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Prepare your pork chops with miso

Courtesy of Mari Nameshida

Miso-marinated pork loin

By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsWhat is your favorite way to eat pork? In Japan, there are varied cuts of pork you can get from your local grocery shop. I feel Japanese people often use thinly sliced pork, such as usu-giri or buta-koma, or ground pork since they’re cheap and don’t take much time to cook.

On the other hand, in the United States where I live now, I can mostly get only a chunk of pork belly or pork loin at most stores, so it’s hard to make many Japanese pork dishes except for kakuni braised pork belly or tonkatsu pork cutlets, for example.

This month, I’m sharing a recipe for miso-marinated pork loin, one of my favorite pork dishes that I can make in the United States. It’s quite easy, keeps well and tastes delicious!

Plus, I often hear from students in my cooking classes that they don’t know what to do with the remaining miso in their refrigerator other than make soup. This recipe is the best way to use the paste.

Miso is an all-purpose seasoning, so I use it for sauteing vegetables or meat, simmering fish and making dipping sauces, in addition to marinating meat or fish. It gives dishes a deep umami flavor. You will be surprised to find how flavorful they can become compared to just using salt.

I guess you might have tried miso-marinated fish at restaurants or bought such products at stores, but somehow we don’t see miso-marinated pork loin as often.

I personally prefer to use white miso (usually Saikyo miso) for marinating white fish, and either brown or red miso for pork. The strong flavors of darker miso and pork go quite well. In particular, red miso (Hatcho miso is a typical example) has a very strong flavor, so people either love or hate red miso soup. However, the strong flavor disappears in dishes that are marinated or sauteed.

This miso marinade has a kick of ginger, and some sugar and honey to add a sweet accent. Miso and sugar burn easily, so the best way is grilling at a lower heat very slowly.

If you don’t have a grill, it’s good to lay parchment paper in the pan before placing the pork on top of it. Then pan-fry at the lowest heat with the lid on. Don’t overcook it or the meat will get dry and tough.

With umami-rich miso and a hint of ginger, this is a perfect, delicious Japanese dish. The pork remains tasty and soft even after it cools, which means this is also perfect for a bento boxed meal. Serve with cooked rice and don’t forget to make extra for your freezer.

Mari’s recipe for miso-marinated pork

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 slices pork loin (about 120 grams each)
10 cm white end of naganegi long onion,
julienned (see photo)
Salt
Marinade:
200 grams brown miso
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp sake
2 tbsp ginger juice (grate a knob of ginger then squeeze out the juice)
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp sugar
(You can reuse this miso marinade two to three times if you keep it in the refrigerator. I usually make three batches of marinated pork then wrap each slice I’m not using to keep in the freezer.)

Directions:

1. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on both sides of the pork slices. Leave for about 5 minutes, then dry with paper towels.
2. Mix all marinade seasonings well. At this point, the marinade should be easy to spread. Some miso can be very hard, so add a bit more sake if you need to make it softer. In a lidded container, place one-third of the marinade, put a layer of pork on top, then another layer of marinade and another layer of pork and so on, before covering with the rest of the marinade. Put the lid on top and let marinate overnight.
3. Scrape the marinade off the pork before grilling over low heat for about 10 minutes or until cooked. If you don’t have a grill, you can pan-fry on low heat to make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. Cut the pork into easy-to-eat pieces (see photo), then plate and garnish with long onion strips.

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