Ginger Pork Stew

Wintry Japanese comfort food.

I am missing Japan. Like it sometimes hurts to look at the pictures. Therefore I grab any opportunity to bring some Japanese vibes to our little flat in Vienna. Chantal bought me a great new cookbook by Ivan Orkin (the best non-Japanese ramen chef) as a Valentine’s present and there I found a recipe for a ginger and pork dish. I was hooked immediately and gave it my personal stamp. I chose (by occasion) a little known cut of pork and added a French twist at the end. That’s my type of fusion cuisine. Give it a try, you will love it!

Ivan uses another cut of pork that you can stir fry, making his version a little quicker. Go that route if you want to, but my mother brought some beautiful pork cheeks from our butcher and I immediately had the idea to adapt Ivan’s recipe to make it fit those cheeks. Stews are just my thing. Little work and then patiently waiting while the oven does its magic, transforming simple, cheap ingredients into a feast.

Most of us know pork cheeks only when they are still covered in their natural fatty coat. That way they are usually used to make bacon-like products like “guanciale” and “Göderl”. By the way, don’t you dare to use bacon or pancetta for pasta carbonara, only guanciale will do for Italians! Anyways, once the fat coat is removed, a small, tender, surprisingly lean piece of meat is the result. If you can’t find it, talk to your butcher to find an alternative. You just need a relatively lean stewing meat, I’m sure he can help you (pork shoulder should be fine).

Don’t add any salt to this dish when cooking, the soy sauce is already salty enough! In typical Japanese fashion, there aren’t any additional spices, giving the meat, mushrooms, ginger and soy sauce all the room they deserve. I couldn’t resist to add a little white pepper, but it is definitely not needed.

The final French twist is to separately fry the mushrooms at the end until they take a little colour and become fragrant. They usually do this with onion, bacon and mushrooms when cooking boeuf bourguignon. This way we give the mushrooms the attention they need and deserve. If you have the feeling that the oyster mushrooms are brittle, don’t fry them in the pan, just add them shortly before the stew is finished and cook them for a few minutes. You don’t want them to disintegrate in the pan, so treat them with proper care.

If you don’t have mirin at home, use any sweet, not too fruity wine or fortified wine like sweet sherry or marsala. Even a nice brandy or cognac would be appropriate, just reduce the amount you put in. Sake alone isn’t sweet enough, but you can always sweeten with honey or any low-calorie sweetener if needed.

Ingredients

  • 1,5kg lean stewing pork
  • 500g onions (~3)
  • 45g cooking fat
  • 90g fresh ginger root
  • 45g flour
  • 200g mirin
  • 200g soy sauce
  • 200g water
  • 150g shitake mushrooms
  • 150g oyster mushrooms

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C. If you are using pork cheeks, you don’t have to cut them into smaller pieces, just pat them dry. Put a large frying pan on high heat, warm a little bit of the cooking fat (I had some duck fat left to use) and brown the meat in batches. Add more fat if needed.
  2. Meanwhile peel and cut the onions into fine slices. Remove the last batch of meet from the pan and add the onions and finely sliced ginger. Fry them until they take some colour, then add the flour. Stir, let take some colour, then add the mirin, soy sauce and water. Stir, cover and cook in the oven for about 2-3 hours or until tender.
  3. When the meat is tender, add the oyster mushrooms and add some water to loosen everything up. Let cook slowly while you prepare the shitake mushrooms.
  4. Put a small pan on high heat, warm the remaining fat and add the shitake mushrooms. Fry until they soften up and develop some nice colour. Add the mushrooms to the stew, taste, and season to perfection (likely not necessary).

Macros

100g of this delicious stew have the following macros:

  • 126kcal
  • 10,6g protein
  • 8g carbs
  • 5,3g fat

We prepared some brussel sprouts to go with this stew, just because we found some at the farmer’s market and we wanted to buy some as long as they are in season. I think any roasted vegetable would be a nice side, as is, of course, white rice. Just choose what is appropriate to your goals.

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