The Yomiuri ShimbunVietnam-style pork
In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home
Chef Masumi Suzuki, a Vietnamese cuisine specialist, shares a recipe for boiled pork cooked with jasmine tea, which reduces the meat’s fat content and adds a subtle flavor of tea. The meat is served alongside plenty of fresh leafy greens and herbs. Diners wrap the meat in greens and top it with a flavorful sauce.
“Like people in other countries, Vietnamese eat meat to gain stamina,” said Suzuki, owner-chef of Vietnamese restaurant Kitchen in Nishi-Azabu, Minato Ward, Tokyo.
For the recipe, Suzuki uses a block of pork belly, which is commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine. However, those who prefer a less fatty cut of meat could use a shoulder cut instead.
To remove excess fat, begin by boiling the pork and draining the hot water before rinsing the meat in running water. Then boil the pork again with jasmine tea leaves.
“Boiling the meat with tea leaves will remove excess fat and adds a subtle flavor,” Suzuki said. Oolong tea leaves can be used in place of jasmine leaves.
After boiling the meat, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove any residue that rises to the surface of the boiling water. Maintaining a water level that keeps the meat barely submerged is key to cooking the dish.
To enjoy the dish as it is commonly eaten in Vietnam, Suzuki recommends eating the pork wrapped in various vegetables and herbs such as red leaf lettuce, shiso leaves, fresh coriander and spearmint to enjoy different flavors. Other vegetables can also be used, such as cucumber, mizuna and dill, which has a fragrant scent.
The base of the sauce is nuoc cham, which is made of nuoc mam Vietnamese fish sauce, water, sugar and lemon juice. Add ample amounts of minced ginger and coriander. White sesame seeds and sesame oil will further enrich the flavor. Those who wish to take things further may add chopped myoga ginger and green onion.
In Vietnam, the sauce served with this pork dish differs by region. For example, in the central part of the country, fermented shrimp is used for the sauce, Suzuki said.
“To match Japanese palates, I prepared a sweet-sour sauce from southern Vietnam,” she said.
Add the sauce to the pork wrapped in red leaf lettuce and other vegetables before taking a bite. The meat is delightfully soft and juicy with a pleasant aftertaste of sweet fatty pork, shiso leaves, mint and coriander.
Recipe for boiled pork
Ingredients (serves 4):
300 grams pork belly meat block
1 jasmine tea bag
1 tsp salt
8 red leaf lettuce leaves
8 shiso leaves
8 coriander leaves
4 green bannonegi onions
Spearmint, basil, as desired
1 tbsp nuoc mam (or nam pla)
1 tbsp water
1½ tbsp sugar
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 knob of ginger
2 green bannonegi onions
6 coriander leaves
½ tbsp white sesame seeds
½ tbsp sesame oil
¼ tsp doubanjiang chili paste
1. Place the block of meat in a deep pot and submerge in water. Heat the pot. When it comes to a boil and residue begins to form on the surface, drain the hot water. Remove the meat from the pot and rinse it in running water.
2. Place the pork back into the pot and pour just enough water to submerge it. Add a jasmine teabag and salt and cook. When it comes to a boil, lower the heat to low-medium and simmer for about 30 minutes.
3. To prepare the sauce, mince ginger and coriander and chop green bannonegi onions into small pieces. Mix sugar with nuoc mam, water and lemon juice, then add the remaining ingredients.
4. Cut off the root of the coriander and cut the bannonegi onion into pieces about 10 centimeters long. Place vegetables and herbs on a plate. Slice the pork into 5-millimeter pieces. Place the pork beside the vegetables and add the flavored sauce.
Serve with rice noodles
Rice noodles go well with this Vietnamese boiled pork dish. Soak dried Vietnamese rice noodles in water before boiling them. Place the boiled pork, bite-sized vegetables and herbs on top of the noodles before adding the sauce. The noodles taste even better when mixed well with the sauce. “The sauce also goes well with somen or hiyamugi noodles,” Vietnamese chef Masumi Suzuki said. When served with noodles the dish is much more filling so is recommended as a dish to eat on your day off.
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