Sunday, 12 June 2011

Northern Thai style pork rib curry

Here's a recipe for a Northern Thai style pork curry.  It's something I've eaten in and around Chiang Mai, and, on my latest trip, had an especially good version at great restaurant a bit out of the city (where I was taken by Robyn and Dave, the v.knowledgeable and lovely people behind EatingAsia).

The version we had contained young jackfruit, which, when cooked until tender, is an absolutely delicious artichoke-like vegetable addition and works really well with the pork in this dish.

It's a red curry in that the paste is deep red due to the dried long red chillies pounded into it, but it's not like the red curry most people will be familiar with.  Why? Well mainly because a) there's no coconut cream used, and b) the paste has much fewer ingredients in and is boiled, not fried.

So if you're craving that classic ubiquitous style of Thai red curry then this isn't it. 

But if you want to try something different i.e a slightly spicy, pork and vegetable curry with clean flavours and a richness of good dried chilli, then give this one a go.  To me it's a great introduction to the style of some Northern Thai dishes.

The day I made this wasn't a great shopping day for SEAsian ingredients in London; no young jackfruit nor cha-om (a slightly stinky herb that works really well in this dish).  The veggies I used instead where: red shallots, bamboo, apple aubergine and cherry tomatoes, it still worked out pretty tasty and satisfying.

Ingredients (makes enough curry for 4):
  • 400g of good quality pork ribs, cut through the bone into chunks
  • 3-4 apple aubergines, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 5 or 6 small Asian shallots, peeled
  • 100g of bamboo shoots or boiled heart of bamboo, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 10 - 12 cherry tomatoes
  • Seasoning: sea salt and perhaps a splash of fish sauce, plus possibly a pinch of white sugar
  • 5-6 long dried red chillies, de-seeded & soaked in water for 20mins
  • 2 sticks of lemon grass, sliced (save the trims)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped galangal
  • 3 small Asian shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 good teaspoon of gapi (shrimp paste)


  1. Make the paste by pounding the ingredients one by one in a pestle and mortar until fairly smooth (tips here are: start with a pinch of sea salt and the hardest ingredients - like galangal & lemongrass - first, and before pounding the dried chillies be sure to squeeze them dry and chop them up a bit).
  2. Give your pork ribs a rinse and then put them in a pot with enough water or chicken stock to cover plus an inch or so.  Add the shallots, plus a piece or two of lemongrass or galangal trimm and a good pinch of salt.  Bring this to a gentle simmer and cook until the pork is tender (30 - 40 mins), skimming any scum so you have a nice clear broth.
  3. Now fish out any trims of what not you've put in, turn up the heat to a boil and dissolve two generous tablespoons of the paste in boiling stock. Boil for a minute or so then turn back down to a simmer and add your apple aubergine, bamboo and cherry tomatoes.  Season with sea salt and optionally a splash of fish sauce too, plus a pinch of white sugar if it needs it. 
  4. You're ready to serve once your tomatoes and aubergine are tender.
Eat with rice, and ideally as part of a Thai meal.

p.s if you dont like the idea of pork ribs then use chicken thighs or something (though on the bone is definitely better for the taste of the broth), other veg such as pumpkin or banana blossoms or green beans could also be used.  Herbs you could use: cha-om, coriander, betel leaves or long leaf coriander (pak chii farang).

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