It’s hard to imagine that Din Tai Fung has been in Singapore for 15 years already and by now I think most of us are familiar with their pork chop on egg fried rice. It is a favourite, especially amongst the kids and I am sure there are many parents out there who want to be able to replicate this dish at home.
What makes their pork chops unique is the lack of a crispy crust and the juicy and tender meat. Pork chop recipes abound on the internet, but I have yet to come across one that would give you the same type of tenderness, juiciness and flavour as that of DTF. That is why it took me a while to figure out just how to achieve it.
To get the DTF like result, I needed to figure out the cut of pork used, how thick to cut it and how to marinade it so that it has that tender, juicy texture that we all enjoy. To do that, I experimented with different types of brine and different methods of brining. I am glad to say that this final recipe comes pretty darn close to the real deal using ingredients which are easily available at the supermarket.
The key to this recipe is a bicarbonate-salt brine which I came up with. As far as I know, this isn’t written about online or in the recipe books that I have consulted. I basically did an experiment to compare the meat treated with bicarb only, salt only and a combination of both and the combined brine worked perfectly.
Traditional chinese recipes would have the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) added directly into the marinade. I felt this made it difficult to control in terms of consistency as well as giving it a soapy flavour. Baking soda only takes 15 mins to change the alkalinity of the meat fibres, preventing them from contracting and drying up when cooking, so you can wash away the baking soda after it has done its work to remove the off flavour. The salt brine helps the meat fibres to absorb and retain moisture. By combining both, you get the best of both worlds and that familar texture of DTF pork chops!
The rest of the recipe is pretty straightforward. Once you get the texture and the level of seasoning (saltiness) right, the other ingredients just add flavour to the pork chops. So don’t worry if you don’t have the exact five spice powder, garlic powder or wine, it would still taste fine!
Pork Loin 600g slice to 16mm thick
Cornflour 2 Tbsp
1. Pound the pork chops with a meat tenderizer till it is 1.5X its original size
2. Dissolve salt and baking soda in water and soak the pork for 30mins.
3. Rinse the pork thoroughly and drain excess water. (Do not pat dry)
4. Mix all the ingredients in the marinade and coat the pork evenly. Marinade overnight
5. Deep fry the pork for 1.5 mins in 180°C oil.
6. Rest for 5 mins before slicing
Here are some detailed notes:
The ideal cut is actually the pork chop which would have the loin (photo) and a bit of more meat at the side. You can buy this at the western style butchery but they might be pre-sliced. The wet market sells pork loin but they tend to be smaller because they leave more of the meat on the bone to be sold as prime ribs. They are good but the meat won’t be as large as what is served at DTF. I buy a whole frozen block of pork loin from Brazil from the butcher at the wet market and slice it myself to 16mm thick. Needless to say, if you use mangalica or kurobuta pork loin which has a bit of marbling, the results would be even better!
If the meat you bought has a membrane on one side, you will need to make some superficial cuts to divide the membrane. If you fail to do this, the pork chop will curl when you deep fry it.
You need a thickness of 16mm for this recipe to work because you will be pounding it to make it flatter and wider.
If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, you can use the back of your cleaver to pound the meat, but I don’t think it would work as well. Go buy a meat tenderizer! It will last you a lifetime and you can even pass it down to the next generation!
You want to pund the meat so that it is about 1.5X its size. If you over do it, the meat will turn to mush after you cook it, so don’t over do it. If you pound it too lightly, it won’t have that tender texture you want. This will take a bit of experience to get right.
Brine the meat in the fridge for 30mins. If you leave it for longer, you might have to cut back on the soy sauce in the marinade as the meat would get too salty.
After brining, the meat would look pale and feel very bouncey. Just wash away the brine and don’t pat dry as you want a bit of extra water in the marinade which will be absorbed back into the meat.
Marinade overnight for best results. I tried a one hour marinating time and though the meat was tasty, it didn’t have quite the right texture I was looking for.
The meat will cook very quickly. It should only take 1.5-2 mins to cook each piece.
Make sure to leave it for 5 mins before slicing!
The egg fried rice is very simple to do. Over at DTF, they have a large wok and are able to toss the rice properly. But many home cooks may not have the ability to toss the rice in the wok, so in this recipe I describe an alternative way of getting that even golden colour in the rice.
Ingredients (for 1 bowl of fried rice)
Shortgrain rice 1 bowl (cooked “hard”)
Egg yolk 1
Whole egg 1 plus white from other egg (beat)
Butter 1 Tbsp
Hao chi seasoning 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp to taste
(substitute with 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp salt)
White pepper 1/2 tsp
Spring onions 2 (diced)
To get that DTF mouthfeel, you need to use Japanese or Taiwanese shortgrain rice and cook it so that it is “hard”. Some rice cookers have a special setting where you can choose for the rice to be harder or softer. If you don’t have such a cooker, you can just use 10% less water.
The conventional way of cooking fried rice is to use overnight rice. However, for this recipe, you can cook the rice it “hard” and just leave it on “keep warm” mode. When you are about to fry, make sure it is just slightly warm and add egg yolk and butter to the rice and mix till each kernal of rice is coated with egg and butter.
Next, heat up the pan, add a little oil and fry the eggs. Swirl it around as if you are frying scrambled eggs. When it is 70% cooked, add the rice.
Don’t overcook the rice such that it becomes dry. Just toss it over medium heat to mix the eggs and rice thouroughly. You want it to be moist and tender, not dry and hard.
Add green onions and season to taste. Remove from pan immediately onto a plate and top with sliced pork!
Enjoy and please share the recipe with your friends!