Lemongrass Pork Chops
Complexity, while undesirable in most things in life, is my holy grail in food. The recipe does not have to be complex but a bite of something that is many things at once? Oof. While balance in a dish makes it enjoyable, complexity makes it curious. A truly complex bite and the need to figure out how it came to be, is the chase.
I can't remember where exactly I had a fish sauce and lemongrass marinade (or maybe it was a dip?) but I had to get to the bottom of it immediately. It had umami, tang, sweetness, spice, and some grassy, floral notes. So, like any good little food blogger, I went down a rabbit hole of recipes and YouTube videos about Thai and Vietnamese cooking to figure out the proportions and the exact ingredients. Ultimately, I landed on something inspired by Viet World Kitchen and Serious Eats. I upped the spice with some chili garlic sauce and make some pork chops. The bold flavors were perfect on these pork chops but you do have to be attentive to these chops, since they are easy to over-cook and dry out. We had these chops with a big bowl of sauteed vegetables and some brown rice - it was perfect!
Fish sauce is a very common ingredient in a lot of southeast Asia and if you've never cooked with it, you're in for an umami flavor bomb. Similar to anchovies in Italian cooking, fish sauce isn't necessarily going to make a dish fishy. Rather, when used in the right quantities, can bump up the flavor and complexity of meat dishes, stews, and curries. In fact, fish sauce is made by fermenting and drying out anchovies - here is a great article from The Kitchn on how it's made in Vietnam. You'll see a lot of Thai and Vietnamese recipes with fish sauce will also include lemongrass, which makes perfect sense. Lemongrass imparts a beautiful grassy, floral scent and is a great balance to the depth of fish sauce. You can find both fish sauce and lemongrass in most grocery stores, and definitely at any Asian grocery store.
I'm going to use this marinade on chicken thighs and grill them to make some lettuce wraps. I also want to try out a whole roasted fish, topped with this marinade and loads of ginger. I'll report back but if you beat me to it, let me know if it works out!
- 2 bone-in pork chops, patted dry
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 2 tsp chili garlic hot sauce (green lid, with the rooster on it)
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lemongrass stalk
- 2 tsp grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp water
Prepare the lemongrass by first cutting off a few inches of the green part at the top. Next, whack the white middle and bottom of the stalk with the back of your knife to bruise and release the lemongrass flavor. Mince the stalk finely.
In a bowl, whisk together the minced lemongrass, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, chili garlic sauce, and garlic. Pour the marinade into a gallon zip lock bag and place the pork chops into the bag. Coat the chops well and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
When you're ready to cook, remove the pork chops from the fridge and set it on the counter for 10-15 mins to let it come to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
Heat up a skillet (stainless steel or cast iron) and add a tsp of the oil. Once the oil is heated and is beginning to smoke, shake the excess marinade off of your chop and add them to the skillet. Cook 3 mins on one side and drizzle the other tsp of oil on the other - flip over the chop and cook for another 3 mins on the other side. You're looking to sear the chop to give it a good, colorful sear and to lock in the juices.
While the pork is cooking, strain the marinade into a bowl and discard the solids. Add 2 tbsp water and 1 tsp sugar to the strained liquid. Add this to the pan towards the end of the second 3 mins to de-glaze and to give you a sauce.
Stick the skillet in the oven and leave in for 12 mins. If you have a meat thermometer, you're looking for an internal temperature of 145 F. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven, place a lid on top, and let the chops rest for 8-10 mins. Resting is very important - if you cut into the chops right away, all of the juices will run out and leave you with dry meat.
Serve with vegetables and noodles or rice.