Com Tam Suon Grilled Pork Chop Challenge

15 May

One of my favorite non-soup dishes at Vietnamese restaurants is the  rice plate with charred grilled meats, do chua (pickled vegetables), rice and quiche. The flavors are so tasty and more satisfying than the noodle counterpart of bun vermicelli bowls. In restaurants these will be listed under “Rice Platter” or “Com Tam“, which means “broken rice”.

While we were enjoying Com Tam Suon and Bun Thit Bo at one of our fav restaurants Viet Crystal, I decided it would be my next recipe experiment. After scouring the Internet, I found two options that would be viable competitors.

The first from ever-reliable Ravenous Couple and the second – albeit not quite the same – a Thit Heo Nuong Ngu Vi Huong (Grilled Garlickly Five Spice Pork Steaks) from  Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. OK, not the same at all – except from the Grilled Pork part, which is the most important aspect. Either way, both recipes were oh so simple and required no new ingredients. Except for the swine, of course.

Doesn’t this look amazing? It was. You should make it, too.

Grilled Pork, Egg and Pork custard and Rice

See? All pantry items. How great is that?

Pork marinade ingredients

Here are the two marinades:

Two marinades

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen on the left, Ravenous Couple on the right

As the meat happily soaked in the marinades, I moved on to preparing the ever important do chua, pickled diakon and carrots. A mandolin slicer will come in handy here. Chopping matchsticks by hand is no fun. The best part is massaging the veggies in salt and sugar to expel liquid and get bendy. You’ve massaged enough when you can bend the daikon to touch end to end without snapping, like so:

Bending daikon radish to test for doneness

I also really love the egg quiche that is often served with the grilled pork rice platters. Per usual, I was shocked to find that pork is a leading ingredient. Or not shocked, because almost everything has pork in it. And fish sauce. And sugar.

But I digress.

The Ravenous Couple’s Celebration of Swine blog also had the egg quiche, although they call it a custard, but the recipe didn’t really jump at me. So I went searching and found a several variations and came up with this version:

Cha Trung Hap (Steamed Pork and Egg Custard)

  • 5 eggs (reserve two egg yolks)
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup dried shredded wood ear mushroom – soak in hot water to soften, drain and chop
  • 1 Bundle of glass noodles – soak in hot water to soften, drain and chop
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 stalks spring onions – chopped
  • 1 tbl fish sauce
  • 2-3 tsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

Beat the eggs (minus two yolks) and mix everything together. This is one of those things that doesn’t look appetizing, but comes out tasty.

I’d never used one of the bamboo steamer baskets, but finally purchased on at FreshWorld to try out. All of the directions I saw said to place the heatproof container IN the steamer baskets, but I didn’t have one that would fit so instead filled three ramekins. Love those things.

Ramekins filled with the pork and egg custard mix

I steamed them for 30 minutes and then poured on the remaining egg yolk and steamed for another 5 or so minutes. None of this came out the same as I’ve experienced in restaurants, but I’m finding that’s the norm. Probably just short cuts and mass production.

Pork and egg custards in the steamer basket with the egg yolk poured on the top

The pork were super fast grilling as I didn’t get chops. Couldn’t find cuts I liked at the store so went with thinner cutlets. They still turned out nice and juicy.

Grilled pork

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen on left, Ravenous Couple on the right.

We had a friend over to help us taste test so I also made the Canh Bau (Squash Soup) but this time with dried shrimp for more flavor.  I also added a couple tablespoons of a poultry soup base as I didn’t have any chicken to cook with and wanted to make this fast. It ended up better than the first time, actually, so I’m getting there!

Dried shrimp for the squash soup

I know this seems like a lot, but once I started cooking it was only 45 minutes to the table. Not bad! Serve with the do chuarice (jasmine is fine if you don’t have broken), tomatoes and lettuce. I forgot lettuce so went with the old standby of sliced cucumbers.

The unanimous decision went in favor of the Ravenous Couple’s Suon grilled pork. The flavor was sweeter and more savory, whereas the other tasted more like a Chinese pork cutlet. Not at all surprising given the five-spice and garlic. Still tasty – but would be good on its own.

The pork and egg custard was a bit on the bland side, but we dressed it with nuoc mam cham dipping sauce, which makes everything better.

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