Chiang Mai Pork Curry
This curry is also known as Kaeng Hung Leh or Burmese style pork curry
Thai curry = coconut milk, right? Not so actually. The definition of a curry in Thailand is far looser than it is in the West and there are many Thai curries where coconut milk is totally absent. Some of these curries are most definitely not to the Western taste, this is certainly not the case with this curry, and in fact, I would go so far as to say it is one of the most palatable Thai curries for a Westerner. Therefore, you may ask why it is not better known in the West. I believe that the reason for this is that many Thai restaurants overseas are heavily dependent on commercially produced curry pastes and I have never seen one to make this dish.
A man who has done much to popularise genuine Thai cooking in America through his restaurants is Andy Ricker. His Pok Pok restaurants are often credited for raising the bar where Thai food is concerned, often by bringing it back to its roots; in particular his knowledge and expertise when it comes to Northern Thai food is astounding. As he says about this curry, “We’ve had it on the menu since we started and it’s consistently one of our hottest sellers”. Therefore, I think it is safe to assume that the reason why it does not appear on restaurant menus more frequently is the difficulty involved in making the paste rather than fears that it might not be to Western taste. Certainly, it is a complex paste to make (see here for Andy Ricker’s recipe) and it can be incredibly tricky getting the taste balance correct. However, I’ve already done that for you and cooking the curry is simplicity in itself:-)
In Thailand, we tend to cook this with a mixture of belly pork, pork ribs or shoulder, the combination is really up to you but I really wouldn’t miss out on the belly pork. I have also cooked this with neck of lamb, another fatty cut of meat that cooks best with longish cooking times. Those around the table also voted it a winner and if you don’t eat pork then I would recommend using neck of lamb.
I always try to make this a day ahead as it really benefits from a day in the fridge with the flavours being even more pronounced when reheated. Use one pouch for around 500-700 g of meat, because of it's keeping quality I usually cook around double that amount using 2 pouches, even then it rarely hangs around long! I also like to add a few shallots and peanuts during cooking and serve with some matchstick sized pieces of ginger.
Chop into bite-size pieces and marinade with the paste for at least a couple of hours or preferably overnight. Use 1 pouch of sauce for around 500-700g of meat You can if you wish add a spoonful of dark soy sauce at this stage; it won't affect the end taste but results in a slightly darker dish for presentation purposes.
Transfer the meat to a suitable pan or casserole dish with lid and cook the meat in its paste, stirring and allow it to brown.
Add water to cover meat whilst stirring and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer and add shallots and peanuts if using. Cover pan. Cook for around 90 mins or until meat is tender. At this stage, you can scoop off any excess fat and then reduce sauce to the consistency of a thin gravy. This dish is all about flavour rather than lashings of sauce. You can also cook this in a casserole dish in the oven at around 190C for about 2 hours.
Let the pan sit covered for at least 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with some thinly sliced ginger. I like to serve this with Thai sticky rice, available in most supermarkets these days. Enjoy!
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