Pork, ready for its closeup

August 24, 2006

Hoisin pork tenderloin

I can only describe this meal to you… Sweet tangy sauce melding with tender, savory pork tenderloin. It was quite delicious. But this meal was one of those happy occasions when I walked in the door, and there was nothing for me to do but to pick up my camera to photograph — and whine about when dinner would be ready.

So here’s a little more about this meal from my dear husband, before you get to the recipe portion of the program:

One of my first introductions to food outside of my comfort zone was dim sum, or as I like to think of it, Chinese brunch. My wife’s father is Chinese and we make our ways to Chinese eateries often. As a result, I was slowly exposed to more fish in my diet and gained a growing love of flavors such as soy, anise (which is still growing on me), five-spice powder, sesame, and delicious hoisin.

Much as I like dim sum, my greatest weakness for things Chinese is Peking Duck. My love affair with duck began a few years back and I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been to a number of really great Chinese restaurants in recent years. (These are two of our favorites are Peking Gourmet in Falls Church, Va., outside of DC, and Tse Yang in Midtown Manhattan). This Peking Duck obsession has gotten so out of hand that I am sure my wife’s Chinese grandparents call me “duck boy” in Cantonese. They are promising me many, many ducks when we come visit them next.

Duck, unfortunately, is not the dish of the day. What’s pictured is pork, another Chinese favorite. Read on for the recipe!

Hoisin pork tenderloin

This dish is highly influenced by my love of Chinese cuisine and a growing number of attempts to integrate my own very western European culinary traditions with hints of Asia’s. In the big picture, it’s not fancy. I wouldn’t even call it “fusion” because I’m really taking delicious and marrying it with delicious. And I’m sure I’m not even innovative as great griller like Steven Raichle and other cooks who have been doing this for decades now.

Once again, I don’t consider this dish as Chinese, Japanese or even Asian. I simply use a number of flavors I associate with Asian cuisine (five spice, wasabi paste, sake, soy sauce, and hoisin) to make a wet rub. A wet rub is what it sounds like. You make a sauce and lather the meat with it. Wet rubs are simply a way of getting spice and flavor to attach to the pork like a sticky marinade.

I hope you enjoy the dish. It really is very simple, can come together quickly and doesn’t take a great deal of skill or talent to put together.


2 Whole Pork Tenderloins

(Note: You see these frequently sold in a vacuum-sealed package. Most packages look like they hold one tenderloin but in fact after you open it you find two. It is not the cheapest cut of the pig, but it’s tender, it’s low in fat, and it takes on flavors like the wet rub well. Also, in those vacuum seal bags, they make great freezer keepers for when you are looking for something to cook some time without having to run to the store.)

Wet Rub

Hoisin pork seasonings1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tbsp hot Chinese mustard (I use Dijon if I don’t have any on hand)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake (rice wine)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3/4 tsp five spice

1/2 tsp wasabi powder

3 cloves garlic (minced/pressed)

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper


1. Okay, now this is so simple… it’s scary. In a bowl, mix together all of the web rub ingredients. Once fully integrated, set aside about a third of the mixture in a separate bowl and put in the refrigerator. You can use this as a dipping sauce later. With the remainder, brush the mixture on both tenderloins.

Pork tenderloin Pork tenderloin Pork tenderloin2. Once both pieces are evenly coated, I arrange them so they line up together. On one flat side, I spoon a thick heaping of the sauce and then place the other piece of tenderloin on top. This is the only tricky step in the recipe. I take butcher’s twine, which is usually cotton string, and I make loops to tie the two sides together. I space the loops about 3 inches apart and work to make what amounts to a single large piece of meat. This step is optional. Once the tenderloin has the rub on it, there is no need to actually tie it up. I like to do it because I enjoy the contrast of flavors caused by the char and carmelization on the grill and the saucy interior created by the think layer of the rub placed inside.

4. Place the meat in a dish, cover it, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Here you are just letting the tenderloin marinate. The flavors from the mixture are mixing with those of the meat. You can do this step the night before or before you go to work in the morning.

5. After letting your grill heat up, cook the tenderloin bundle on the grill for about 11 minutes per side over medium high heat. You are looking for an internal temperature between 155 and 160 degrees.

6. Remove from grill. Let the meat rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. Just leave it alone. Two things are happening here. One, your meat is still cooking. It has a lot of built-up energy from being on the grill. Two, the energy is also causing the fluids that keep it moist moving. Therefore, you need to let it cool down so that when you cut it, the juices will stay primarily in the meat rather then flow out onto the cutting board. It’s a sad, sad thing to see flavor lost so needlessly.

Hoisin pork tenderloin7. Once cooled, remove the butcher’s twine, and cut little medallions from each tenderloin. Serve them with a dab of the original wet rub. My wife thinks you should cut the wet rub with a bit of soy sauce, but experiment and let us know. Enjoy!

One comment

  1. Not quite char shui but something similar. Its a bit more complicated than the mysterious package of red powder (complete with carcinogenic dye number 3 to assure that authentic red hue) sold in Chinese dry good stores, but simple enough that I am eager to try it.

    I am waiting for your attempt at the all time dim sum favorite, char shui bau. If you master that Kendle your cuisine will reign supreme in Kitchen Liu.

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