Returning to the ever-so-delicious pork belly, this is a Malaysian curry recipe that doesn’t involve coconut milk. Instead, the intense flavor comes from two main sources: the dry Malaysian curry powder, and the curry paste. In certain aspects, this is like an Indonesian rendang in that the meat is braised in bath of intensely-flavored herbs and spices.
One thing I learned when investigating this dish is that “gaeng” or sometimes “kaeng” in Thai means a curry, but a curry without coconut milk. It’s cool that they have specific words for types of curries.
This turned out very good, even though I completely forgot to add the tamarind concentrate. It still tasted great, but I’ll have to make it again with the tamarind next time. The recipe takes some time and effort, but it’s worth it.
This recipe is from what I presume is a cook named Ching Li, who teaches culinary classes at a place called The Cookbook Co. Cooks. It was adapted from True Thai: Real Flavors for Every Table, by Hong Thaimee. It looks like The Cookbook Co. Cooks has a specialty food shop, a cooking school, and they cater. I guess you’re lucky if you live in Calgary, because this place seems really cool.
Note to give yourself a day or two lead time if you’re making your own pickled garlic. And if you’re not making your own pickled garlic, you may want to give at least 12 hours to marinate the meat, though in a pinch you could narrow that down to an hour.
What you’ll need for the hung lay powder:
- 4T coriander seed
- 0.5t powdered turmeric
- 0.5t black pepper
- 0.5t cumin seed
- 4 whole cloves
- 0.25t salt
What you’ll need for the curry paste:
- 5 dried red Thai chiles—this makes it pretty spicy. Cut back, if needed. Also, you can use fresh chilies, just wear gloves when cutting and handling.
- 0.25 cups coarsely chopped shallots—onion can be used in a pinch
- 0.25 cups coarsely chopped garlic
- 2T coarsely chopped lemongrass
- 1T coarsely chopped galangal—you could get away with not using this
- 1.5T shrimp paste
What you’ll need for the pork:
- 1 lb pork neck, cut into 2-inch cubes—I used boneless ribs because I wouldn’t even know where to find pork neck
- 1 lb pork belly, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2T hung lay powder
- 2T vegetable oil
- 3 cups water
- 0.5 cups palm sugar
- 0.5 cups tamarind concentrate
- 0.5 cups julienned fresh ginger
- 0.5 cups pickled garlic—I did not have this, so I looked up how to make a basic batch and did that.
- 0.5 cups fish sauce
- 0.25 cups dark soy sauce
What to do for the hung lay powder:
Toast all the spices in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant. After they cool, grind them with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
What to do for the curry paste:
Put the dried chilies in a bowl and cover with warm water for about 5 minutes. Wearing kitchen gloves remove the chiles from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Obviously, skip this step if using fresh chilies.
For the easy route, throw all the curry paste ingredients into a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse paste. Add a little oil to make it easier for the processor to do it’s job.
Taking the more difficult route, you could use a mortar and pestle to mash the chiles with a generous pinch of salt. Then add the rest of the curry paste ingredients and grind until well-blended.
What to do for the pork:
In a large bowl, toss the pork neck and pork belly with the curry paste and hung lay powder. Make sure every piece is covered with paste and spice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. The longer you marinate the meat, the richer the flavor will be.
When ready to cook, heat your oven to 325 degrees F. Heat the oil at medium-high heat in a dutch oven, a large oven-safe saucepan or high-sided cast iron frypan. Add the pork and sauté until it begins to brown, and the aroma of the curry has clearly intensified—about 5 minutes.
Gently pour in the 3 cups of water and stir to deglaze the pan. Now add the sugar, tamarind, ginger, pickled garlic, fish sauce, and black soy sauce.
Bring to a simmer, and then cover and place in the oven for 2-3 hours to braise until the pork is tender. From my experience, 2 hours is more than enough.
Serve with rice or rice noodles.