Kai Pa Lo

(Thai-Chinese Braised Pork and Eggs)

This is sweet and salty, warm and fragrant, and was introduced to Thailand by Chinese immigrants in the 19th Century. You’ll frequently find it on street stalls made with a whole pock hock, but this version, which I adapted this version from a recipe given to me by a steward on Thai Airways, is much easier for the home cook.

Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 4–6

18–24 quails’ eggs or 8–10 hens’ eggs, hard boiled and peeled

6–8 pieces fried tofu about 2 inches square each

750g pork belly, cut into large pieces

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

fresh coriander, to garnish

Pound the peppercorns, coriander roots and garlic together in a pestle and mortar to make a paste.

Boil 5–6 pints of water in a large saucepan.

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.

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.

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.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve.