As a restaurant couple, my husband and I never dine out on Valentine’s Day. We’re too busy making sure everyone else has a romantic evening. But he loves pork, and I think this year I will make him Japan’s beloved Pork Shogayaki when we do get around to celebrating. It’s super easy, but feels really special, in part because it’s rare for a Japanese dish to feature a big piece of meat. We usually enjoy meat as more of a flavoring than a center of the plate ingredient. If meat is the focus of the dish, it’s most often sliced thin or cut up. Rarely do the words Japanese cuisine coincide with steaks or chops.
So these beautifully marbled chops are a rare treat. And the sauce will make you swoon. Shogayaki is a combination of the Japanese words for ginger and fry, and the method produces meat that is both juicy and bathed in a luscious gingery sauce. Don’t be alarmed by the large amount of ginger, it IS an aphrodisiac you know…
Ginger is a big part of shogayaki-it’s even in the name! And I use ginger 2 ways here. I grate it and cook it with the pork, and I also make some fine shreds of it to use as a garnish. Of course garnishes are completely optional, but I think it adds both visual and textural appeal, especially if you soak the shreds in ice water for a couple minutes first. The soaking makes them crisp but also tames some of the bite.
If you prefer a more subtle flavor, you can eliminate the ginger threads and garnish with some minced scallion instead.
Pork-The Other White Meat
Pork Shogayaki is most commonly prepared as a stir-fry where thin slices of pork are sautéed, often with onions, and the sauce is drizzled in at the end. It’s always served with hot rice and usually some kind of shredded cabbage salad. But that’s not the kind of pork we’re making today.
Pork can be a tricky thing to buy here in the US. Many years ago, probably because pork cuts weren’t selling well and were seen as less healthy, pork was rebranded as “the other white meat”. Do you guys remember this? It was during the fat free craze sweeping the country. Everything had to be fat free: snacks, baked goods, and apparently even meat. This campaign had us believing that the food we love would taste just as good and be healthier without the fat. WHAT?! The best part of eating meat just got stripped. And thus began the era of flavorless, tough, and bland pork.
Fortunately, you can now find pork the way it was supposed to be enjoyed: juicy, tender, and robust. My favorite is Berkshire pork, which is known for looking a little redder than conventional pork, having a sweeter flavor, and containing more intramuscular fat. If you’re lucky enough to have access to it, I highly recommend buying some. It’s so scrumptious, you’ll thank me!
Typically I buy thick bone-in rib chops, because my daughter Zoe loves to call dibs on the bones and then saves them until the end of the meal to savor. Because my first choice was in short supply, I was forced to change up my game plan. So instead, I bought what was labeled coppa steaks. What are coppa steaks? I didn’t know either. A quick search told me that they are a neck and shoulder cut. At first, I was a little worried that they might be a tougher cut, but I was totally wrong! Incredibly juicy, unbelievably succulent, and really tasty. Wow people, you need to try this coppa steak. I’m truly thankful to have stumbled on this cut and I’m never going back.
Of course, you can use whatever type of pork chop you prefer, even boneless country style ribs would be fine here too. Look for thicker chops with some marbling within the meat and not just a layer of fat on the outside.
Searing To Build Flavor
I begin cooking pork shogayaki by getting a nice sear on the pork chops. The searing will start to build up the layers of flavor. Without it, the sauce and meat will be less interesting and a little bland. Heat your pan for a few minutes to get it really hot before adding the oil. You want the meat to sizzle when it hits the pan. A cool pan will just cause the meat to steam, denying you the awesome flavor. Do not heat the oil with the pan as this will cause the oil to overheat and smoke, giving off a bitter taste.
You can serve this very simply with a traditional pile of shredded cabbage or maybe a green salad with Sesame Dressing for a not too filling Valentine’s or date night meal. It is also fabulous served with:
Your date will love Pork Shogayaki, and they don’t need to know it took only about 15 minutes to make! Let me know what you think, please take a moment to rate and review the recipe below. And show off your creation by tagging us @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
- 4 medium thick boneless pork chops, about ¾ inch thick (approximately 2 pounds)
- 1 Tablespoon neutral oil
- 3” piece of ginger
- scallion (minced for garnish if not using the ginger threads)
- 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 4 Tablespoons mirin
- 4 Tablespoons sake
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
Make the sauce:
- Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set the sauce aside.
Make the Pork:
- Scrape the ginger with the back of a spoon (or knife) to remove the skin. Then grate half of it and set it aside. You need about 1 ½ Tablespoons of grated ginger (do not squeeze it out. A little ginger juice adds flavor).
- Make thin julienned shreds with the other half, by first slicing the ginger into paper thin slices. Next stack the slices and cut through them to make thin threads of ginger. Set aside.*
- Heat a large 12″ skillet over medium high heat for several minutes. Add the oil, swirl the pan to spread the oil, and then place the pork chops in the skillet.
- Sear the pork chops for 3 minutes and then flip the pork and sear the other side for another 2 minutes.
- Take the pork out of the skillet and set it on a plate.
- Add the minced ginger to the pan and stir for 10 seconds. Next add the sauce and stir to combine.
- Place the pork chops back in the pan with the juices, cover with a lid, and lower the heat to medium. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the pork chops are cooked through. (You can cut into a chop to check or take a temperature read if your chop is thick enough-160 degrees).
- Transfer the pork to a serving plate.
- Reduce the sauce in the pan for 2-3 minutes on medium high heat until it has a syrupy consistency. Pour the sauce on top of the pork. Serve immediately, garnishing with the ginger threads.
* Soaking the ginger shreds in ice water for a few minutes will give them a nice crispness and tame some of the bite. Though it isn’t essential, the soaking allows you to put a generous amount on the finished dish, giving you a polished look without an overwhelming ginger flavor.
*I prefer a medium cook on pork. If you like your pork well done, increase the cooking time in the sauce by a couple of minutes.
*If you are using thin slices of pork, decrease the cooking time in the sauce. And you will not need to cook it with the lid. Just sauté it in the sauce for a couple minutes after searing the pork for a minute on each side.
Keywords: shogayaki, japanese, pork