March 12, 2009
The longer days, the sunshine, and the heating still gently on inside make things feel much more like summer, and so I want to eat summery food. Summer means home (Australia) for me, and home means going out for South East Asian food. That's harder to do in small-town New Hampshire. So, for tonight's dinner I made something spicy, nutty, juicy and full of summery flavour: Thai-style sticky pork with peanuts.
The dish uses two special ingredients: kaffir lime leaves and palm sugar. The lime leaves I used were dried and came from Tesco in the UK - just over 1 pound for a small tube of aromatic, brilliantly coloured leaves. The smell of these leaves is incredible: they really do just smell like green curry. Palm sugar is unrefined and comes from the sap of wine palms, and has a fantastic depth of flavour. I bought mine at Asia Market at 71 1/2 (yes, really!) Mulberry St in Chinatown, New York. Palm sugar usually comes in solid blocks, which is why the recipe calls for it to be grated. If you can't find palm sugar, don't substitute white sugar - use brown sugar instead. You need that almost-burnt flavour in this dish. You might even consider throwing in a little maple syrup - eaten raw, palm sugar reminds me of those New England / Canadian maple syrup candies.
Serve with jasmine rice and some steamed greens like boy choi; or I can imagine this being delicious wrapped up in rice paper rolls with soft lettuce, vermicelli noodles and some more peanuts; or very simply served in lettuce cups.
Thai Sticky Pork with Peanuts
1 tbsp peanut (groundnut) oil
300g (just over 1/2lb) minced/ground pork
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 cup (80g) grated palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1/2 cup (50g) deep-fried shallots/green onions/scallions*
1/2 cup (75g) chopped unsalted peanuts
1 1/4 cups lightly packed coriander/cilantro leaves
1 tbsp lime juice
1 long red chilli, seeded, sliced thinly
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the pork. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until browned lightly. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about 1 minute, making sure it doesn't burn. Drain on absorbent paper and discard excess fat.
Add sugar, sauce and lime leaves to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 minutes or until thick. Return the pork to the pan with half the shallots and half the peanuts. Cook until the mixture is sticky but not too dry, 5-10 minutes. At this point, try not to move the meat around too much - you want it to caramelise in the sugary sauce.
Stir 1 cup of the coriander/cilantro leaves in with the lime juice, the chilli and the remaining shallots/scallions and peanuts. Top with the remaining coriander to serve.
* I didn't have any scallions, so just finely diced half an onion and cooked it separately with a little peanut oil, then added it all at the stage the recipe asks for half of the shallots/scallions.
* Original recipe from Australian Women's Weekly.