Remember when I mentioned that I cooked some chops for friends using an Asian-inspired easy pork marinade? They loved it so much they’re begging me to cook it again for the month’s potluck dinner. While I googled the recipe, the secret is getting a good Chinese five-spice powder that will bring the kick to the pork chops. A five-spice powder is a mixture of a variety of spices – the most common being star anise, cloves, Chinese Cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns and Fennel seeds – that is used primarily in Chinese cuisine but also found in Asian or Arabic dishes. This pungent mix creates a balance of flavors meant to enhance the qualities in a dish without overwhelming it. Do not be fooled into thinking the “five” refers to the number of spices used. It is merely a nod to the five flavors – sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty – that are present in the powder.
I was first introduced to it as a young kid, when my mother used it as a spice rub for her pork and chicken recipes. Gradually she began using it on seafood as well but only at a minimum. She would also put a pinch of it on her marinades, whether it’s a marinade for beef or her famous best marinade for chicken. It was thanks to that powder that my take on Pork chops with Pineapple Salsa was an instant hit with my friends.
The ingredients are fairly simple. All you need are the following:
1 cup medium or long-grain white rice
1 pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cored
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus a splash for the salsa
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 bunch scallions
4 bone-in pork sirloin chops (1/2 inch thick; about 1 3/4 pounds)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Once you have them all gathered on your kitchen counter, follow these easy steps:
1. Combine the rice and 1 2/3 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand until ready to serve.
2. Meanwhile, cut off a 2-inch piece of the pineapple and grate it on the coarse holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Stir in the ginger, vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder. Add the scallions and pork chops and turn to coat; let marinate at room temperature, 10 minutes. Rub the remaining pineapple with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder.
3. Preheat a grill to medium high. Grill the pork chops until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Grill the scallions and pineapple, turning occasionally, until charred, about 3 minutes.
4. Roughly chop the pineapple and scallions and transfer to a bowl. Add the red pepper flakes and a splash of soy sauce and toss. Serve the pork chops with the pineapple salsa and rice.
Trust me when I say you’d consume several platefuls of rice once you’ve tasted this dish. Asians are known to be hearty eaters who love savory food and the pineapple perfectly complements the five-spice powder in giving this recipe an explosion of flavors. The best part is that this is an easy recipe that any kitchen newbie can follow. If you want to impress family members or friends, prepare this and cook from the heart. Cooking is always a labor of love. As long as you love what you’re doing, anyone who tastes the food you’ve prepared will surely be satisfied.