Crispy Taiwanese Pork Cutlets
Sweet potato flour makes the crispiest crust for these pork cutlets, while a soy marinade gives them extra depth. Flatten the pork chops with the dull edge of a cleaver or heavy knife to give the surface an almost fluffy texture and help the potato starch coating adhere. This recipe is from Taiwanese-American cook Lisa Cheng Smith’s spectacular Lunar New Year feast. Find the rest of her menu here.
- 2½ 4"-long cassia or cinnamon sticks
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 20 slices dried sand ginger (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. Sichuan peppercorns
- 2½ tsp. sliced dried licorice root or fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. white peppercorns (optional)
Pork and Assembly
- 4 ½"-thick boneless pork loin chops (about 1 lb.)
- ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. soy paste (such as Yu Ding Xing)
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground white pepper (optional)
- 1½ cups Chinese sweet potato starch
- Vegetable oil (about 3 cups; for frying)
- Gochugaru (fine Korean red pepper powder; for serving; optional)
- A spice mill or coffee grinder; a deep-fry thermometer
Toast cassia, star anise, cloves, sand ginger (if using), Sichuan peppercorns, licorice root, black peppercorns, and white peppercorns (if using) in a small skillet over medium, tossing once, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool; grind to a powder in spice mill or coffee grinder.
Do Ahead: Five-Spice Powder can be made 1 month ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Pork and Assembly
Working one at a time, place pork chops on a cutting board and use the back of a cleaver or heavy chef’s knife to pound meat, moving knife back and forth across the surface, to ⅛"–¼" thick. The surface will be jagged and textured.
Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, soy paste, sugar, black pepper, white pepper (if using), cinnamon, ¼ tsp. Five-Spice Powder, and ⅓ cup water in a large bowl. Add pork chops and turn to coat well. Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
Remove pork from marinade and pat dry. Place sweet potato starch in a large shallow dish. Working one at a time, dredge pork in starch to coat well on both sides; shake off excess and transfer to a plate.
Clip thermometer to the side of a large skillet or pot and pour in oil to come ½" up sides. Heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry pork until just golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and let drain.
Repeat process, frying pork a second time until deep golden brown, about 30 seconds per side. Return to rack and let cool slightly.
Transfer pork to a cutting board; slice into strips. Arrange in a single layer on a platter; sprinkle with gochugaru if using.