kitchen firsts: korean sesame pork with spinach
This week, my kitchen first has taken the form of a new regional cuisine: Korean food! Crank the dial back a few years and you would never have found me trying Korean food; foods famous for their bold flavors and I did not really mix. But over the last couple of years I’ve been trying a lot of new things, and thanks to a couple of visits to the local delicious Korean restaurant my eyes have been opened to the delights of Korean cooking!
This weekend we had a Korean potluck with friends, and I found this recipe in the “tour of Korea” section of my Asian cookbook. Having never experimented with cooking Korean food before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but we really enjoyed this dish. It’s really simple (takes 30 minutes, and uses only like 3 or 4 ingredients besides staples), was super delicious, and I know we’ll be adding it to our repertoire.
A quick note on sesame oil. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be pretty sesame-oil-phobic in general, so I was a little nervous about this recipe before I made it, but trust me, the sesame flavor was actually really good (and subtle) in the end result. However, if you really really don’t like or can’t eat sesame oil, you could certainly substitute some extra canola, vegetable, or peanut oil.
This recipe will serve four if you eat it with rice/noodles, or eat it as sort of an accompaniment to another dish (we ate it in smaller quantities alongside some spicy chicken soup), but if you want this to be your main meal on its own, and you are hungry, you should probably only count on it serving two or three generously. But the quantity is easy to adjust by bulking up the amount of pork you use to suit your hunger and audience–buy about as much pork and spinach as you think you want to eat, and the sauce should be able to keep up just fine.
Korean Sesame Pork with Spinach
Adapted from The Essential Asian Cookbook
1 T sesame seeds
1 bunch spinach, stems trimmed and leaves washed and dried
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
1 lb pork loin, sliced into strips (we used 4 thin cut pork chops, but you can adjust the amount of pork to suit your hunger level–if you are cooking for two, maybe just use two chops)
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 T vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
2 t sugar
First, toast your sesame seeds in a large dry frying pan over medium heat until golden brown (be attentive once the pan is hot, it goes quickly!), then remove and set aside. Next, roughly chop your washed and stemmed spinach, and set aside. Then chop your garlic and green onions and place in a medium bowl along with your cayenne. Slice the pork into thick strips, and put the strips into the bowl with the garlic, onions and cayenne, tossing until all is combined.
Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in the same large frying pan over medium high heat, and then stir-fry your pork/onion/garlic mixture in two batches until the pork is cooked through and starting to brown. Remove pork to your serving dish with a slotted spoon, leaving some of the oil in the bottom of the pan.
When all the pork is cooked and set aside, add the soy sauce and sugar to your oily pan, and then dump in the spinach. Stir it all around, the cover for a minute or two, until spinach is wilted and tender. Then return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan, add your reserved toasted sesame seeds, and toss it all together. Serve immediately with rice.