My mom reads this blog and loves to come up with ideas for cool content. This weekend when I visited my parents, she showed me her new twist on one of my childhood favorites: pan-fried pork steaks full of garlicky goodness. It’s a dead simple recipe that reflects Vietnamese-French cooking. Just note the Vietnamese name: thit (meat) cot-let (cutlet/pork chop) chien (fried).
The difference between what I grew up eating and what my mom served the other night is that instead of using dry thin pork chops, my mom now prefers end-pieces of pork loin. She buys them in bulk from Smart & Final for a good deal. They are a pork processing byproduct. She loves it and stands by her pork choice. Would you mess with this woman?
That cut of pork has a moderate amount of fat and lots of flavor. It’s tastier than the pork chops of my youth. All my mom did was defrost the pork (remember, she loves to freeze things) and then used the spine of a cleaver to lightly pound and tenderize the meat, which she cut up into pieces about the size of the palm of her hand. Then she generously seasoned it with minced garlic, salt and pepper.
My parents had a packed social schedule that day and didn’t get home till 5:30pm. Given that, mom prepped the pork the night before and refrigerated it. (You can marinate the meat for an hour at room temperature, if you like.) She let the meat sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to take some of the chill off.
Then she coated each one in plain breadcrumbs (nothing fancy like panko) and pan-fried the pork steaks in a skillet on her outdoor stove. She loves her patio set up and does most of her cooking there where there’s an ocean breeze and she can ‘communicate’ with the ingredients. It’s a bit like being in Vietnam.
Mom used medium-hot heat and made sure there was enough oil to cover the bottom of the large skillet at all times. Each piece took about 5 minutes to cook, and got flipped over midway. She had to add oil as she fried because she cooked about 5 pounds of meat. Occasionally she would scoop some of the overly fried bits out of the skillet to clean it out.
The result was heavenly. The outside was slightly crisp and the meat inside was succulent and savory. I would have eaten a lot more had there not been so much other food on the table.
When making this simple pork, you don’t have to shop at Smart & Final for the meat. Boneless pork shoulder steaks would be fine. Or, cut pieces from the more marbly end of a pork loin.
We eat these pork chops with fork and knife. It’s one of the few Vietnamese dishes where each guest gets his/her personal slab of meat. Nevertheless, I noticed that everyone at the table – my mom, dad, husband and me – sliced up their entire pieces of pork before any was eaten. Feel free to dip the pork in a bit of chile garlic sauce for some heat.