“Did you eat yet?”
It sounds like a simple question, but across many cultures, it’s an indirect way of letting your loved ones know you care about them. That’s always been the case in Ronnie Woo’s home growing up.
“It’s another way of expressing yourself,” Woo tells Sweet July. “You’re showing your love through food, because food takes effort.”
That’s the inspiration behind the title and concept of Woo’s cookbook, Did You Eat Yet?: Craveable Recipes from an All-American Asian Chef—a love letter of sorts to the Asian culinary traditions Woo grew up witnessing combined with the techniques and flavor combinations that have shaped his culinary journey. It all comprises what he refers to as his “All-American Asian pantry.” The more than 100 recipes you’ll find across Woo’s cookbook—from blistered miso butter green beans to a Hawaiian-inspired chicken vermicelli bun bowl to caramelized Hong Kong-inspired egg tart—run that gamut in terms of styles and cuisines. He likes it that way. It represents what he’s come to appreciate about his own identity.
“When you grow up with intersecting identities—in my case American, Asian, gay and so on—you don’t always feel like you necessarily fit into any of those communities,” says Woo, who is also a former model as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist and the owner of the private chef company, the Delicious Cook—with celebrity clients including Mindy Kaling and Jessica Alba. “So it was about coming to the realization that I don’t need to fit in anywhere because I am who I am. I can’t change that.”
He certainly wouldn’t change his support system, including his husband Doug, who helped Woo with photography for the entire cookbook. Family references are sprinkled all throughout; A prime example: Woo’s recipe for pan-seared fish sauce pork chops that’s inspired by his father.
“My dad’s always been really supportive of all my crazy dreams,” says Woo, referencing a time when his dad paid for and drove him all the way to LA from Seattle for an expensive modeling conference (which, in retrospect, he says was a total scam). And when Woo first met his husband more than 15 years ago, he says his dad was equally as encouraging. “I think he saw how in love I was, and he realized: ‘Ronnie is still my son and he’s happy. And his husband really pushes him to do even better.’ I think he realized that all he wants is for his kids to be happy.”
It was around this time—a pivotal milestone in Woo’s life—that he first made his dad this pork chop dish. It was a no-brainer addition to the cookbook.
“This recipe is a really simple one,” says Woo. “You sear the pork chops so that they’re nice and caramelized and brown, and all those natural sugars come out. Even on its own it’s delicious, but then we add this sweet and savory fish sauce that surprisingly has a little bit of ketchup, which is where the sweetness comes in. It’s almost this glaze that goes right on top, and it adds an extra layer of flavor. It’s just so delicious.”
Get Woo’s Pan-Seared Fish Sauce Pork Chop recipe below!
Plus: Looking for the perfect wine to pair with this dish? Sweet July’s wine consultant Julia Coney recommends Loureiro. Coney says, “Portugal is known for its delicious white wines of Vinho Verde. Loureiro is a grape usually blended into these wines but has quietly been stepping out on its own, making refreshing and delicious single grape variety white wines. The wines are not meant to be aged but are a great accompaniment to lighter dishes. Think crisp and elegant and worthy of multiple sips. This wine will quickly become a summer staple on this side of the Atlantic.”
Ronnie Woo's Pan-Seared Fish Sauce Pork Chops
Serves 4 people
4 bone-in pork rib chops or loin chops (about 2 pounds), 1 inch thick
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp canola oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Prep the Sauce: Thoroughly pat dry the pork chops with a paper towel and let them come to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, honey and ketchup. Set aside.
- Cook the Pork Chops: Rub the oil on both sides of the pork chops and season with salt and black pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the pork chops and cook, undisturbed, until deep golden brown and slightly charred on the edges, 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving plate and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes while you make the sauce.
- Make the Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and fish sauce mixture and cook until thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes, whisking continuously. Spoon the warm sauce over the pork chops and serve warm.