Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gaeng Heng Lay: Northern Thai Pork Curry

Of Burmese origin, where "hin" means curry, "Gaeng Heng Lay" a popular pork curry in northern Thailand, literally says "lay curry" curry. But then the southern Thai "Gaeng garee," a yellow curry of Indian origin, translates to curry curry. So much for confused etymology and imported words that in Thai become redundant.

Heng lay is made traditionally from "three-layer" pork belly and uses tamarind and palm sugar rather than coconut milk in the sauce. It is a richly delicious dish, even if made with less fatty cuts of pork, such as butt.

This particular recipe was a hit recently with the St. Bartholemew church staff, for whom I've prepared weekly staff meeting lunches for several years.

Heng Lay Curry, Northern Thai Pork Curry

2 large stalks lemon grass thinly sliced
1 tablespoon galangal, chopped
2 hot jalapeno or "finger" chilies, preferably red, including seeds, chopped
1/4 cup or more water to process the above ingredients plus 3 cups for curry
4 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
2 1/4 pounds trimmed pork butt in 1/2-inch wide rectangular strips 2-inches long
2 teaspoons thick black soy sauce
5 large shallots, sliced
1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
Juice made from 4 dry tamarinds and 1/2 cup water mushed together, put through sieve
1 1/4 inches fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Fish sauce to taste

Puree sliced lemon grass, chopped galangal, chilies and just enough water to process in food processor, or pound them well in mortar.

Marinate pork with pureed ingredients plus spices. Let rest at least an hour.

Heat pot, made of enamel or stainless steel. Bring marinated pork plus soy sauce, but no added oil, to fry. Stir frequently and cook until raw color is gone. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add water and simmer, covered but stirring occasionally, until becoming tender.

Add shallots, sugar, tamarind juice, ginger, garlic plus 3 tablespoons fish sauce.

Simmer 10 minutes. Taste and add more fish sauce if salt is needed (or use salt). Add water if sauce not a little soupy. Add sugar or more tamarind juice if not suitably sweet-sour.

Simmer another five minutes. Taste for salt, and add fish sauce or salt if necessary. Remove from the heat.

This is best made ahead and reheated to serve.

Serve with unsalted white rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Haitian Black Mushroom Rice

Black mushroom rice cooked with local mushrooms in Haiti remains popular in the Haitian diaspora. Called Riz Djon Djon [REE-john-john], it's a sort of rice pilaf and has a caramel brown color from the mushrooms. Those mushrooms are rarely available fresh in the US, and the dried ones are virtually only available in large Haitian communities like in Miami and Brooklyn.

This is an approximation of that delightful rice dish as I had it in Haiti, approximated because I could not get a clear recipe there and the key ingredient is not available here. Sometimes the rice includes green pigeon peas.

Here’s my version of the dish, which makes a savory accompaniment to a braised chicken or meat dish with lots of tomato-rich sauce.

The recipe serves six.

Haitian Black Mushroom Rice -- Riz Djon Djon

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice, such as Basmati
3 medium-large Portabello mushrooms
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 medium bay leaves, broken in half
2 cups unsalted chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon thick black Chinese soy sauce (available at Asian groceries)
Minced parsley for garnish

Rinse and drain rice. Set it aside.

Rinse mushrooms, and slice off the rough tip of the stems. Chop mushrooms coarsely (chef’s knife on a board, or a food processor can be used).

Fry mushrooms gently in oil in a heavy pot, stirring frequently, until they lose most of their juices and darken. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Fry them about two minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add drained rice, salt, black pepper and bay leaves. Stir and fry rice for two minutes.

Add broth or water and soy sauce. Stir once, being sure rice grains are all in the liquid. As soon as mixture boils, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover pot tightly. Simmer, without opening pot, for 20 minutes.

Turn off heat. Again, do not uncover the pot, but let rice sit for at least ten minutes.

(Alternatively, the rice can be transferred to a rice cooker after frying with the vegetables, and the liquids added to that and briefly stirred. Cook as usual for rice cooker. Let sit 10 minutes after light goes off.)

Uncover and fluff rice with a fork before serving. Serve in a shallow bowl, and dust the surface with minced parsley.