Grilled Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin Skewers: Suon Nuong Xa

Lemongrass pork skewers (8 of 24)

After my trip to Hanoi and Halong Bay in early February, I can’t deny that I wasn’t inspired by the rich nuance of flavours and fragrance that Vietnamese food has to offer.

Vietnamese cuisine has taken several influences from surrounding countries, but one of the most important aspects is that the vast majority of dishes are only lightly cooked, with the emphasis placed on fresh and tasty ingredients. One philosophy that is seen in the variety of spices used is that most meals will try and balance the sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty flavors. This idea of including five aspects to the meal also spreads to other aspects of the dishes, with top chefs looking to create meals with five colors and all five types of nutrients included in the meal.

In particular, fish sauce plays an important role in almost every Vietnamese meal, which is used for dipping, and is sometimes supplemented with chilli, ginger and lime juice. Here I have supplemented my nuoc nam (fish sauce) with crushed garlic, sugar, chilli flakes and freshly squeezed lime juice to give it the extra ‘twang’.

Today I have attempted to make lemongrass pork skewers using finely sliced pork tenderloin. Best to marinade overnight if you want maximum intensity of flavours, but I only managed for an hour or so and the results were still fool-proof.

INGREDIENTS: (makes ~15 skewers, serves 3-4)

For the meat and marinade:

  • 1/2 pound pork tenderloin
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, outer leaves and tops removed, root ends trimmed
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 15 bamboo skewers (I used 6-inch ones here), soaked
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

For the nuoc cham (fish dipping sauce):

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime guice
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 or more bird’s eye or Thai chillies, seeded and minced (or substitute with dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 shallot, peeled, thinly sliced, and rinsed (optional)

METHOD: 1) Remove outer leaves of lemongrass stalk and dice finely crosswise. Place in mortar and pestle and pound repeatedly.

Lemongrass pork skewers (23 of 24)

2) Wash the pork tenderloin and pat dry with paper towel. Slice into long thin strips, ~5mm in thickness. Lemongrass pork skewers (22 of 24)

Lemongrass pork skewers (21 of 24)

3) Stir together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and oil util the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the pounded lemongrass, shallot, garlic and pork slices and mix to coat the meat evenly. Allow to marinade at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight if desired. Lemongrass pork skewers (19 of 24) 4) Depending on how long your slices and bamboo skewers are, slide a 1-4 slices of pork onto each skewer so the meat is flat with the skewer going through the slices several times. Grill over a grill pan over high heat and cook the skewers until the edges crisp, about 1-2 minutes each side. Lemongrass pork skewers (1 of 3) Lemongrass pork skewers (13 of 24) Lemongrass pork skewers (12 of 24) Lemongrass pork skewers (9 of 24) 5) Make the nuoc cham for the rice vermicelli. Whisk together the sugar, water, fish sauce, and lime juice in a bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the garlic, chilli, and shallot, and let stand for 30 minutes before serving. Lemongrass pork skewers (14 of 24) 6) Make the rice vermicelli by following package instructions. Here I placed the noodles in a pot of boiling water on medium heat for 3 minutes then drained it in a colander with running cold water. Lemongrass pork skewers (3 of 3) 7) Divide the grilled pork skewers among the bowls of rice vermicelli. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts and drizzle nuoc cham over each serving. Lemongrass pork skewers (2 of 24) Lemongrass pork skewers (3 of 24)

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Grilled Pork Chops with Caramelized Nectarines and Eggplant

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (3 of 5)

This is the quintessential dish for warm nights when you feel like making the most out of your grill (be it outdoors or indoors). When it comes to pork chops, the rich and meatiest chops are cut from the center of the loin. Pork chops deliver iron, potassium, and B vitamins, while being about as lean as chicken.

One serving of pork is 3 ounces, approximately a deck of cards, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association. One serving delivers a huge dosage of complete protein with men getting 43 percent of their daily intake and women 52 percent. Provided you don’t add additional oil, butter or other calorie-laden ingredients, boneless pork chops have only 93 calories and 2 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving. To ensure pork chops remain moist while cooking, make sure you tell the butcher you want the cut to be ~3/4-1 inch thick.

