This week was a blur. After we were done with the Easter celebration, everyday felt like a strange shift back to monotony and admittedly, I purposely ignored posting anything new. When I didn’t have anything else better to do, before I started this blog, and especially during the summer, I’d read a good book. I surmise that no matter how old I’d be, I’ll always be a devoted consumer of children’s fiction.
But I really don’t think I can consider The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for starters) children’s fiction. No, no, no. It’s peppered with all sorts of things that, well, aren’t safe for work. But I really enjoyed reading it, probably because it’s a brilliant, intricate yet incredibly straightforward crime novel and I haven’t really immersed myself in that realm yet.
So yeah, my week was filled with amble reading moments, and I think I needed that. But during the moments in-between reading, I remember that I had to feed myself too. And without a lot of intricate preparation, I managed to whip up something decent. Scratch that, it isn’t just decent…it’s really good.
This is just the standard breaded pork, which really becomes more flavorful if you let the meat marinate in vinegar, garlic and sugar (yes, sugar), overnight.
But now we come to the issue of the sauce. Sure, the standard soy sauce-vinegar-calamansi dipping sauce is a winner, but it was when I read the book Asian Dumplings that I found a little gold nugget. Towards the end of her book, Andrea Nguyen shares recipes for sauces commonly partnered with dumplings and beyond. One of which, she calls ‘Sweet and Sour Sauce’, but her description is far from the mental image that I know is sweet and sour sauce. The bottled kind is…reddish-orange, ketchup-y, slightly translucent.
This one is (in her words) “a rich dark honey color, this tart-sweet-savory sauce does not resemble the cloying, sticky, bright red sauce that’s often served at Chinese restaurants.” She also hints that this can be a blank canvas for other flavors – tropical (use canned pineapple juice instead of water) and/or spicy (add ginger and chili to the mix).
What’s more tropical than pineapple? pineapple-lychee of course! But don’t count pine-orange or pine-mango out, because as of writing this, now I understand why this sauce is definitely a blank canvas. I was sold.
(And….I’m about to read The Girl Who Played With Fire. Time is definitely divided.)
Breaded Pork (serves 4 – 6)
1 kg pork chops or belly (if using belly, ask the butcher to slice it into uniform pieces 5 – 6 inches long)
- ½ cup white cane vinegar
- Half a bulb of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 – 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Salt or liquid seasoning (Maggi or Knorr)
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl or Tupperware and add in the pork. Mix well and leave in the refrigerator preferably overnight.
- When ready to fry, set-up a dipping station using 3 shallow dishes. In the first dish, add flour enough to coat the pork. Begin with around ½ cup, adding a few tablespoons more when needed. Season the flour with salt and pepper. In the second dish, lightly beat the egg. It’s best to start with one egg, then if it runs out, beat in another one. Add a pinch of salt or a few drops of liquid seasoning. In the third dish, add the breadcrumbs.
- Using tongs, dredge both sides of the pork with the flour. Then dip both sides in the egg. Lastly, coat both sides with the breadcrumbs.
- Over medium-low to medium heat, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a nonstick pan. When the oil is glistening, add the pork pieces. You may need to work in batches, 2 or 3 at a time, depending on the size of the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry each side for around 8 – 10 minutes or until breading turns golden brown.
Sweet and Sour Sauce (makes 1 cup)
- ¼ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons vinegar (any kind)
- ½ cup pineapple-lychee juice (Dole or Del Monte)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- Combine the sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar and water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a near boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Give the cornstarch a stir and then add it to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring, for about 15 seconds, or until the sauce comes to a full boil and thickens.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and set aside for 10 minutes to cool and concentrate in flavor.
- Taste and add extra salt, if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to prepare this sauce a day in advance.