Despite taking about 90 minutes to cook on the stove-top involving an occasional stir, this is a really simple dish that rewards you with succulent chunks of pork bathed in a rich, spicy, ginger-y coconut sauce, spiked with nam-pla (Thai fish sauce).
Adapted from a Uyen Luu recipe, this is authentic Vietnamese cooking at it’s best and the addition of Tuscan kale should please the health nuts.
The original recipe calls for pork belly but my local Whole Foods told me that they only carry tenderloin, no doubt because belly pork is deemed too fatty, too unhealthy. Given that they sell a ton of bacon, they need to become less boring and more adventurous. Pork belly is an inexpensive cut that’s succulent, full of flavor and the skin produces the world’s best crackling.
So, I went elsewhere and purchased country style ribs, which were the closest thing I could find to pork belly once I’d trimmed the meat off the bone. Either cut works here.
Serve it over steamed rice or your favorite noodle.
PORK BRAISED IN COCONUT MILK WITH NAM PLA, CHILI, GINGER AND KALE
(Serves 6 with rice)
3 tablespoons of coconut or avocado oil
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced into thickish rings
1 oz (30g) of fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 lbs (1 kilo) of pork belly, skin removed, or country style pork ribs, bone removed – cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of chili flakes, depending on the amount of heat you prefer
One 14 oz (400ml) can of coconut milk
3 tablespoons of nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
7 oz (200 grams) of Tuscan kale, ‘cavolo nero’, tough stalks discarded and torn int small pieces
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan with a lid and cook the ginger and shallots over a medium heat until softened. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a plate, then brown the chunks of pork in batches. Put all the pork, ginger and shallot back into the pan along with the chili flakes. Mix well and continue to cook, stirring from time to time for about 10 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and simmer gently, uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fish sauce, stir well, put the lid on and simmer for another 30 minutes stirring occasionally, then finally add the kale. Keep covered and continue to cook over a low heat until the kale is nicely wilted, about 5-8 minutes.
Serve over rice or noodles.