Earlier this week, I wrote about the seven course dinner I prepared for my brother and his wife. In that post, I shared the full menu as well as my recipe for the evening’s first course. Well, today I’m sharing another dish – another new recipe that was created especially for that meal.
Conceptually, however, the dish started out as something very different from what I finally served. My first idea was to try and find a way to deconstruct and modernise wonton noodles, emphasizing certain components while downplaying others. But as I doodled my way through various permutations–that’s the way I work out dishes, I doodle drawings of them in a notebook–I realised that maybe I was trying too hard to do something that worked better intellectually than it would literally.
So I started from scratch, taking two ingredients/components that I knew I had wanted to use and created a simpler, more taste-driven dish around them, and around one component in particular as the star. Which was the charsiu-style pork neck medallions.
To make these, I started with some really beautiful cuts of pork neck that I picked up at my favorite butcher shop. Then I made a marinade based on the following ratio: 1 tablespoon of sesame oil; 2 tablespoons chicken stock; 5 tablespoons of sambal kecap; 5 tablespoons of Oomf; 3 tablespoons of Hoisin; 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine; 2 teaspoons salt; and 2 crushed and diced garlic cloves. You can scale up or down using this base recipe depending on how much pork you need to marinade.
Sambal kecap is a slightly spicy version of kecap manis, i.e. sweet, dark, thick soy sauce, that we always get from Indonesia. If you can’t find it, you can use any sweet, dark, thick soy sauce and decide if you want to add spice. Oomf is gonna be even harder for you to find. Mostly because it isn’t something on the market (yet). It’s the name my brother and his wife have given her (late) grandmother’s spicy bean sauce which she’s learned how to reproduce and that we’re all hoping she decides to start selling one of these days. The great thing about being in-laws is that we always have a jar of Oomf in our fridge. It’s kind of like umami crack, in that it goes with almost anything and somehow makes it addictively better.
In place of Oomf, you could try using a mild doubanjiang; just use less, or better yet, use only as much as you like, based on repeated tastings of the marinade.
I had cut the pork neck down into long chunks about 50mm in diameter. I then slathered them with the marinade and rolled each chunk individually and as tightly as possible in cling film. The goal is to get them to be as cylindrical as possible. I then popped these into the fridge to marinate for 3 days.
Once marinated properly, I prepared a water bath and using an immersion circulator, brought the water up to 53°C. I then vacuum-packed the pork neck, still in cling film, into individual bags, and placed them in the water bath for 36 hours. When the cooking was done, I quickly plunged the bags into ice water to cool them down rapidly and popped them into the fridge, to hold until serving (which in my case was the next day).
On the night itself, I prepped a water bath at 50°C and popped the pork neck in there an hour before I would need to serve it. This is really just to get it warm. Then I unbagged and unwrapped the pork and sliced the chunks down into medallions that measured around 30mm in height. After lining them up on a tray, I brushed honey on top of the medallions, sprinkled some salt, and blowtorched them in order to produce a nice char on one side.
Alongside the pork medallions, I served some spaetzle that had been pan-fried in butter; brussels sprouts that had been blanched, sliced in half, and then pan fried in canola oil; and pomegranate seeds. I drizzled a little Japanese sweet soy sauce on the plate, along with a few drops of a reduction I had also made with chicken stock and sesame oil.
Much simpler and, I think, much better than an overly intellectualised deconstruction.
Photo taken by and generously shared by Henry Hariyono.