This recipe, adapted from one in David Thompson’s Thai Food (Ten Speed Press, 2002), belongs to a category of curries called phat phrik khing, or “dry curry.” It’s caramelized in pork fat rather than cracked coconut cream, and there’s no coconut milk for gravy, making the flavors of the paste—citrusy lemongrass, gingery krachai, briny shrimp—more pronounced. Begin with a fresh, well-balanced paste, then watch it closely so it doesn’t burn. And while American cooks might find it counterintuitive to plunge pork belly into hot water, boiling and then browning the fatty meat gives it an excellent texture: crispy outside, soft within. This recipe first appeared in our October 2013 issue with Andy Ricker’s article The Star of Siam.
FOR THE PASTE:
- 12 dried puya chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 8 dried red Thai chiles or chiles de árbol, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1⁄3 cup small dried shrimp, rinsed and drained
- 2 tbsp. tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro root or stems
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. tsp. kosher salt
- 8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 small Asian shallots or 2 medium regular shallots, roughly chopped
- 6 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 4″-piece krachai, peeled and thinly sliced, or 1/4 cup frozen, defrosted and roughly chopped
- 1 2″-piece galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
FOR THE CURRY:
- 1⁄2 lb. skin-on pork belly
- 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce, preferably Tiparos brand
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. pickled green peppercorns, lightly crushed
- 3⁄4 tsp. grated palm sugar
- 5 fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves, roughly torn
- 6 fresh green Thai chiles, stemmed and halved
- 1 3″-piece krachai, peeled and grated, or 3 tbsp. frozen, defrosted and roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 lb. long beans or regular green beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
- 1 cup packed basil leaves, preferably Thai Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
- Make the paste: Place chiles in a bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water; let sit until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain chiles, reserving 5 tbsp. liquid. Place chiles in a small food processor with dried shrimp, cilantro root, salt, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, krachai, and galangal; pulse until roughly chopped. Add reserved liquid; purée until smooth. Set 1⁄2 cup aside; refrigerate remaining paste for future use up to 2 weeks.
- Make the curry: Bring pork and 6 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over high heat. Cook until pork is tender, about 45 minutes. Transfer pork to an ice bath. Drain, dry completely, and discard skin; cut pork into 1″ pieces about 1⁄2” thick and set aside.
- Heat a 12″ skillet or 13″ wok over medium-high heat and add pork pieces. Cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides and fat is rendered, about 12 minutes. Add garlic; cook until beginning to brown, 1–2 minutes. Stir in the 1⁄2 cup curry paste; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Add fish sauce, peppercorns, palm sugar, lime leaves, chiles, krachai, and 2⁄3 cup water; bring to a boil. Add beans; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil. Serve with jasmine rice on the side.