For pastrami purists who believe beef is the superior sandwich meat, Rebecca King’s succulent and exceptionally flavorful pork pastrami – better known as “porkstrami” at her popular Los Angeles pop-up, The Bad Jew – will have you asking, Where has this been all my life and why didn’t I think of it first?
The self-proclaimed “bad Jew,” King started her culinary career in 2018 after exploring her talents in the kitchen. She found herself splitting her time between her true passion, cooking, and an office job at a commercial real estate firm. Needless to say, cooking won out. “I would lie to my boss and tell him I had a meeting and then go to the farmer’s market,” she said. “I would just cook and play at my house and figure out what I wanted to make and then beg chefs to let me come ‘stage,’ which means intern in their restaurant. So they would teach me whatever I wanted to know. It was awesome.”
After staging at places like Birdie G’s under Chef Joel Spadafore and MHZH, working for Pop’s Bagels and a 2021 residency at Employees Only, along with numerous other food gigs, King’s breakthrough finally came in 2019 when she decided to buy an off-set smoker, a suckling pig and a brisket for a Labor Day party. With invaluable advice from barbecue veteran Danny Gordon of Flatpoint Barbecue, King had her concept: Pork pastrami.
The idea, which originally grew out of her kitchen in December 2020 and stayed there until she was able to move into a commercial space near her home in Marina Del Rey, has become King’s main endeavor. She now sells her porkstrami at Smorgasburg in ROW DTLA, where she is a fixture every Sunday.
Currently, customers can choose between The Danny Boy, featuring Havarti, home-made Russian slaw and mustard, or The Reubecca, King’s play on a traditional Rueben. Sandwiched between two thickly-sliced pieces of rye, both dishes are delightfully messy and feature a perfect proportion of juicy Porkstrami-to-fixings, making for a heavenly cross-section of barbecue excellence.
King works primarily with the pork shoulder, also known as the Boston butt. To ensure the most flavor, she bathes her pork in a special brine – “I always love the brine,” she remarked – before smoking “about like 500 pounds of meat” low and slow in White Oak for twelve hours. Pork isn’t the only smoked meat on King’s mind though. “I think I’ll probably do a turkey sandwich soon. I make a really good turkey pastrami,” she said. A vegetarian sandwich is also on the horizon.
While The Bad Jew may not be expanding to a brick and mortar just yet, down the line King hopes to see her savory non-kosher meats reach more bad Jews like herself. “I want to see how Smorgasburg goes, but my goal is to do wholesale,” she said. “I would like my meats to be sold in grocery stores and other delis.”
Angelenos can pick up one of King’s porkstrami sandwiches at Smorgasburg LA in ROW DTLA every Sunday while supplies last.
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