Food like this really gets me excited.
First of all, I love Hainanese Curry Rice. I think it is one of the tastiest things on earth. Secondly, I love Pork Chops. I think it is one of the tastiest ways to prepare pork. Thirdly, I experienced for the first time, what traditional Hainanese Pork Chop is like and it left me wondering why so many stall nowadays changed from the traditional recipe to the one with tomato sauce?
Heavenly Pork Chops
Let’s talk Pork.
We have the Austrians to thank for inventing the Pork Schnitzel. The Japanese took the idea and came up with Tonkatsu and the Hainanese transformed it into Hainanese Pork Chops. I love the latter two but seldom think about eating the original Pork Schnitzel.
Pork Chops are right up there in my top ten favourite foods. I can’t tell you the rest of the nine and indeed I think that there would actually be more than that if I sat down to list them all. But it is one of those things that would make me happy on my birthday.
The Pork Chops here made me really happy. Although they are not freshly fried, they still managed to maintain the light crispy batter. When it is eaten together with the sauce, the flavors from the batter are released at the centre of your tongue and the fragrance of the marinade only hits the top of your palate after when you bit into it. Pork Chops like these are to be slowly savored with your eyes closed! 4.75/5
My Hainanese mother-in-law used to fry her pork chops for us when I was still growing up as a teenager. She would use crushed Jacobs Cream Crackers to coat the pork and deep fry them. My wife tells me that she used to also make a canned green pea, onion gravy to go with the pork chop. I don’t know why she never made this for me before! Maybe she did not like me enough then!
The Pork Chops are served together with this pea and onion gravy which, I was told, is the traditional gravy that existed before the tomato version. The lady boss would not say what goes into the gravy except that it is made from the marinade used for the pork chops. So in a sense, it is actually like pan sauce which is made from dissolving the brown bits on the bottom of your pan after frying the meat.
When you visit the stall, my advice is to order your pork chops without the sauce and a bowl of the pork balls (lion heads) which is simmering in the same gravy used to pour over the pork chops. That way, you get to dip the crispy pork into the gravy just before you eat it and the batter does not become soggy. The pork balls themselves are also very good, but I spent the most time trying to figure out what goes into the sauce. 4.5/5
Lor Bak is the other standard item if you are eating Hainanese Curry Rice. This is the only time when I would actually mix curry gravy with the lor (braising sauce), but that is what Hainanese Curry Rice is all about. The Lor is very good but compared to the Pork Chops, they not as outstanding. They are very tender but there are better ones around. 4.25/5
Hainanese Chap Chye is the other must eat item for this style of dining. The cabbages here are stewed till very soft and the flavour of the dried shrimp is evident. It’s very good but my favourite version is Chin Chin’s which come with deep fried pork skin and the all important shredded cuttlefish.
You know how they always douse your rice with Lor, Curry, and the Chap Chye gravy? I always thought that putting 3 gravies on your rice would cause a collision of flavours but they somehow seem to gel very well. Then I found out that over Tian Tian, they don’t just have three but six different gravies! They are: 1. Chicken Curry, 2. Seafood Curry, 3. Special Curry, 4. Char Siew sauce, 5. Pork Chop Gravy and 6. Lor (Braising Sauce). You can, of course, tweak it to suit your liking!
Best Hainanese Pork Chops I have eaten so far and a very satisfying Hainanese Curry Rice meal overall!
Tian Tian Curry Rice