Yesterday was a case in point. I’d been working on a seafood recipe for days and had to go back to the supermarket yet again for more fish. We’d eaten enough of the seafood recipe trials to be seafood-ed out so I couldn’t put my husband through it again. I had to go two more rounds with my seafood recipe last night but I wanted to dine on something else.
What could be a quick and satisfying solution? Pork. Not a roast but a pork chop, thinly sliced to the thickness of my pinkie finger. I love that cut of pork chop because you get lots of porky flavor and can cook it relatively quickly without drying. And the seasonings shine because there’s more to go around in every bite. And did I mention how much I love to gnaw on the bones too? They’re just the right manageable size.
Thin-cut pork chops are also what I grew up with. Vietnamese people love them pan-fried or grilled, served with lots of rice on a plate since the pork has to be attacked with knife and fork. There’s often some nuoc cham dipping sauce on the side. Last night we had the pork chops with pasta and stir-fried pea tips.
So when my eyes fell upon the tray of thin-cut pork chops, each one rimmed with a layer of fat, a flood of delicious childhood memories came over me. The four thin chops weighed a total of 1 1/3 pounds (600 g). Once home, I did a quick marinade and instead of coating them with breadcrumbs as my mom would do for her version, I used fine cornmeal for crusty crunch. Dinner was on the table in no time and I got to chew on the bones too. Very satisfying and perfect for an easy weeknight dinner.
Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops
Serves 4 light eaters, 2 heavy eaters
- 4 thin-cut pork chops, about 1/3 pound (150 g) each
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 shots of fish sauce
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 or 2 small handfuls of fine cornmeal
- Oil for pan-frying
- Basic Vietnamese dipping sauce (nuoc cham), optional
- Rinse and pat the chops dry. Set them on a plate for a moment.
- Finely chop the garlic then add the salt and pepper. Use the flat side of your knife blade to mash the garlic with the abrasive seasonings. Rub it all over the pork chops along with the shots of fish sauce. Set aside to marinate for about 15 minutes; if you like, cover it with plastic wrap.
- To cook, use a large skillet. Heat it over medium-high heat with enough oil to thinly film the bottom. Meanwhile, add the yolk to the pork, break it with a fork or chopstick. Turn, slide, and rub the chops against each other to coat all sides with the sticky yolk. Put a handful of cornmeal on a plate nearby and coat each chop in cornmeal, laying it down in the skillet once you’re done. You’ll likely be able to cook 2 chops at a time so let the other two rest on the plate after you’ve coated them.
- Pan-fry the chops for 3 or 4 minutes per side, adjusting the heat as needed, until cooked through and crisp. Insert a knife, if you’d like to test. Wipe the skillet clean between batches if there is too much cornmeal residue, before adding more oil.
- Serve the pork chops immediately with the nuoc cham, if you like. This is knife and fork food.
What do you do with pork chops? I also love pork steaks cut from the shoulder. Here are two great Vietnamese ways with pork steaks. You could certain apply the ideas below to a thin-cut pork chop: