Sometimes Asian recipes seem taunting to the home cook simply for the long list of ingredients used. Once you take a closer look, you realise that most of them are now readily available even in a local supermarket (I am not taking Singapore as standard, of course, but have recently noticed a large variety of Asian cooking stuff being available in grocery stores throughout Europe and the Americas - and not even limited to the big cities!)
This recipe used very basic ingredients, most kitchens I know will have at least soy sauce at hand, apart from that only rice wine (could be substituted with Fino sherry or Noilly Prat at a push) and yellow bean paste is needed - the latter is easy to find in larger supermerkets, as the ready-made sauces are always the first ingredients to be introduced.
When I cook Asian food, I like to use coconut oil - and I know that it's got a bad rep, but I believe that for most parts, this is a government agenda trying to promote US grown soy and canola over Asian produce. Coconut oil, if produced organically and sustainably, is actually a great option both for its health benefits (the lauric acid it contains is only found in coconut oil and human breast milk) as well as because it is one of the most heat-stable oild around. The one I use is a Virgin (ie cold-pressed) coconut oil from the Philippines, sold underthe Country Farm Organics label. I like to use ot in Asian cooking because it adds a nice, subtle coconut flavour, which I find to go well with almost all Asian recipes.
If you do not have access to coconut oil or (for some unimaginable reason) don't like the taste, feel free to use grapeseed or another oild suitable for cooking at high temperatures.
I love this recipe because despite the many steps involved, they slot very well together so it can all be done in about 30 to 45 minutes. What you get is a meal full of exotic flavours that will have you long for more!
Honey, ginger & soy glazed pork with spicy pak choy*
2 pork tenderloins (pork fillet), total weight ca. 700g
8 cloves garlic (3 finely chopped, the rest crushed)
about 4 cm fresh ginger rhizome (peeled and finely grated)
4 tbsp yellow bean paste (from large supermarkets or an Asian shop)
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
5 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red chilli
400 g pak choi (cleaned and tough stem cut off)
Steamed jasmine or basmati rice
First, clean the pork, removing any fat and remaining tendons.
For the marinade, combine the 5 crushed cloves of garlic, the ginger, yellow bean paste, honey, soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar and 3 tbsp coconut oil in a tupperware container large enough to hold both pork fillets. Immerse the pork in the marinade and leave to stand and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes (you could do this the night before as well!).
Pre-heat oven to 200C.
Take a large cast-iron or stainless steel pan. Sear the pork (the marinade need to be kept aside for later) on all sides until nicely browning - I don't usually add any oil at that stage as the marinade contains quite a bit already. Transfer the meat to a casserole or other oven-proof dish and place in the pre-heated oven. Set the timer to 15 minutes.
(Now would be the best time to set your rice steaming if you haven't already done so)
Cut the chilli open lengthwise and remove all the membranes and seeds. Chop the chilli finely (and remember you did that when you're trying to remove your contact lenses later :-))
When the pork fillet is ready to come out of the oven, transfer onto a chopping board and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Retain the juices that will have gathered in the casserole.
Heat the coconut oil in a wok, when the oil starts to smoke, add the garlic and chilli and quickly fry off, stirring constantly to prevent charring. Add the pak choi and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, adding some water or rice vinegar to create some steam.
Now reheat the pan you used to sear off the pork, add the remaining juices from the casserole as well as the left-over marinade. Gently warm through. Cut the pork into 2-3 cm medallions, then toss in the hot sauce.
Arrange the pak choi on a big serving plate with the pork fillet arranged on top, spoon over some more sauce.
Serve with the steamed rice on the side.
* adapted from "Ching's Chines Food in Minutes"