I spend a lot of time with recipes, usually writing, photographing or testing them. Like reading anything consistently, the work becomes familiar and you start to pick up on its patterns — in the case of recipes, that tends to mean similar cooking methods or ingredients. I had a record-scratch moment the other day as I came across a recipe for Vietnamese shrimp that started out by making a dark caramel. Step 1: Almost burn a pot of sugar. Huh?!
Turns out, lots of Vietnamese dishes — which are known for big, bold flavors — build their sauce or marinade from a dark caramel foundation. When I say “dark caramel,” shutter out those visions of some sensual portion of a dreamy indulgent confection. We’re talking almost-burnt sugar that is cooked so long it loses its sweetness and transforms into an enriching base that soaks up savory flavors like a sponge. It’s in that almost-burnt moment, my friends, when greatness happens.
So, as you start to prepare this dish and begin with a whole bunch of honey going into a bowl, ignore that inner record scratch. Go with it and watch as the glaze reduces, bubbles and thickens its way toward that luxe caramel base. Sure it’s a bit different, but be not afraid. You’re doing it right.
Vietnamese-Glazed Pork with Edamame
Yield: 4 servings (with leftovers)
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Inactive Prep: 12 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 1/4 pounds), trimmed as needed
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
one 12-ounce bag frozen shelled edamame
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Coarse sea salt
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a medium-size pot with salted water and place it over high heat to boil.
Place a large oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat with the peanut or vegetable oil. Sear the pork tenderloins until deep golden brown on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes total.
While the pork is searing, in a small bowl stir together the honey, fish sauce, soy sauce, Sriracha, lime juice, and onion and garlic powders.
Add the glaze to the pan with the pork and cook, turning the tenderloins in the glaze, until the mixture has thickened and started to caramelize, about 1 minute. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the pork, turning the tenderloins occasionally to coat them with the glaze, until cooked to your liking, about 14 minutes for medium. Save any glaze left in the pan for serving, and let the cooked tenderloins rest for 5 minutes.
While the pork is resting, drop the edamame into the pot of boiling water. Bring the water back up to a boil and cook the edamame until defrosted and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the edamame and toss them with the sesame oil and some coarse sea salt. Thinly slice the pork and serve it with the edamame and any remaining glaze from the pan.
NOTE: I figure, since packs of pork tenderloins often have two cuts in them, you might as well cook both cuts and be prepped with leftovers for the week. If you’d rather not do that, just cut the ingredients for the glaze in half and cook only one tenderloin.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Marc Forgione and Bobby Deen, he now works as a content developer and programmer for FoodNetwork.com in NYC by day and a recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following him on Twitter & Instagram at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.