There are as many versions of this dish as there are northern Thai cooks. Some season with soy, some use shrimp paste, while some leave out the chillies in favour of black peppercorns. This is best made at least a day ahead and it freezes well, too.
- 1 kg boneless pork belly, rind removed (optional)
- 10 red Asian eschalots (see Note), peeled
- 7 cm piece ginger, peeled, cut into julienne
- 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate (see Note), plus extra, to taste
- 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
- steamed jasmine or glutinous rice, to serve
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1½ tbsp coriander seeds
- 1½ tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 3 tsp whole cloves
- 4 cinnamon quills
- 4 curls dried mace (optional)
- 1½ tbsp ground turmeric
- ½ whole nutmeg, grated
- 15 dried long red chillies
- 6 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
- 3 large red Asian eschalots, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cm piece galangal, peeled, chopped
- 2 tsp dried shrimp paste (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make spice mix, place cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and mace, if using, in a frying pan over low heat. Toast, stirring, for 3 minutes or until fragrant; don’t allow spices to brown or burn. Transfer to a plate and cool, then stir in turmeric and nutmeg.
To make curry paste, soak chillies in 250 ml hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 60ml liquid. Process chillies, lemongrass, eschalots, garlic, galangal, shrimp paste and 1 tsp salt in a food processor. Add enough chilli soaking water to form a smooth paste.
Cut pork into 4 cm cubes. Place pork in a bowl with curry paste and knead paste into pork with your hands. Add 1 tsp salt and spice mix, and knead to coat pork with mixture.
Place a heavy-based pan over high heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 1 litre water, or enough to cover, and bring to the boil. Stir in eschalots and ginger. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours or until pork is meltingly tender.
Season with 1 tbsp salt, tamarind and the sugar. The curry should have a pronounced tartness with a balance of sweetness. Serve with steamed or glutinous rice.
• Red Asian eschalots, tamarind concentrate and dried shrimp paste are available from Asian food shops.
• Tamarind concentrate is a sweet-sour concentrated tamarind juice.
As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 8, pg120.
Photography by David Hagerman.