure lard rendered down from offcuts. There’s no canola or other seed oils involved. Pascal prefers to work with pork loin, rather than belly. It has the right amount of fat – not too much, not too little – and the fat itself is stiffer and more solid. After the fry, his team tastes and seasons the batch by hand.

“Any good chef will always say, ‘Taste what you cook.’ The guys that work for me, I always tell them to taste it. And you know, they have no problem doing that,” Pascal says, laughing.

Pascal’s Pork Scratchings are available online or through the stockists below.

pascalsporkscratchings.com.au

Selected stockists

NSW
Astin Min Fine Foods, Collaroy
Camperdown Cellars, Cremorne
Fred’s Providore, Cronulla
Smelly Cheese Shop, Pokolbin
The Meat Man, Narellan

QLD
Sherwood Road Organic Meats, Rocklea
Market Organics, Southport, Chapel Hill, Ipswich, New Market
Meat at Billy’s, Rosalie
The Shafston Hotel, East Brisbane
The Woollongabba Hotel, Woollongabba
The Full Moon Hotel, Shorncliffe
The Park Ridge Tavern, Park Ridge

VIC
Antipasti Deli, Yarraville
Boccaccio Cellars, Balwyn
Edwards Family Meats, Newport
Leo’s Fine Foods, Hartwell, Heidelberg, Kew
Second Avenue Grocer, Altona North