I really, really like this dish. Stylistically, it falls in the category of marinaded meat steamed together with other stuff; in this case, vegetables and tofu. It is, essentially, a steamed hot-pot. Steaming the ingredients together allows the lemongrass and coriander flavors of the sateh pork marinade to subtly flavor the rest of the ingredients. A drizzle of lime right before serving adds a clean fresh accent to both the pork and the vegetables. The result is a light, fresh-tasting lunch that is satisfying but not heavy. One of the things that I love about this dish is that it appears to come together out of thin air; what little prep work there is to do can be done by whoever gets up first to make coffee for the day. Cleanup is similarly easy. Just wash whatever bowl you eat out of and rinse the steamer.
It is also very much a social dish and fun to eat. With each diner armed with a small bowl of rice, an eating bowl, and a pair of chopsticks, there is definitely a competitive element to “sharing” this sort of lunch with someone, as everyone scrabbles to grab the best stuff out of the steamer. I think that the light, aromatic flavors of the marinade meat and the steamed vegetables, combined with the way you serve it (as a free-for all) conspire to create a relaxed, open and sort of care-free lunch experience that is just plain fun.
Preparation is simple provided you get the meat marinading first thing in the morning. Thin slice the pork so that it cooks quickly in the steamer and set it to the side for a moment. Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds in a small skillet, grind them, and then combine the rest of the ingredients. All that remains is to pour the mixture over the pork and toss lightly to coat. I usually put the whole thing into a tupperware container and place it in the refrigerator until I am ready to cook lunch.
To assemble for cooking, place the separated leaves of a small bok choi in the bottom of a 9 inch bamboo steamer and spread the pork on it in a loose mound. If there is spare marinade, save it and dump it over the dish when you add the vegetables. Seal the steamer and steam over a boiling pot of water for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place the steamer on a cutting board to add the rest of the ingredients.
This part is sort of fun. Arrange the vegetable and tofu in clumps or groupings that look nice and sort of artistic to you. It is also a good idea to fluff and separate the pork strips a bit and mound them toward the center. In this way you have room around the edge to work. You will probably feel like you are overstuffing the steamer. Don’t worry about it, as the ingredients will draw down a little as they cook. Above is what ours looked like prior to cooking. You can just barely see the pork in the middle with the amount of stuff crowed in there. Now replace the lid and steam of another 5 minutes or a little longer. Steam just long enough to lightly cook the vegetables, as you will want them to be firm. When satisfied, add the tomatoes and drizzle with some lime juice, steam for 1 final minute, then put it on a board on the table to eat.
We use this and similar dishes as light meals on days that we have a lot to get done. Spring in the Northwest is sometimes a little busy for us, since there is a lot of yard work to get done in between rain events. It isn’t exactly optional if we want to avoid getting over-run with weeds and brush later in the year. Meals like this are satisfying and place little to no demand on our time. It is a nice trick that we use to squeeze a meaningful sit-down meal into an otherwise busy schedule. The photo on the left shows the steamer in the early stages of being savaged. In this case, we served it with concentrated soy, Sriracha sauce and a small bowl of peanuts/soynuts for a little variety.
Speaking of variety, it is worth noting that there is nothing special about this combination of ingredients. It could have easily been made with entirely different vegetables or with fish, shrimp, or chicken. All of these combinations would work fine. In exploring variations, remember to use a layer of leaves (bok choi or napa cabage) under your other ingredients. Also, when using pork or chicken, it is a good idea to steam the meats long enough to partially cook them before adding the other ingredients; fish and shellfish would be steamed at the same time as the vegetables. Let us know what combinations you dream up.
- 11 oz. boneless pork, sliced very thinly into ½ inch strips
- For Marinade
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 3 tsp. roast coriander seeds, ground
- 1 tsp. roast cumin seeds, ground
- 1 tsp. turmeric, ground
- ½ tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
- 1 Tbs. lemon grass, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. galangal or ginger root, finely chopped
- For Steamer
- Cut ingredients to suit your taste. An example follows:
- 2 Baby bok choy, one separated into leaves, the other quartered lengthwise
- 8 to 10 baby carrots, cut lengthwise into halves
- 5 to 8 small cremini mushrooms
- 5 to 8 small shitaki mushrooms
- ½ sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 small leek cut into 1 inch chunks
- 3 oz. tofu, cut into rectangular pieces
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tbs. lime juice to garnish
- 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro, to garnish
- Slice the pork very thinly into ½ inch wide strips and place in a bowl. It is important for the pork to be thin so that it steams quickly.
- In a small cast-iron skillet, dry roast the coriander and cumin over a high heat until the cumin begins to redden. Grind in a spice grinder and set aside.
- Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix to combine. Pour over pork, stir to coat, and place pork in refrigerator until ready to cook.
- To assemble dish, layer leaves from the first bok choy into steamer to form a base for the pork. Place pork on top in a loose mound. Seal steamer and place over boiling water. Steam for approximately 5 minutes.
- Open steamer and fluff mound of pork with a chopstick to separate. push pork to very center of steamer and arrange remaining ingredients except tomatoes around the pork in separate bunches. Replace lid and continue steaming for 5 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are cooked but firm.
- Add the tomatoes during the final minute or so of cooking. Drizzle with lime juice and serve.