Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vietnamese-style Pork Chops

It's the late summer. The image that burns most brightly in my mind during this season is when I vacationed in southeast Asia a few years ago in late summer. The sun was setting over the small town where I was staying the evening, a town where buildings were rarely two-storied and none of the roads were paved. Movement was accompanied by a large amount of dust stirred into the dry air. Young boys and girls played an unfamiliar game with a ball in the streets, and cars were rare. I spied a few taxis, but they were often parked and empty; I supposed that the operators were probably sleeping off the heat in their homes.

On this arid evening, I decided to visit a random restaurant in the neighborhood and discovered a delicious lemongrass grilled pork chop. It tasted sweet, tangy, and had a delicious saltiness that I later realized was fish sauce.

I've always been afraid to make pork chops because they can be dry and flavorless if prepared wrong. But I had beautifully cut pork chops in the fridge and some lemongrass in the freezer and felt this would be a preparation that would do them justice.

First, the mise en place:

(From left to right, minced lemon grass, lime/lime juice, minced garlic, honey, fish sauce - nam pla, black pepper)

I created the marinade by combining all the ingredients above and marinated the pork chops in them for about an hour.

I prepared a large cast-iron skillet on high heat and sauteed the pork chops, allowing the sugars in the honey to caramelize and give the meat a delicious burnt sweetness.

Dinner is served!

Recipe (adapted from the Minimalist)


Time: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon nam pla
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops or country-style ribs
1 lime, quartered
Chopped Thai basil or cilantro for garnish (optional).

1. Whisk lemongrass, garlic, honey and nam pla in large bowl. Add lime juice and pepper. Place pork in the bowl, turning to coat; let stand while you preheat grill or broiler.

2. Grill or broil pork, spooning marinade over as it cooks, until nicely done, about 10 minutes. Turn only once so that each side browns nicely. Serve with remaining lime and, if you like, the herb garnish.

Yield: 4 servings.


  1. I'll let you in on a little secret. Want the chops to be tender and juicy every time? Salt, marinate or brine them for 45 minutes and put them in the oven at 275 for a full 30 minutes right before you grill, broil or sear them. Say goodbye to dry pork chops forever.