What I like about Vietnamese grilled lemongrass pork is that it is such a versatile dish. You can cook it over a BBQ, under the grill in the oven or on a griddle. Make a couple of minor tweaks and the marinade is also great with chicken or lamb. The longer you leave the marinade, the more flavour you‘ll get and there are so many ways you can serve it. You can also marinade the meat the night before and use it to make lunch the next day or take it with you to a BBQ party. The picture shows the lemongrass grilled pork served with salad, vermicelli noodles, pickled julienned carrots and beef in betal leaf.
Leaving the pork aside, mix together all the other ingredients to make the marinade. The taste you are looking for is a balance of salty/sweet and a fresh lemongrass flavour.
Add the pork slices and mix well until all pieces are coated with marinade being careful not to break up the pork slices.
Cover and leave to marinade for 2 hours or more in the fridge.
If you are using very thinly sliced pork pieces, thread the pork pieces onto skewers and place under the grill or on the BBQ. You can also occasionally brush the skewers with some oil to keep the meat moist while cooking if desired. Alternatively, you can use a fry pan, griddle or skillet. Heat up the fry pan and add a bit of vegetable oil. Make sure the oil is hot before adding the pork. Turn half way. Cooking time will depend on the type of meat you use and the thickness of the slices. However be careful to not overcook the meat as it will taste dry.
This lightly seasoned spring onion oil garnish adds that little bit of extra flavour. To make the garnish place a cup of spring onions cut into 5mm pieces, 1/3 tsp salt and 1/3 tsp sugar in a small ceramic heat proof bowl. Heat up 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil in a small saucepan (the oil should be hot but not boiling). Remove the oil from heat and carefully pour evenly over the spring onion. Using a metal spoon, mix the ingredients until well blended and the salt and sugar have dissolved. The heat of the oil will cook the spring onions.
DRINKS: A nice cold lager goes nicely with this. If you are after wine, try a dry rose (syrah or grenache) or a crisp white (sauvignon blanc). For a non-alcoholic alternative try some freshly homemade lemonade using fresh lemon juice, sugar, soda water and some ice cubes
BBQ: Serve with salads. If you are using lamb steaks, cutlets or chops, it will go nicely with a baby spinach and mushroom salad topped with a light balsamic vinegar dressing.
SANDWICHES: Use the grilled meat as a filling for baguette rolls with some thinly sliced cucumber, lettuce and coriander.
RICE: For a sit down meal, serve with steamed rice, freshly sliced cucumber and tomatoes and top off the rice with a fried egg sunny side up.
REFRESHING NOODLE BOWL: Serve with vermecelli noodles, salad (bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, cucumber, roughly chopped mint) and spring rolls. Serve this with a side of freshly made dressing/dipping fish sauce (a blend of freshly squeezed lemon juice, sugar, water, fish sauce and freshly chopped chilli).
ADDITIONAL HINTS & TIPS
1. Lean pork (e.g. fillet) can also be used but this will provide a dryer texture in the grill or on the BBQ so best to cook in a fry pan, griddle or skillet. You can also use thin shoulder steaks.
The marinade is also good for lamb leg steaks, chicken wings etc.
2. You can mince the lemongrass manually by cutting it into fine slices (about 1mm) and then dicing until all the lemongrass is finely chopped. It’s more time consuming but this method is ideal for making lemongrass stir fries or used as a garnish for soup to add that extra bit of flavour.
If you want to speed things up a bit, cut the lemongrass into 2-4mm pieces then use a coffee/herb grinder to do rest. Minced lemongrass using a grinder is not recommended for stir fries or soups as the texture is quite different. However, it is quick, easy and great for marinades.
Why not do a bigger batch so you can freeze the rest for use in future recipes?
3. The sweet soy provides the sweetness to balance out the salt and also a touch of colour to the pork. If you are using lamb instead of pork, substitute the sweet soy with a bit of demerara sugar (approximately 1 teaspoon or to taste).
4. Annatto oil gives the pork a lovely moist colour. Annatto seeds can be purchased from South East Asian supermarkets (a small pack goes a long way). To prepare the blend, heat up some vegetable oil and pour in some seeds. Let the seeds cook until the desired colour is achieved. Be careful not to overheat the oil as it can burn the seeds. Let the oil cool, pour into an airtight jar and store in a dark cool place for future use.
Annatto oil is not recommended if using lamb or chicken.
5. Honey is optional if using lamb. Leave it in if you prefer or you can substitute the honey with a bit of extra demerara sugar.
6. If you have a big batch of meat, you can also marinade the lot, divide into small portions and freeze.
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