Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop… it’s porky goodness!

It was 99 degrees F outside today, and it’s only the middle of May.  Mother Nature, you are being cruel to us.  I love when you are around the 70s to mid-80s, because that’s what you are during the months of April and May.  In fact, that’s my favorite time of the year here.  So what gives?  Is this a taste of what is to come this summer?  Please be kind.  I can’t bear sizzling temperatures near/over 110 degrees F.

I couldn’t bear to cook in the house today.  We cooked in yesterday, although it was 93 degrees F outside, our house seemed like a sauna.  I suppose we could have turned on the air conditioner, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that because it is only May.  But I digress.  It was the perfect to take the cooking outdoors, and I’ll take any excuse to play, I mean, cook on my Big Green Egg.

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chop (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

4 pork chops, bone-in, about 1 inch thick
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons garlic
3 tablespoons shallot
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil

Using a mini food processor, pulse the sugar, garlic, shallot, and lemongrass to a mince-like texture. Add the pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oil, and process to combine well.

Place the pork chops in a large zip-lock bag, and pour the marinade to coat. Squish the marinade around to coat the pork chops evenly. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, up to 24 hours. Allow the pork chops to rest at room temperature, about 30-45 minutes, before grilling.

Preheat the Big Green Egg (or any grill) to 550 degrees F (or medium-high heat). Grill the pork chops over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, about 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional Place the chops on the grill rack of your Big Green Egg. Sear the chops for about 4 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove from the grill, and let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes.

My favorite way to eat these delicious pork chops is over steamed white rice with a fried egg, and nuoc cham dipping sauce.  Yum.

Makes 4 servings.

Do Chua (Pickled Carrots and Daikon)

I love all things pickled, especially Korean pickled ban chan.  Well, maybe not all pickled stuff, but most things.  You get the point.  I grew up watching my Mom pickling vegetables… from kim chee to pickled garlic.  But never learned or had the interest until recently.  When I wanted to make banh mis for dinner one night, I was a little worried about finding pickled carrots and daikon only because I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to find it pre-canned.  So I perused through many recipes and finally decided on one.  I don’t know why I chose the one I did, but I’m sure glad I did because the daikon to carrot ratio is 2:1.

Why do I care about the daikon to carrot ratio?  Well, if you haven’t read it already in my banh mi post, I grew up NOT liking carrots.  In fact, I detested carrots while growing up.  I would gag if there was a piece of carrot touching the rest of my food.  If there was shredded carrots mixed in with something else, I simply just wouldn’t eat it.  However, I am slowly coming around.  I’ll eat stewed carrots and pickled carrots.  But if you tried to give me raw carrots, well, we can just forget about being friends.  Drama queen.  I know.  But that’s how much I hate raw carrots in its natural form.  Anyhow, to make the long story short, the desire of wanting to pickle carrots was a whole new world to me.

I knew I had to marinate the carrots and daikon in the pickling solution for at least an hour, so I made my way to Whole Foods hours before dinner.  I got home and started cutting my carrots and daikon into “thick matchsticks.”  This part of the process was exhausting as I hovered over the chopping board cutting, while trying not to slice my hand.  At one point, my right hand (the chopping hand) started to tingle with some numbness, almost like carpal tunnel syndrome.  But I mustered through it and had a full bowl of matchstick-sized daikon and carrots ready for pickling!

Do Chua (adapted from Viet World Kitchen)

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 pound daikon, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup warm water

In a bowl, combine the half cup of sugar, vinegar, and water and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Place the carrot and daikons in a colander and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar.  Mix the sugar and salt mixture into the vegetables, and let it sit for a few minutes to soften.  Use your hands to knead the vegetables.  Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon does not break.  The vegetables should have lost about one-fourth of its water volume.  Rinse under cold running water, and then gently squeeze to expel extra water.

Place carrots and daikon in a bowl and pour the pickling solution over the vegetables. The solution should cover the vegetables.  Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating.  They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  Beyond that point, they get tired.

Banh Mi Thit Nuong (Vietnamese sandwich with grilled lemongrass pork)

Ever since Food Network aired “The Great Food Truck Race” with Tyler Florence, we’ve been inspired to start up our own food truck business.  Unfortunately, Fresno doesn’t have much of a market for food trucks just yet.  And we also don’t have the money to purchase a pimped out food truck.  So the dream will have to wait.  However, we were fixated with the banh mis that the Nom Nom truck made, and had absolutely no idea where to get them in Fresno.  Luckily, as foodie fate would have it, a Vietnamese restaurant opened up close by not too long after the show was nearing the finale.

We were torn between beef pho and banh mi sandwich… so we ordered both and decided to share!  It was the perfect compromise.  We salivated in anticipation of our food.  It felt like 30 minutes had passed before our food came out, but in actuality, it was only about five minutes.  Oh, but it felt like forever.  We were in nom nom heaven when we had our first bite of the lemongrass chicken banh mi.  Ironically, I grew up hating banh mis.  I tried it a few times while growing up and I think it was the taste of cilantro and carrots that grossed me out.  Well, our taste buds certainly change as we mature.  I love cilantro now, but can only tolerate carrots in certain forms – stewed or pickled, just not raw.  I digress.

We were in the mood for some banh mi so it gave me the perfect reason to fire up the grill in the middle of December!  The weather has been mild around here.  Apparently, it’s La Nina season and she’s here to stay for a while.  I was out grilling in my scrub pants and t-shirt, which is really unusual for December weather in Fresno.  But it was perfect grilling weather.  Sunny, but not hot.  Cool, but not freezing.  Again, I digress.  There is just something dreamy about the smell of grilled meat, especially grilled lemongrass pork.  Yum.  We dressed up our french bread with a thin spread of mayo, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, and of course, the creme de la creme, the grilled pork.  We ate, we nommed, we conquered.

Banh Mi Thit Nuong (from Ravenous Couple)

1.5 pounds pork butt or shoulder, thinly sliced just under 1/4 inch or so
1/4 cup minced Lemongrass (xa bam)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 shallots, minced
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoons thick soy sauce
2 loaf of french bread or 6 demi baguettes
1 cucumber, sliced thin
1/2 bunch cilantro
Jalapeno, thinly sliced (optional)
Pickled carrots/daikon
Mayonnaise
Pate (optional)

For the marinade, combine the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, pepper, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil in a large mixing bowl.  Add the pork, mix well, and marinate for at least a few hours or over night (the longer the better!).

Grill the lemongrass pork until golden brown and slightly charred on each side.

Spread a thin layer of mayo and pate on the baguette, and add the pork and condiments.  And nom away!

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