Plate of Pork Belly Curry
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Pork Belly Curry - Burmese Style
Thailand / Burma
  -   Kaeng Hung Leh
Serves
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
8 soup  
****
3-1/2 hrs  
Yes
This is practically the signature dish of the city of Chang Mai in Northern Thailand. This indulgent dish improves with a night's rest in the fridge and gentle reheating. A number of steps can be made well in advance. This dish is usually accompanied by steamed sticky rice. See also Commentary.



1
1
1
4
1-1/2
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6
1-1/2
3
2
1-1/2
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1
1
5
1-1/2
1/4
1/2
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2
2
1-1/2
1/2
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1/3
#
#
oz
oz
oz
oz
T
oz
T
T
T
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oz
t
oz
oz
oz
T
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T
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c
Pork Belly (1)
Pork, lean (2)
Shallots
Long Beans (3)
Pickled Garlic (4)
Ginger root
Tamarind paste (5)
Palm Sugar (6)
Fish Sauce (7)
Soy Sauce, black (8)
Garlic Liquid
-- Seasoning Paste
Lemon Grass (9)
Salt
Galangal (10)
Shallots
Puya Chilis (11)
Kapi Kung (12)
--------------------
Oil
Water
Curry Powder (13)
Turmeric
-- Garnish
Crispy Shallots (14)
Prep   -   (45 min   (exclusive of make Shrimp Paste and prep Tamarind))
  1. Make your Shrimp Paste (Kapi Kung) if you don't have them on hand.
  2. Cut PORK BELLY into pieces about 1-1/2 inches long (thickness of belly) by 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch wide. Cut PORK into chunks of similar size to the Pork Belly, removing excess fat. Mix.
  3. Cut SHALLOTS in half lengthwise, then slice halves thin lengthwise.
  4. Cut LONG BEANS into 1-1/2 inch lengths.
  5. Separate and peel segments of PICKLED GARLIC, retaining all liquid (some will be used in this recipe).
  6. Slice GINGER crosswise very thin, then cut slices into narrow matchsticks.
  7. Prepare TAMARIND as needed (unless using from a jar). For method see our Tamarind page.
  8. Crush PALM SUGAR small. Mix with Fish Sauce, Black Soy Sauce and Garlic Liquid (from the jar).
  9. Mix together Curry Powder and Turmeric.
Seasoning Paste   -   (45 min)
  1. This can be made days in advance and refrigerated. Prep these items and smash to paste in a big granite mortar in the order given here - hardest first, stickiest last - BUT, do read Note-15 for hints on how to make it easier. Prep LEMON GRASS per Note-2. Peel GALANGAL (yes, that much) and slice as thin as you can get it (see our Galangal page for method), then chop into small pieces. Cut SHALLOTS in half lengthwise, then slice thin crosswise.
  2. Break PUYA CHILIS and pour out seeds. Discard stems and caps. Run them to small flake in your Mini-prep Food Processor or Spice Grinder. Mix into the Paste
  3. Mix Kapi Kung into Paste. Pound until it's all even.
Run   -   (2 hrs)
  1. In a spacious sauté pan, heat Oil over moderate flame until it shimmers (about 300°F/150°C) and stir in Seasoning Paste until it is well distributed and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in Shallots until softened, then Curry Powder and Turmeric. Stir until fragrant, but take care, Turmeric Powder burns easily.
  3. Stir in Pork Mix and tumble until coated with the Seasonings.
  4. Stir in Palm Sugar mix until sugar has pretty much dissolved, then stir in Tamarind Paste and 2 c Water. Bring to a boil. Turn down flame, cover tightly, and hold at a light simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. Stir in Ginger and continue to simmer, now uncovered, until the Pork Shoulder is very tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes. The curry sauce should end up quite soupy, so re-cover if needed so it comes out right.
  6. When the Curry is about done, check it for flavor balance and correct if needed.
  7. stir in the Pickled Garlic (split lengthwise if cloves are large) and the Long Beans. Continue to simmer until the Beans are crisp tender.
