Shogayaki with sunomono

I just lost some of you, didn’t I. It’s just gingery pork chops and cucumber salad, nothing weird. I have noticed that I get a lot more comments on classic diner favorites and American comfort food than on the Asian food I make, but I’m hoping some of you will come around on that. There’s a whole world out there, people.

Some of my friends, blog and real-life, are still mystified by Asian cooking. I was once, too, but started small: Thai curries (with store-bought curry paste, added to coconut milk). Hippie stir-fries flavored only with hoisin sauce and garlic. Pad thai made with ketchup and peanut butter. I eventually picked up Asia: the Beautiful Cookbook and made a real massuman curry from scratch, and it was all downhill from there.

Japanese food is so simple and clean, there’s no good reason for you to not be making it yourself, and from scratch. “But I don’t have your pantry,” some of you are whining. Well, quit yer bellyachin’. All you need to make shogayaki are three ingredients (besides pork): shoyu (soy sauce – I used tamari), mirin (sweet rice wine) and grated ginger. I added a pinch of sugar to hit that sweet spot without being too boozy, but that’s optional. Marinate for 15 minutes, then grill.

Sunomono is just any little vegetable dressed in vinegar, salt and sugar, and differs from tsukemono (pickles) only in that it’s eaten soon, while it’s fresh (not fermented or pressed). The ingredients for mine are all basic: a cucumber, the same mirin (I use Koku Mori, a Taiwanese brand that is pretty good), rice vinegar (an aged version that is malted, also Koku Mori), salt and sesame seeds. Again, you can add a pinch of sugar to sweeten it up a skosh.

Serve with steamed rice and a premium hot sake such as Momokawa Diamond, whose subtly cucurbitaceous, canteloupe sweetness and nectary mouthfeel complement the sunomono.