In seventh grade, I started at a new small middle school. As far as schools went, I think you’d consider mine “weird.” For example, we had PE every morning but, after lunch, we’d have health and personal reflection. Some may say it was a free hour, but we had tasks due by the end of the quarter. This could range from a journal entry about a specific topic or creating a WordPress blog for a hobby. One semester we talked about cultural differences in our everyday life. This involved a weekend “immersion” sleepover with another student in the school. If you’ve ever seen “The Proud Family” episode where Penny spends a week with the Zamin family, it was like that.
I got paired with a transfer student who came in halfway through the year. Mei, while born in Japan, had been living in the States since she was 4. We had a lot in common — we both liked Ron Weasley, watched anime and hated running.
As we watched “Degrassi” at her house, intoxicating smells infiltrated my nose. Making my way to the kitchen, I was greeted with a bounty of ingredients — soy sauce, mirin, herbs and vegetables I hadn’t seen before. Miso soup bubbled on the stove while her mother prepared the main.
“Have you ever had niku miso?” she asked. Thinking she meant miso soup, I responded, “No, because I don’t like tofu pieces, but I like wonton soup.” After a little chuckle, she asked me if I eat pork, then proceeded to reveal the source of the wonderful smell. Placing two heaping scoops in a bib of lettuce, I finally got the answer I was looking for.
Niku miso is braised ground pork seasoned mainly with miso, but also other delicious flavors. The pork is so juicy and moist. I could’ve eaten 100 more of those lettuce wraps. I spent the rest of the weekend offering to help cook as Mei and her mom told stories about her grandmother and life in Japan.
This miso glazed pork chop is an homage to the smothered pork chops I grew up eating, and my first real introduction to miso and Japanese cooking. The center-cut boneless pork chop is seared before it finishes cooking in a miso glaze. Pair with your favorite vegetables and a starch for a quick and simple meal sure to please.
Miso Glazed Pork Chop
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Serving size: 4
- 4 center-cut boneless pork chops
- 4 tablespoons miso (either white miso or awase; I used awase)
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon neutral oil
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- Optional: freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Optional: 2 scallion stalks
- Pat pork chops dry. If there is a thick piece of fat around your pork chop, slit multiple times from top to bottom. This will prevent it from curling when cooking. Poke holes with fork and place back in fridge until ready to cook.
- In a small bowl, combine miso, rice wine vinegar, mirin, honey, garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Whisk until combined, set side.
- In a skillet, heat neutral oil over medium heat. Season both sides of pork with pepper if desired. I would not recommend using salt due to salt levels in miso and soy sauce.
- Place pork chops in skillet, and slightly press to ensure contact with the skillet. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. Work in batches if necessary. Place cooked pork chop on a cooling rack that’s on a baking sheet.
- Remove all pork chops from the skillet, turn the heat down to medium/medium low. Add miso mixture to skillet. Stir slowly with a rubber spatula. In bowl, whisk cornstarch into ½ cup of water. Add to miso mixture.
- When mixture begins to bubble, about 2-4 minutes, add pork chops back into pan. Turn a few times to coat.
- Let cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until mixture starts to thicken; spoon glaze over pork chop.
- Remove from heat, garnish with scallions or sesame seeds and enjoy!