  8. Serve hot with a garnish of Crispy Shallots.
NOTES:
  1. Pork Belly:   This is available in every Asian market that sells meats, and also from Mexican Carnicerias. The pattern recipe calls for skinless, but it is always sold skin-on in the Asian markets, and that's the way it is usually used, so I leave it on, which adds an additional textural element.
  2. Pork:   Any reasonably lean cut will work fine, shoulder, leg or cushion meat (actually boneless chunks of shoulder). Loin will work, but has less flavor.
  3. Long Beans:   These green Asian beans, up to 28 inches long, are now very common here in Southern California, even in non-specialty markets. They have a very different flavor and texture than regular green beans. For details see our Long Beans page.
  4. Pickled Garlic:   These are whole small heads of garlic, pickled and put up in jars of the pickling liquid. For details, see our Thai Pickled Garlic page. They can easily be made at home by our recipe Pickled Garlic.
  5. Tamarind Paste:   This is available in several forms, some needing preparation, others not. For details and method see our Tamarind page.
  6. Palm Sugar:   This flavorful sugar can be found in any market serving a Southeast Asian community, and in some Indian markets. If you don't have palm sugar, use an amber sugar like Turbinado.
  7. Fish Sauce:   Any good Thai fish sauce will work. For details see our Fish Sauce page.
  8. Black Soy Sauce:   Preferably this will be a Thai Black Soy Sauce, which is a bit different from the Chinese Dark Soy Sauce.
  9. Lemon Grass:   You'll need about 3 good size stalks. Peel off hard outer layers - the last layer you pull off should be distinctly purple on the inside. Cut off exposed core. With your kitchen mallet smash the bottom 5 inches well (a slug of hard core will be ejected). Slice crosswise as thin as you can manage. For details see our Lemon Grass page.
  10. Galangal:   This member of the Ginger family is available from markets serving a Southeast Asian community. It is an essential ingredient, and can be found fresh or frozen. It is very hard. For details and method for slicing see our Galangal page.
  11. Puya Chilis:   1/4 ounce = about 4. These are a substitute for unavailable Thai Prik Kaeng dried red chilis. They are available from some markets serving a Mexican community. For details see our Chili Page.
  12. Kapi Kung This is the shrimp paste of northern Thailand. It is not currently available in North America and must be faked up. See our recipe Thai Shrimp Paste - Northern. It can be made a week or more ahead and refrigerated.
  13. Curry Powder:   A fairly mild Indian type Curry Powder is used (infrequently) in Thailand. A Madras type powder can be used.
  14. Crisp Shallots:   This is a very popular garnish in Thailand and Vietnam. It is simple and easy to make by our recipe Fried Shallots / Shallot Oil. These can be made a couple days ahead.
  15. Method   I am strong and in good health, but I am not Hercules, so I have made changes in procedure that greatly reduce pounding in my big granite mortar, with a 3 pound pestle. Unfortunately, no machinery available in even a well equipped kitchen can produce the results of pounding in a mortar, so a fair amount of pounding is still needed - just not as heroic an amount.
    1. Prep all Seasoning Paste items as given above, as if you were going to pound them in the mortar.
    2. Run the Lemon Grass in a mini-prep food processor until it is as fine as it will get. Add Galangal and process until it is as fine as it will get. Add Shallots and process until they are as fine as they will get.
    3. Transfer contents of the mini-prep to the mortar and pound everything as best you have stamina for.
    4. Stir in the ground Puya Chilis and Kapi Kung. Pound some more until everything is evenly mixed.
    The pattern recipe has you soak the Chilis and pound them in the mortar. I've done enough Mexican cooking to know this takes a lot of pounding, because the skins are tough - so I always just grind chilis dry - it works fine.
  16. Commentary:   Fortunately the "Low Fat Diet" is on it's last legs - it didn't work - so now you can feel fine indulging in flavorful Pork Belly. It's a lot healthier than the dangerous trans fats and polyunsaturated fats the American Heart Association spent 50 years urging to eat instead.
    This dish probably originated in Chang Mai more than 300 year ago when Burma ruled the region. As with most ancient dishes, this one is made in many variations. The curry can be anywhere from soup-like to almost dry. If it is made with toasted peanuts instead of long beans, it's a modern version. If it comes with all pork belly and no lean pork, it's a retro version.
  17. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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