As I said a little while ago, I want to dip my toe into the waters of Japanese cookery and, while I suspect that this isn’t remotely traditional, after making my lamb and rosemary sausages last weekend, I had half a pack of Sainsbury’s Streaky Rashers left (essentially, good-quality belly pork, skinned and sliced).
So, I thought, I’ve got a load of Japanese ingredients sitting in the cupboard, maybe I can do something interesting with it. Not necessarily Japanese, but definitely Oriental, and it worked out very well.
Exceedingly well, in fact – one of the best pork dishes I’ve ever cooked.
Pork in Soy Sauce.
Half-pack of Sainsbury’s Streaky Rashers, diced (or a full pack – increase the other flavouring ingredients by about 10%, as the additional meat needs a lot less additional liquid than you’d expect)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 red medium** chilli, halved, deseeded and finely sliced
**In terms of both heat and size
1 inch of a thick piece of ginger, thinly sliced and cut into fine matchsticks
3 tbsp Sharwood’s Rich Soy Sauce (or another dark soy sauce)
1 tbsp mirin
Dash of fish sauce (Nam Pla in Vietnam – don’t know what it’s called in Japan)
1 teaspoon Dashi powder***
1 teaspoon honey (not eucalyptus!)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Oil for frying
¼ teaspoon celery salt (home-made and far superior to commercial mixes)
¼ teaspoon garlic granules (the very fine kind, I used Schwartz brand)
Black pepper to taste – no salt, there’s ample in the fish and soy sauces
2 tablespoons to plain flour to thicken (I use bread flour as it mixes more easily)
1 400g can of chickpeas (garbanzos, in the colonies), drained and rinsed. I prefer the Napolina brand – the quality is excellent
***All dashi is smoked. Of the two brands that seem to be widely available in the UK, Ajinomoto brand Hondashi is heavily smoked, Shimaya brand Dashino-moto is much lighter. Neither the packs, or vendor information, will tell you that the damned stuff is smoked, so it can come as a nasty surprise. Shimaya is what I used here, and only a teaspoon.
Cut the pork strips into 1cm pieces (actually, Sainsbury’s are inconsistent in their butchery, so if the strips are an inch wide, cut into 1cm pieces but if, like the pack I have now, just about 1cm wide, cut into 1 inch pieces). In a medium saucepan, put 1 teaspoon of sesame oil** (the golden variety, not the dark, roasted stuff which totally dominates), and a splash of something tasteless – I use rapeseed oil (which is what you get when you buy Sainsbury’s Vegetable Oil), then fry the pork over a low/medium heat until most of the fat is rendered out – you just want to melt the fat, not deeply brown the pork – it should be just coloured. Then add the onions, chilli and ginger, reduce the heat and cook until the onion is translucent, not browned.
**You can use more if you like, but I find all sesame oil horribly intrusive, and just like a little background flavour.
Add everything else, then add boiling water until covered. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the pork is cooked. Top up the water as you go, if it needs it and again, after tasting, when it’s finished, if you feel it’s too strong. When the pork is tender, add the chickpeas, heat through and remove from the heat.
Cool and put in the fridge overnight.
Next day, while cold, is a good time to remove some fat if you wish, as whatever flavour it had has been contributed to the dish. Don’t remove it all – food does need some fat for both flavour and mouth-feel. Before reheating, pour off some of the liquid into a small bowl and whisk in the flour. Bring to the boil and, as it reaches boiling point, pour in the flour mixture, stirring constantly as it comes fully to the boil then, when thickened, reduce to a simmer to cook-out the flour, stirring occasionally.
Serve over Udon noodles or rice. Not authentic, but I always use Basmati. Then again, this whole thing isn’t particularly authentic either, it’s just something sort-of Oriental that I threw together!
As things turned out, it sat in the fridge for a couple of days before I tried it, and I think the extra time for the flavours to snuggle up to each other paid off as, when it was freshly-made, what it mainly tasted of was soy sauce and sesame oil. In the event, I just had a bowl of it, on its own, and it was absolutely wonderful, deeply savoury, rich, and with a great depth of flavour, spiked with just a little chilli/ginger heat – I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this is the best pork dish I’ve ever made – I have a relatively poor appetite, but polished off a large bowl completely.