Back to the roots

Back to the roots 12 Mar

Back to the roots

I mentioned a while back that I had the opportunity to attend a cooking class with an amazing local chef at Get Cooking Edmonton. During the class, the instructor, Kathryn, mentioned that she was going to be teaching a Japanese class in the near future, which naturally grabbed my attention immediately. I offered to provide her with a few recipes, which she graciously accepted.

After looking over the recipes, Kathryn offered to let me attend the class as a “special guest”. Alas, my schedule was just too full, and I had to decline.

Nah, I’m just messing with you. I jumped at the chance. Getting to watch a pro in action is a huge treat for me, so I was extremely grateful for her generosity.

Maybe it’s just my ego talking, but I thought the class went over quite well. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and folks were blasting questions at me so fast I thought I was playing paintball. I just hope I was able to provide them with semi-coherent answers.

Kathryn asked me to return for a second class, at which point I figured I should brush up on my nihonryouri.

That’s Japanese cooking, if you were wondering.

On a recent road trip to Calgary, AB, I stopped in at a popular Japanese restaurant and had a lovely buta no shogayaki dish. While it’s not “fancy” by any stretch of the imagination, I still love that stuff. It’s tasty, it’s easy to make, and it’s fast. What’s not to like?

Oh, by the way:
buta – pork
shoga – ginger
yaki – grilling/grilled

So, ginger pork. The second most popular pork dish in Japan. As with most of the food I eat in restaurants, I decided that I needed to be able to make it at home, and given my newfound motivation to expand my nihonryouri arsenal, I began searching through my culinary library to see what I could find.

To my surprise, I had a few different versions of this fantastic dish. Sumo being Sumo, I did a little mixing and matching of ingredient amounts and cooking techniques, and came up with a fairly tasty creation.

Now, before I get to the recipe, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the star of this dish, the pork. One might think that all pork is created equal, but that’s just not the case. For starters, to make buta no shogayaki, you need a nice, tender cut of pork. Namely, the tenderloin. Now, you could head down to your local grocery store and find pork tenderloin, but in my experience, grocery store meats can be a little on the flavorless side. Granted, you’re going to be adding flavor to this dish, but what’s the point of eating pork if you can’t taste, well…..pork?

On the other hand, if you have a kickass butcher like I do, then your pork woes are over. Your butcher can not only provide you with quality meat, but they can also recommend an alternative to pork tenderloin if you’re on a budget.

HOWEVER, my friends, if you want the pinnacle of porcine perfection in nihonryouri, then you need to find yourself some Berkshire pork. Berkshire pork, known as kurobuta (black pig) in Japan, is the most flavorful pork you will ever has the privledge of putting in your mouth. If you’ve ever heard of wagyu, or Kobe beef, kurobuta is widely considered to be the pork equivalent to wagyu.

Back to the roots

Fortunately (for me, at least), a local pork farm specializes in raising these beautiful, tasty animals. Any pork that enters my kitchen originates from that farm.

And then ends up in my belly. Circle of life, y’all.

Anyhow, since I’m sure that you’re tired of my pontificating, on with the show:

Buta no Shogayaki

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced. REALLY thin. Like, paper thin.
1/3 cup shoyu (Japanese soy sauce – Sumo recommends Kikkoman)
1/4 cup mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine)
2 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
2 tbsp grated ginger
canola oil
toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl, mix together shoyu, ginger and mirin.

Add pork slices then marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove pork from bowl then reserve the marinade.

Add small amount of oil in a wok, turn heat on high then once it starts to smoke sauté meat for around 2 minutes. You may want to do this in batches, in order to avoid over cooking the meat.

Pour marinade into pan then stir for 30 seconds. If you’re cooking the pork in batches, add the marinade in batches as well.

Remove from wok then serve over rice, and garnish with the toasted sesame seeds. Shredded cabbage is the “traditional” companion, but I had it with some pickled daikon and carrots.