Harumi's Autumnal Japan 1: Gingered Pork

I had some spare time when the Young Man was otherwise occupied and had a wander to the many local bookshops to find a seasonal Japanese "cookmook" I'd seen advertised in a magazine while waiting at the dentist's.

It's a funny thing, but most of the small book stockists in my area only have trashy weeklies, dodgy manga and the inevitable Back Section. Not really my kinds of places, which is probably why cooking mook pickings were also slim. Surprisingly, I found the advertised mook at the little bookshop in front of my local train station. It looked so-so, so I went with Haru-mi, the eponymous title by Kurihara Harumi, the doyenne of Japanese cooking. Think of her as Japan's answer to Martha.

I've said before that cooking Japanese on weeknights can be quite stressful. Ingredient lists tend to be long, recipes full of intricate steps, and worse, you need several such dishes to make one meal. There are not any short-cuts with that one, but this little dish is easy to put together and coordinate with others. It is the most basic version of the Japanese classic shoga-yaki I have yet to come across.

In Japan, wafer-thin slices of meat are sold at any supermarket. Meat has always been a luxury, and this is one way to make a little go further. The easiest way to replicate this would be to use your sharpest knife to shave slices off a block of semi-frozen meat. Luckily you don't need much. On which note, notice that 300 g of meat serves 4 people. Adjust accordingly if Japanese appetites are not found at your place.

Fresh ginger is essential to the recipe, and powdered ginger is not a substitute. It's fresh, zestiness is a good foil for the soy and mirin. A ceramic oroshigane grater like the ones here is what you need to get the ginger slush, but the finest side of a box grater will do as well. The Japanese herb shiso (aka ooba) (perilla) is not necessary here. If you don't have any, some thinly sliced basil would work, or just leave the cabbage plain to soak up the juices.

Harumi's gingered pork

Serves 4

300 g thinly sliced pork shoulder
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
1/2 - 1 tbsp fresh ginger finely grated to a slush
1 tbsp vegetable oil

To garnish
shredded cabbage
3 shiso leaves, shredded finely (optional)

1 In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, mirin and ginger slush. Set aside until ready to cook the pork.

2 Immediately before frying, spread out pork slices in a single layer and cover with the soy sauce mixture.

3 Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan. Take the pork out of the soy mix and fry quickly on both sides.

4 Mix the shredded cabbage and shiso and create a bed on a small dish. Place the cooked pork on top and serve immediately.