“Geng Hang Lea,” a Baby Pork Ribs Curry with Homemade Curry Paste. A dish commonly serve in Chaing Mai, Thailand.
Geng Hang Lea, a Baby Pork Ribs Curry. A dish commonly serve in Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’m a nomad. I don’t own a cookbook. A good friend gave me an “Asian” cookbook for my twentieth birthday, and I read through it in one night, sucked out as much knowledge as I could and then gave the book away (to a friend who would take good care of it). For the past few years, I have relied on friends and libraries for cookbooks. It makes sense for my life right now, and keeps me on my toes - always learning new recipes and tweaking old ones.
That said, I found a(nother) great Thai cookbook by David Thompson called Thai Foodduring my last library visit. I skipped most of his introduction and turned right to the recipes I have been eager to learn. One of them is this Geng Hang Lea. I also want to try out his recipes for pickled dishes, Chinese chive cakes, and bitter melon soup. The recipe here is revised and adapted from Thompson’s. Geng Hang Lea is a very popular dish in the north of Thailand, especially Chaing Mai. I lived in Chiang Mai for about five years but never learned how to make this dish so I was very excited to finally try this recipe out!
Thompson calls for pork belly and pork ribs, but my local butcher shop only had pork ribs. I also reduced the portion of many ingredients he calls for, as I often only cook for a few of my friends. My recipe makes 6 servings.
This dish takes a lot of time because we’re making two curry pastes from scratch and there’s about two hours of cooking time on top of that. But don’t be discouraged! Its summer and if you love to cook, picking out a few new dishes to make when you have more time is rewarding! Everyone in my house love this dish and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to throw out the leftover sauce!
PREPARATION: 30 MINUTES COOKING TIME: 1/5-2 HOURS
~1 lb pork ribs ~2 tablespoon vegetable oil ~2 shallots, chopped ~1/2 cup ginger, shredded ~1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional) ~3 tablespoon palm sugar, dissolved in hot water ~4 tablespoon fish sauce ~4 tablespoon tamarind concentrate ~1 cup stock or water
~10 dried chile de arbol or Thai chili, soaked and seeded ~1 tablespoon galangai, chopped ~6 tablespoon red shallot, chopped ~6 tablespoon garlic, chopped ~6 tablespoon lemongrass, chopped ~2 tablespoon ginger, chopped ~2 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground ~1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground ~3 star anise, roasted and ground ~1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, roasted ~5 cloves, roasted and ground ~2 cardamom pods, roasted and seeds ground ~1 tablespoon red or yellow turmeric powder
Garlic and Ginger Paste:
~4 garlic cloves, peeled ~1/2 teaspoon salt ~4 tablespoon ginger, peeled
Make the curry paste first, and then make the garlic and ginger paste. Preferably using a pestle and mortar, grind all the ingredients together until they produce a nice aroma and pasty texture (as in the picture). To reduce labor and time, a food processor would give you a good paste but it does not bring out the same fragrance because the blades basically only “cut” the herbs. Sometimes, I like to do the “initial” grinding with a food processor and then use my mortar and pestle to “mush” out the flavor.
Cut the pork into smaller pieces between each bone. I had the butcher cut the ribs into three vertical pieces (see the picture below) and then I cut them into small bite size pieces at home. Cold-blanch the pork ribs twice. According to Thompson, the longer the pork takes to reach boiling temperature, the more oiliness and pungency will be cleaned off (and I found this really worked!)
In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger paste until golden. Add the curry paste and pork and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, ginger, shallots, peanuts, palm sugar, and a cup of water or stock. Do not add a lot of water! This curry is saucy but not soupy like green or red curry. Stir until all ingredients are mixed well. Let it simmer for about one to two hours and stir occasionally.
Serve with white rice, brown rice, sticky rice, or basmali rice. Have some fresh or steamed vegetables as a side dish. I suggest fresh slices of cucumber, lettuces, snap peas, bell peppers,cabbages, steamed string beans, and steamed eggplant. The paste is strong and flavorful, you can use the vegetables to balance the flavor. The flavor of this dish improve overnight!
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