Summer fruits such as peaches and nectarines complement pork extremely well. Here I used nectarines. I found that tossing the nectarine with maple syrup before grilling helps caramelize them. For extra vegetable goodness, I also grilled eggplants and broiled some cherry tomatoes to garnish. To finish, I suggest drizzling some balsamic vinegar to give an acidic bite.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2):

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 nectarines
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Some rocket to garnish (optional)

METHOD:

1) Wash pork chops and pat dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Preheat broiler function in oven to 200 degrees celsius. Layer washed cherry tomatoes on roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Spray some olive oil to coat the tomatoes and sprinkle some salt. Broil for ~15 minutes until charred.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (2 of 13)

3) Cut nectarines into wedges and put into a bowl. Coat all over with the maple syrup and some olive oil.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (1 of 1)

4) Wash eggplant and cut into 3/4 inch slices at a diagonal. Lightly score a criss-cross pattern into the flesh and brush with olive oil mixed with thyme and rosemary. Lightly season with some salt.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (3 of 13)

5) Heat up a grill pan (I used my Le Creuset cast iron grill pan here) on medium heat. Using tongs, layer eggplant slices evenly and cook on both sides until grill marks form, brushing with olive oil/thyme/rosemary mixture regularly to prevent it from getting dry. Once cooked, remove and transfer to a plate.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (9 of 13)

6) Cook the nectarines on the same grill pan until it chars on both sides (roughy 1 minute each side). Transfer to plate.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (2 of 2)

7) Brush pan with olive oil and place the pork chops onto the grill. Cook roughly 3-4 minutes each side (depending on thickness of cut). Layer pork chops on top of the eggplant and ‘frame’ the chops with the nectarines. Remove blistered tomatoes from the oven and garnish on top of the dish with some rocket leaves if desired.

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (1 of 1)

Grilled Pork Chop with Caramelized Nectarines (1 of 1)

A Sweet and Sour Pork That Does Not Damage Your Waistline

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (23 of 24)

Finally! I discovered a guilt-free way to cook sweet and sour pork that does away with the threatening calorie count. Instead of deep frying the pork cubes, I experimented with the Phillips air fryer tonight. Surprisingly, the end result was pleasing – there was not too much compromise in texture nor in taste. An added bonus is that you save the need for oil too! Scroll down for my “secret” recipe as to how to recreate the classic sweet and sour pork dish the ‘air-fryer’ way.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4):

For the pork:

  • 1 pound pork cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup corn starch

Vegetables:

  • 1/2 medium red pepper, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 medium yellow pepper, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges

For the sauce:

  • 1 can (8 ounce) pineapple chunks in syrup (i.e. undrained)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon corn starch

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (1 of 24)

METHOD:

1) Wash and pat dry pork loin. Cut the pork into one inch cubes.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (2 of 24)

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (3 of 24)

2) Place cubed pork in a medium bowl and season with the salt, sugar, and soy sauce.  Mix in the egg white and green onions. Best to marinade for an hour in the fridge (NB: since I had no time, I personally did not bother).

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (4 of 24)

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (6 of 24)

2) Preheat air fryer at 180 degrees celsius. Coat the pork in the 1/2 cup of corn flour all over.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (8 of 24)

3) Preheat air fryer for 3 minutes at 180 degrees celsius. Chuck in the marinaded pork cubes and “fry” for a total of 10 minutes. Best to cook for 5 minutes, then flip the pork cubes over with tongs to cook the alternate side for the remaining 5 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (11 of 24)

Flip the pork cubes over at the 5 minutes mark

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (14 of 24)

What the pork cubes will look like after 10 minutes of air frying at 180 degrees celsius. Crisp and crunchy (without the oil!).

4) In the meantime (while the pork is cooking), heat a fry pan with vegetable oil and throw in the chopped peppers with onions. Add the pineapple chunks (reserve the sauce in the can). Cook until tender and season with a sprinkle of salt and sugar. Remove from heat, set aside.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (12 of 24)

5) Next, time to make the sauce. Pour all the sauce ingredients (not the cornstarch yet) in a saucepan. Bring to boil and stir in the air fried pork cubes, peppers, onions and shallots. Return to boil and add the remaining pineapple juice from the can and the 2 tablespoons of corn starch to thicken the sauce to your desired consistency. Cook until well blended.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (13 of 24)

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (17 of 24)

6) Transfer to a clean plate. Serve while hot.

Sweet and Sour Pork (Air Fryer version) (20 of 24)

Hong Kong Style Baked Pork Chop Spaghetti

HK Style Baked Pork Chop SpaghettiI think this is quickly becoming one of my signature dishes (well, at least in my mind it is). A play on the fast-food Hong Kong style cha-charn tang baked pork chop rice for the plebs is my own revamped “classier” version of the dish for the bourgeois. Mind you, this dish does take a longer time to prepare and requires more ingredients than the usual mentions on this blog.

