We were running late, the girls having gone to a dentist appointment after school, so dinner had to be quick and easy. Pork chops. That should be pretty easy. But how to prepare them? Easy enough in the summer…a quick marinade and throw them on the barbie. Everything tastes great on the barbeque. But in the winter, I tend to face a bit of a challenge when it comes to pork chops. I wasn’t in the mood for the usual breaded, oven-baked chops. I wanted something fresh and fiery. I knew exactly what I wanted. The taste of summer! The heavy and rich foods of winter were getting to me. I was nostalgic for warmth and freshness. I scour the fridge and pantry and here’s what I came up with.
Limes, garlic, ginger, Chinese five spice, hoisin sauce, tamari, sesame oil and sambal oelek.
Lime juice for its fresh, tart taste. The fragrant, aromatic and pungent garlic. Ginger…oh, how I love ginger. Tangy freshness, lemony, lightly spicy which imparts just enough warmth to a dish, a mellow sweetness, adding balance to both sweet and savoury dishes. The highly aromatic Chinese five spice powder, great for enhancing flavour in fatty meats like pork and duck. Comprised of star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns and cloves. Do use sparingly as it is quite pungent and can overpower your dish. Hoisin sauce, a.k.a. Chinese barbecue sauce, for its salty and slightly sweet flavour. Tamari, or soy if you prefer. The difference being that tamari is darker, smoother, with a richer taste. It is made solely of fermented soybeans, whereas soy sauce contains wheat and is saltier. Tamari doesn’t just add saltiness to a dish, but umami as well. Umami. I just love its meaning. From the Japanese, umai meaning delicious, mi meaning taste. A pleasant, savoury taste. Umami is one of the five basic tastes, the other four being sweet, sour, bitter and salty. For an interesting read on umami, check this out. Sesame oil has quite a distinctive flavour, slightly sweet, slightly nutty. Really do use it sparingly as it can overtake your dish with a toasted sesame flavour, which I am not crazy about. And sambal oelek. Ground, fresh chilli paste made only of fiery red chilies, vinegar and salt, adding heat without losing the flavours of other ingredients.
For 4 pork chops: (I did not do any measuring, these are my estimates)
Juice of 2 limes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Piece of fresh ginger, grated (a 2-inch piece)
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, maybe a little more
1/4 cup tamari, maybe a little less
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Pour over pork chops and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. This allows for some time to boil some potatoes for mashing and preparing a nice green salad.
Heat a grill pan on medium if you have one, otherwise a fry pan will do. Brush with vegetable oil. Cook chops 3 to 5 minutes per side, depending on thickness. You do not want to overcook the chops or they will be dry and taste terrible, no matter what you add to the marinade. They need to be slightly pink in the centre.
Remove from grill and let sit on a plate, covered with foil paper, until ready to serve.
Serve with mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and a lovely green salad. Oh, doesn’t that look delish? It was just what my body was craving. Fresh, fiery, tangy, sweet. Umami!