This is a very different Thai dish — one of Freddie’s favourites — sweet, salty, and redolent of warm, fragrant, almost Middle Eastern spices… This, I’m sure, came along the spice route from China centuries ago. It’s real Thai comfort food.
I adapted this version from a recipe given to me by a steward on Thai Airways a few years ago.
As in the picture here, you’ll frequently find the street-stall version made with a pork hock, but this I think is easier for the home cook.
If you prefer, you could use Chinese mushrooms or duck instead of the pork.
18–24 quails’ eggs or 8–10 hens’ eggs, hard boiled and peeled
6–8 pieces fried tofu about 2 inches square each
½ kg pork belly, cut into large pieces, or a combination of pork belly and pork ribs
4 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons nam pla (fish sauce)
20 white peppercorns
3 coriander roots
4 small cloves garlic or 2 large, peeled
2 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce or kecap manis
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon five spice power
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 star anise
a bunch of greens – chard, kale, spring greens
1. Pound the peppercorns, coriander roots and garlic together in a pestle and mortar to make a paste.
2. Pour 5 to 6 pints of water into a pot and bring to the boil.
3. Heat the oil in a wok until hot, and stir-fry the paste. Add the pork and the five spice powder and continue to stir-fry until the meat is almost cooked.
4. Remove the pork from the oil and put it into the boiling water. Season with the soy sauce, nam pla and palm sugar. Stir well, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the tofu. Leave to simmer for half an hour. Add the eggs and simmer for another 15 minutes.
5. Taste. It should be sweet and salty, so adjust the seasoning at this point to suit your palate. Throw in the leaves . Let them wilt.
6. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with plain boiled rice.