INGREDIENTS (serves 3):

  • 3 pork chops with bone-in (cut ~1.5 cm thick)
  • Bunch of chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and white pepper, to season
  • 1/2 pack of spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon of worcester sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup of ketchup
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 brown onion, sliced into wedges

METHOD:

1) Wash and pat dry pork chops with paper towels. Marinade the chops with white pepper, salt, and the chopped rosemary.

2) Boil pot of water and add some salt in. Add in pasta and cook al dente (~10 minutes; read package instruction to be precise). Drain in colander then transfer to oven proof baking dish (I love using my pink Le Creuset stoneware). In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Boiling pasta 3) Pan fry pork chops on medium heat until browned on both sides (~2-3 minutes). Layer on top of cooked spaghetti. _DSC1519 4) Prepare the tomato sauce. Chop tomatoes and onions into wedges._DSC1516 5) Heat pot on medium-high and lightly fry the onions until slightly browned. Then add the tomatoes and stir around a little. Pour in beef broth, ketchup, worcester sauce, tomato paste and boil until sauce thickens. _DSC1517 6) Pour sauce carefully all over the prepared pork chop spaghetti dish and generously sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan. _DSC15247) Stick dish in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese all melted. Serve immediately with vegetable sides. _DSC1526 _DSC1532

Whisky Marinaded Spiced Honey Ribs

Whisky marinaded ribs (5 of 4)

Succulent ribs has never tasted any better when marinaded in a whisky spiced honey mixture. Perfect for sharing, these ribs are best paired with a simple side salad and will not fail to impress your guests.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 racks of baby back ribs
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/8 cup whisky
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5/8 cup soy sauce

Whisky marinaded ribs (3 of 4)

METHOD:

1) Whisk the whiskey, honey, cinnamon, sesame oil, white pepper, cinnamon, soy sauce, and nutmeg together and marinade ribs for 4 hours (or overnight).

Whisky marindaded ribs (3 of 3)

Whisky marinaded ribs (4 of 4)

2) Preheat oven to 140 degree celsius. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange ribs, meaty side up. Roast for approximately 1-1.5 hours.

Whisky marindaded ribs (5 of 3)

3) Take ribs out and baste the ribs with a honey water mixture (2 tablespoons honey dissolved in 1 tablespoon water). Roast for another 10 minutes until brown and glossy. Remove ribs from oven and baste with honey mixture again before serving.

Whisky marinaded ribs (6 of 4)

Succulent Pork Crackling with Fennel and Thyme

Pork Crackling Relatives from Holland were visiting last month. Rather than dining out, I thought I would do something more “homely” and host a family dinner instead. I had always wanted to attempt a pork roast and this seemed like the opportune moment. This is the first time I attempted to make pork crackling. Thankfully, I did not fail to impress.

METHOD:

1) Pan-fry on medium heat two tablespoons of fennel seeds and one tablespoon of black pepper gently for 2-3 minutes.

2) Transfer the fennel seeds and black peppercorns to a mortar and pestle and add 3 cloves of garlic, sprinkle of sea salt, bunch of thyme, and dash of lemon juice. Add some olive oil and pound until a paste forms. Crackling for Relos (5 of 43)Fennel Black Pepper Garlic Paste 3) Slather the paste onto the scored pork belly and massage all over. Marinade overnight.

Crackling for Relos (edited) (1 of 4) 4) Preheat oven to 240 degrees celsius. Generously rub Maldon sea salt flakes into the rind of the pork belly and shove in oven for 20 minutes before turning heat down to 180 degrees celsius. Crackling for Relos (11 of 43) 5) Prepare vegetable tray by slicing two bulbs of fennel, two onions and two cups of pumpkin cut into cubes. Sprinkle salt and pepper and pour in 1/4 cup of dry white wine.

Crackling for Relos (edited) (2 of 4)

6) Transfer pork belly to vegetable tray and bake in 180 degree celsius oven for ~1.5-2 hours (depending on weight of pork belly). Crackling for Relos (25 of 43)7) During the last 20 minutes turn up the oven to a high temperature of 240 degrees celsius again to produce a crispy crackling. When juices run clear and skin looks crisp, take crackling out and serve along with apple sauce.

Crackling for Relos (edited) (3 of 4)

Crackling for Relos (edited) (4 of 4)