RECIPE OF THE MONTH: MOO PA-LO
Here is an aromatic stew that leans toward the sweet spectrum of the palate. An all time Thai favorite, Moo Palo was introduced locally by the Chinese-Cantonese and Tae Chiew immigrants who flocked the kingdom in the early nineteenth century.
Its name is derived from two Chinese words; Pah Ziah and Lou.
“Pah Ziah” refers in Chinese to the art of medicinal herbal preparations and “Lou” means a broth or a stew, together, the word “Phalo” can be think of as ” a broth made from an assortment of medicinal herbs”.
Phalo Style dishes are usually made from duck or goose, pork, chicken or eggs and are highly praised by Chinese and Thais alike. The legendary Chinese Five-Spice mix, an all propose preparation to strengthen and stimulate the body, is in the heart and soul of this heavenly scented dish.
Get yourself a small bottle of the Five-Spice mix. You probably will not use it very often, but you definitely should try this stew for an exotic change.
400g pork belly (sliced bacon) , cut into 3cm (1.5″) cubes
300g pork shoulder or tenderloin, cut into 3cm (1.5″) cubes
7 large eggs
300g firm bean curd, cut into 2cm (1″) cubes
neutral taste cooking oil for deep frying
10-20 (25g) dry shiitake mushrooms
⅓ cup (125g) palm sugar
3 star anise
3 pieces 5cm (2″) cassia tree bark
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder (Phalo Powder)
¼ cup fish sauce
8 cups water
2 tablespoon dark sweet sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
GARLIC CORIANDER PASTE
3 medium coriander roots (about 10g), Scraped, washed and chopped finely.
5 large cloves garlic (about 20g), chopped finely
2 teaspoon peppercorn (about 5g)
1 teaspoon salt
Soak the shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water for about 15 minutes.
When rehydrated, strain, Save both the water and the mushrooms. Set aside.
Remove and discard the hard stalks.
Gently place the eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tbs of salt and 1tbs of white vinegar to prevent cracking. Bring to boil. Let it boil one minute on medium heat. Then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a cold-water bath and let them cool down. Peel and dry. Set aside.
Cut bean curd into 2cm (1″) cubes
Deep fry bean curd on medium-low heat until golden.
Remove the bean curd from the oil and soak them in 1 cup of boiling water for about 15 minutes, stain and set aside.
Clean well the skin side of the pork belly and cut into 3cm (1.5″) cubes. Cut the pork tenderloin to the same size cubes.
In a hot wok, without oil, roast the pork belly pieces. The heat will render out fat
when the pork start browning and there is liquid fat in the wok, add the pork tenderloin cubes, and sear together until the meat is browned from all sides.
In a mortar and pestle pond the coriander roots, garlic and peppercorns with a teaspoon of salt as abrasive.
The paste does not need to be very fine. Set aside.
In a wok on a low heat, melt the palm sugar, and slowly bring it to caramelize to deep amber color, be careful not to burn it! You may add a tablespoon of water here and there to control the rate of caramelization.
Now the sugar is nice and brown
add garlic-coriander paste, cinnamon sticks, star anise and Chinese five-spice powder. Mix well
Add the pork and eggs to the sugar sauce, and mix well.
Transfer the pork and eggs to a pot with a lid to cover.
Add rehydrated mushrooms, including their water.
Add fried bean curd
Fill the pot with 4 cups of water
Add sweet black soy sauce, fish sauce, light soy sauce and oyster sauce.
Cover and simmer on low heat for about 1 hour, until the pork is soft and the eggs gets a nice deep brown color. Skim the the oils that floats on top.
Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander leaves.