This curry from northern Thailand is like no other. Slow-simmered, slightly sweet and tangy, and full of rich, complex flavours, it’s got hidden depths that are completely different from your more well-known Thai curries. Try it, love it, repeat.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 Asian red shallots, finely sliced
1kg (2 lb 3 oz) pork belly, skin removed, cut into roughly 4cm (1.5”) chunks
¼ cup tamarind concentrate
50g (1.5 oz) palm sugar, finely shaved
1 tsp sweet dark soy sauce (e.g. kecap manis)*
2 tsp fish sauce
4cm (1.5”) piece young ginger, peeled, finely julienned*
¼ cup pickled garlic cloves and 1 tbsp pickled garlic juice*
coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
steamed rice, to serve
8 dried long red chillies
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, finely sliced
4cm (1.5”) piece galangal, peeled, roughly chopped
2 Asian red shallots, peeled, roughly chopped
4 tsp garam masala*
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 tsp sea salt
For the curry paste, soak the dried chillies in hot water for 15 minutes to soften. Then drain the chillies and reserve the soaking water for later. Roughly chop the red chillies and place in the bowl of a food processor. To the chillies, add the rest of the curry paste ingredients and 3 tablespoons of the chilli-soaking liquid. Blend until smooth.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes or until just softened – you don’t want them to brown. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for about a minute or until fragrant. Add the pork and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the pork has started to colour. Then add the tamarind, palm sugar, sweet dark soy sauce and 1 cup of water. Stir to combine. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 1 hour. (Keep checking on it from time to time to make sure it’s not getting too dry – you can add a little more water if so.)
Remove the lid and stir through the fish sauce, ginger, pickled garlic and juice. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes uncovered or until the sauce has thickened and the pork is fork tender. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with coriander leaves. Serve with steamed rice.
– Kecap manis is a type of sweet dark soy sauce commonly found in the Asian aisle of most major supermarkets or from an Asian specialty store.
– Young ginger has a transparent, slightly pink skin, and is only mildly spicy, whereas older, more mature ginger is more pungent. If you aren’t able to buy young ginger, use old ginger in its place.
– I like to use a Thai or Vietnamese pickled garlic that is sold in jars and is available from Asian grocery stores.Otherwise, try searching it out online.
– Garam masala is an Indian spice blend available in the spice section of most major supermarkets.