Tamari, Miso and Honey Make Everything Sunny

Why the rhyme?

I dunno.

Except, that somehow, the combination of those three ingredients -does- taste like sunshine. Like warm summer sunshine in a garden filled with flowers and buzzing bees. Really. Put the three together and then cook it and slather it on anything, and suddenly, even if its midwinter, you’ll feel like you’re hanging out with the bees, humming along and sipping nectar.

It’s the damnedest thing.

And if it actually -is- summer, and you use it on vegetables you just harvested from your garden, and pork from a local farmer, well, hot damn! It’s like summer inside, outside and all around.

I reckon you could use this sauce to make anything, but I did it as a stir fry with zucchini, haricot vert (those are wee tiny slender French green beans) and some beautiful multicolored (red and yellow) carrots, all of which were plucked, picked and pulled out of our garden by Kat. The pork was a single solitary pork chop that really only served to add a little protein and extra flavor to the vegetables and rice that we ate with it–but I have to say that the next time I grill pork–I reckon some version of this sauce will show slathered all over it. Same could be said for grilled eggplant. Or braised chicken. Or baked salmon. Or portabello mushroom caps stuffed with spelt pilaf and baked.

I don’t usually put zucchini into stir fries here at home, not because it isn’t good in stir fried dishes, but because Zak, until recently, (like until two days ago) didn’t like zucchini under any circumstances. So, I really only cooked it for myself, or myself and Morganna when she lived here, or myself and guests, always in separate dishes. BUT, because Kat picked this zucchini with her own little hands, she wanted to taste it and in order to support her on trying a new food, Zak said he’d try it to.

Woo hoo! And to the kitchen, I galumphed and promptly went to work with my knife.

Since the haricot vert are so slender, I used them as the basis for how I cut all the other vegetables–and the meat–which means I cut everything into thin julienne strips. To do this with either carrots or zucchini, or in fact, with anything cylindrical, is simpler than it would seem. All you have to do is make diagonal horizontal slices that are thin oval shapes first, then stack those and cut them into thin vertical slices. That’s all. Not hard, huh?

Meat is a bit harder to cut so thinly. The best way is to partially freeze the meat so you can cut it into thin horizontal slices, and then cut them into vertical strips, just like you did with the firmer vegetables. If you meat is thawed all the way, it simply is a beast to try and cut like that. Be patient and firm it all up in the freezer before you start.

The cutting is all the hard part–the rest is perfectly simple. Toss the meat in a bit of tamari, which is a Japanese style of soy sauce that doesn’t contain any wheat. It’s just fermented soybeans. Add some mirin–that is a sweetened rice wine, also from Japan–and then toss in some cornstarch and mix it all up until a thick marinade coats the meat.

Then, make a bit of sauce–mix together some more tamari and mirin, then add a little bit of vegetable broth or chicken stock, some honey and a goodly amount of shiro miso–that’s white miso–which is a mild, fragrant fermented soybean paste, and whisk it all together until it’s smooth.

Then, get ready and fire up the wok–because dinner is almost done.

How did they like the zucchini?

Well, Kat loved the sauce. She ate extra over her rice, which was exceptional for her, because she usually likes her rice plain. And she loved the beans and the carrots and ate inordinate amounts of them. And the pork was very much to her liking.

But, the zucchini–alas–was not her thing.

Zak tried the zucchini and declared it, “Inoffensive.” Which is a lot coming from him. (It wasn’t until the next day when I sauteed a zuke in just plain old good olive oil and salted it well at the end that he declared it, “Downright tasty,” and ate several pieces of it.)

As for me–I ate up the zucchini from the dish that they didn’t eat, and gladly, because it was delectable with this sauce combination. Especially after I added a little bit of toasted sesame oil at the end–it became almost my favorite way to cook and eat zucchini. I say almost, because I still like it best with just some olive oil, salt and maybe a fresh herb or two.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for a dish that would be just as good if you substituted a good pressed tofu for the pork.

Summer Vegetables and Pork with Tamari,-Miso-Honey Sauce

1/2 pound pork loin chop, cut into 1″ X1/4″X1/4″ slices
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/4 cup mirin
2 teaspoons tamari
1 tablespoon shiro miso
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
3 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1″ cube fresh young ginger, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cup haricot vert, snapped and stringed, then very briefly blanched and then shocked in ice water
1 cup carrots, (2 medium carrots) scrubbed or peeled and cut into very thin julienne
1 cup zucchini (I medium small squash) cut into very thin julienne
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Toss the meat shreds with the next three ingredients and set aside to marinate while you prepare the sauce and vegetables.

To make the sauce, whisk together the broth or stock, the second measures of mirin and tamari, the miso, honey and cornstarch until thoroughly blended. Set aside until it’s time to cook.

Heat wok over high heat until it smokes. Add canola or peanut oil and heat until it shimmers–about one minute. Add the scallions, and the meat immediately after. Spread the meat out into a single layer on the bottom of the wok and sprinkle it with the ginger and garlic. Allow to brown undisturbed on the bottom of the wok for about a minute and then begin stirring. Cook until most of the pink is gone from the meat. Add the carrots and then the beans, and cook until the meat is fully cooked. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until it browns a bit on the edges. Add the sauce ingredients, and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and clings to the meat and vegetables.

Remove from heat, drizzle with the sesame oil, and then stir it all up before scraping into a warmed platter or bowl. Serve with steamed rice. (This recipe makes enough for two hungry adults and one toddler, especially if everyone eats lots of rice with it.)

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  1. I’ve made this twice (well, once with pork & once with chicken) and loved it both times.

    Comment by Ardene — July 28, 2011 #

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