A dish I find myself cooking over and over again now that we live abroad is Hainanese pork chop. A deep-fried pork chop that is topped with frozen mixed vegetables in glossy sauce, this dish has its roots in Singapore’s colonial history.
The Hainanese were among the last of the immigrants to make their way to Singapore. By that time other dialect groups had a lock on most employment opportunities in mining, agriculture and other desirable professions. This resulted in many Hainanese having to take up positions as cooks in British military camps and in homes of British expatriates. Because of that, the Hainanese were the first Chinese in Singapore to become adept at Western cooking and began incorporating condiments such as worcestershire sauce into their own cooking.
This delicacy is an exemplar of an East meets West fusion in the early days of Singapore, whereby Hainanese chefs married Asian seasonings such as five spice powder and soy sauce, with Western ingredients like ketchup and worchesterchire sauce. But what I find particularly interesting about this dish is the use of cream crackers to coat the pork before deep-frying! These cream crackers were a part of my childhood growing up, and I feel that they add a truly unique touch to the Hainanese pork chop.
Hainanese pork chops
2 pork chops (about 400g)
¾ teaspoon five spice powder
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Pinch of bicarbonate
1 egg white
½ tablespoon oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
70g frozen mixed vegetables
5 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons light sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 150g water
Salt and sugar to taste
For the coating:
Flour, for coating
1 egg, for coating
85g cream crackers, crushed by hand (should have some pebbly bits)
Pound the pork chops with the back of cleaver to flatten. Toss them with the marinade ingredients to coat well, then set aside for at least an hour to marinate.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until slightly softened. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Add the vegetables, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and light sauce. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened – adjust the consistency with more cornstarch or more water if necessary. Season with salt and sugar to taste.
Deep-fry the pork chops at 180C until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt. Rest and slice if desired. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the warm sauce.