The first time I ever had this curry was in fact in Bangkok, at one of my favourite Thai restaurants Soul Food Mahanakorn. They serve delicious regional Thai food, and focus on sourcing produce from small Thai farms (and meat dishes are free range hooray!) Being a Northern Thai dish (that actually originates from Burma) you seldom come across it in Bangkok (or anywhere else in the world), which makes it even more special to me. In this recipe, I have also included a watermelon pickle to serve alongside the curry – Soul Food do this, and I think it is a great partner to the dish.

The flavours in Gaeng Hang Lae kinda remind me of Southern barbecue – sticky, sweet, a little spicy, and tender meat that glistens from melted-fat-goodness. It is definitely a dish for sharing with many people, and is perfect if you live in a cold climate. You can make the paste in bulk and keep it in a jar in the fridge for later use.

‘Gaeng Hang Lae’ Northern Thai Pork Curry

You will need:

Paste –
8 dried chillies (the long ones)
pinch of salt
3 medium sized lemongrass stalks
a thumb of galangal, peeled
a thumb of fresh turmeric, peeled
a handful of red shallots, peeled
a handful of garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tsp Thai curry powder or Masala curry powder

Stew –
1/2 kg pork shoulder, diced in 1 1/2″ cubes
1/2 kg pork belly, diced in 1 1/2″ cubes
30 red shallots, peeled and halved
1/2 cup cubed pineapple (the firmer the better)
1 tbsp thick dark soy sauce
3 cups julienned ginger
4 bulbs of pickled garlic in brine
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (I buy them raw and toast them myself)
1 tsp Thai curry powder or Masala curry powder
3 tbsp tamarind paste
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 cups water

Watermelon Pickle –
1 cup watermelon
white vinegar

Making the paste. Soak the dried chillies in boiling water to soften. Wash all of the paste ingredients and finely chop. Using a mortar and pestle or food processor, pulverise the drained chillies with salt. Add lemongrass and pound/process until fine. Then add galangal pound/process. Add shallots, garlic, and turmeric and pound/process until everything becomes a fine paste. Finally, add the curry powder and shrimp paste and pound/process until fine. Set aside to make the curry, or store in a sterilised jar and keep it in the fridge for future use.

Making the curry. In a large bowl, combine all of the pork, pineapple, dark soy sauce, and all of the curry paste (use your hands, or be very gentle with a large spoon). Marinade for at least 1hr, but ultimately overnight in the fridge. (The enzymes in the pineapple act as a meat tenderiser.)

Heat some oil (coconut is best for its high smoke point) in a large, heavy pot. Fry the pork mixture on low so that the pork fat renders out, this will take a little while. Throw in the ginger, shallots, pickled garlic and brine, peanuts, and curry powder. Season with tamarind and fish sauce, if a little sweetness is needed then use palm sugar. Add water to cover everything and simmer on low until the pork is falling apart and the sauce is thick (2-3 hrs).

Making the watermelon pickle. Cut off the watermelon’s green skin leaving the white parts, then dice into 1/4″ cubes. Place into a serving bowl and pour in enough white vinegar to cover.

Serve the curry with fresh coriander, rice, and the watermelon pickle.

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