Everywhere I look food blogs are featuring savory, healthy dishes. The glut of the holidays has overwhelmed most people, and their thoughts have turned away from desserts and rich dishes and to healthy meals. Now in some ways I am no different. Although I am backed up for what I am posting (i.e., I made this dish almost 2 weeks ago now), the entire last week was completely vegetarian for us. I too feel that glut. But on the other hand there are 2 things you should know about me: I am NEVER tired of dessert and if I see a dish that calls out to me strongly enough in a cookbook, I’ll make it even if I am supposedly trying to be healthier.
Ergo this meal. The minute I got home after receiving the cookbook, I was digging through my freezer looking for pork shoulder. It is from that cookbook I’ve been raving about, Christina Arokiasamy’s The Spice Merchant’s Daughter: Recipes and Simple Spice Blends for the American Kitchen, that my sister gave me for Christmas, and I started obsessing on this dish the first time I browsed through the book, while I was sitting there with other unopened presents on my lap. There is something about the word caramelized in a savory dish that instantly gets my attention. I served it with those Penang Pickled Veggies in an effort to be somewhat healthy, but don’t kid yourself. This is succulent and rich, every bit as satisfying as your mom’s best pot roast.
This dish is also a great example of the fusion-y nature of the cookbook. The soy–both sweet soy sauce and regular–in the dish is redolent of S.E. Asia, but the curry leaves are, to my mind anyway, quite Indian. The whole spices are a good example of how Indian cuisine has traditionally influenced S.E. Asian cuisine and would be found in any S.E. Asian’s household, not just an Indian one.
- 3 lbs pork shoulder, with or without bone, cut into 2-3 pieces if it is too big to brown as a whole piece
- 3 T vegetable oil
- 4 inch knob ginger, peeled and minced
- 8-10 cloves garlic, minced
- 20 fresh (or frozen) curry leaves
- 3 2-inch cinnamon sticks
- 3 whole star anise (4 if you really like star anise--I reduced the amount as I do not like it to dominate)
- 3 medium-large onions, thinly sliced
- 4 medium sized tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 4 T double black soy sauce (can sub superior dark if need be)
- 6 T kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- ½ t freshly ground white peppercorn
- salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 275 F.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the pork shoulder on all sides and remove to another bowl. Drain the excess oil off (leave about 1 tablespoon) and add the whole spices to the pan. Let them roast, over medium low heat, until fragrant. Turn the heat up to medium and add curry leaves to the pan--stand back as they might splatter. Add a handful of the onions to the pan--and add some water if the pan is starting to scorch. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until the onions are starting to turn brown, then add the ginger and garlic. Adjust the heat if the it starts to scorch. Continue cooking until the onions are completely caramelized and then add the tomatoes. Cook for about one minute. Then add the soy sauces and stir to incorporate. Let cook for one minute to meld the flavors.
- Add the ground white peppercorn and mix. Return the pork with any juices to the pan. Turn the pork over so that it is coated with the sauce. Cover with a heavy lid and place the pan in the oven. Let cook for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, turn the heat up to 300 F. Take the pork out, turn it over in the pan and then cover the pork with the rest of the onions. Replace the heavy lid on to the pan and return to the oven. Cook for another hour. Take the pot out--if the pork and/or onions are not cooked enough (the pork should be falling apart and the onions should be sweet, not astringent), return to the oven and increase the heat to 325 F. Check after 30 minutes. Taste for salt and serve with jasmine rice.
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