Kopi Tiam Pork Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce
Hainan cuisine made its way to British Malaya in the late 1800s through cooks who ventured to this colony in search of greener pastures. Working in expatriate homes, camps and for wealthy Europeans, they soon mastered the culinary skills to make familiar European food such as roasts, soups and bread. Over time, the inevitable fusion of European and Chinese came to be known as Hainanese cuisine. You may still find some of these cooks, although advanced in age, still working in western steakhouse establishments churning out excellent dishes to satisfy Malaysian tastes.
Among the more popular Hainanese recipes is chicken chop in thick black pepper gravy, a customary specialty of many well-known restaurants. Today, Kopi Tiam or old brick coffee shops still serve this specialty and at lunchtime these restaurants are packed with a crowd outside the door waiting for an open seat to enjoy this dish. For this recipe, I have replaced chicken with pork tenderloin instead to vary the taste experience. Try it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
4 tablespoons clarified butter or peanut oil
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1½ pounds pork tenderloin, sliced 2-inch-thick across the grain
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
½ cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1. Heat clarified butter or peanut oil in a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. When the butter is fully melted, add the onions and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the meat and allow to seat undisturbed until brown on the bottom, then turn oven and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.
3. Add the black pepper, garlic powder, rice vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce tomato ketchup, chicken stock and salt then mix well. Bring the ingredients to a simmer to reduce the sauces. Taste the sauce, add more salt if needed, remember Asian sauces develops its saltiness and concentrated flavors when sauce is warm. Remove and serve warm, paring with wok-fried Bok Choy with bacon and garlic.