Why It Works
- A baking soda bath helps keep the pork tender and juicy later.
- Salt from soy sauce and fish sauce in the marinade also helps the meat retain juices during cooking.
These Vietnamese pork chops are marinated with lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, and sugar, then grilled until lightly charred and juicy and served with chilled rice noodles, lots of herbs, and plenty of pickled vegetables.
- For the Marinated Pork:
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 pounds (680g) thin-cut pork chops, preferably from the blade end, or boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1/4-inch strips (see note)
- 3 stalks lemongrass, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 ounce; 30g after trimming)
- 3 tablespoons shallot (from 1 large shallot), roughly chopped (about 5 ounces; 130g)
- 4 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 3/4 ounce; 20g)
- 1/3 cup palm or light brown sugar (about 3 ounces; 85g)
- 1/3 cup (80ml) Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon (2g) cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- For Serving:
- 1 (14-ounce) package rice vermicelli, soaked in hot water, drained, and chilled (according to package directions)
- 1/4 cup (6g) coarsely chopped fresh mint and/or perilla (shiso) leaves
- 1/4 cup (6g) cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 cup thinly sliced Persian cucumbers (about 4 cucumbers; 100g)
- Pickled Daikon and Carrots
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) crushed unsalted peanuts
- Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce)
- Lime wedges
For the Marinated Pork: In a large zipper-lock bag, combine baking soda with 1/2 cup (120ml) water and swish until baking soda is dissolved. Add pork, press out air, and seal bag. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Drain pork, rinse under cold running water, and pat dry. Rinse zipper-lock bag and reserve.
Meanwhile, if using a mortar and pestle, crush lemongrass, shallot, garlic, and palm sugar to form a rough paste. If using a food processor, combine lemongrass, shallot, garlic, and palm sugar and pulse, scraping down sides, to form a rough paste.
Transfer paste to a bowl and whisk in fish sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, and vegetable oil. Add pork, tossing to coat. Transfer pork to reserved zipper-lock bag, press out air, and seal. Marinate at room temperature, turning pork once or twice, for 30 minutes. Alternatively, refrigerate up to 12 hours.
If using a charcoal grill, light 1 chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange coals on one side of charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil grilling grate.
Grill pork directly over high heat, turning frequently and shifting to cooler side of grill if there are excessive flare-ups, until pork is charred and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes total.
Fill serving bowls with chilled noodles, then top with pork, herbs, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, and peanuts. Drizzle everything with nuoc cham and serve with lime wedges.
Blade-end pork chops are fattier, which means they'll turn out juicier and more tender on the grill, even when fully cooked through. Boneless pork ribs, cut into strips, can work well, too.