Fill your Belly Burmese Way, Kaeng Hung Leh Burmese Style Pork Belly Curry from Pok Pok

Back in December, I shared Sweet and Spicy 'Som Tam Phonlamai' Thai Salad from Pok PokFood and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand (Ten Speed Press, Fall 2013) by Andy Ricker of Pok Pok restaurant with J.J. Goode.

Here's a meatier recipe.

Kaeng Hung Leh
Burmese-style pork belly curry

Flavor Profile Rich, complex, sweet, tangy, and slightly salty

Try It With Kaeng Khanun (Northern Thai young jackfruit curry), page 166, or Yam Samun Phrai (Northern Thai–style herbal salad), page 65. Needs Khao Niaw (Sticky rice), page 33.


Up to 1 week in advance: Make the curry paste and the tamarind water
Up to a few days in advance: Make the curry
Up to 2 days in advance: Make the fried shallots


A Thai granite mortar and pestle

Serves 6 to 8 as part of a meal


1 ounce thinly sliced lemongrass (tender parts only), from about 4 stalks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (14-gram) piece peeled fresh or frozen (not defrosted) galangal, thinly sliced against the grain
7 grams stemmed dried Mexican puya chiles (about 4), soaked in hot tap water until fully soft, about 15 minutes
1 1/2 ounces peeled Asian shallots, thinly sliced against the grain
1 1/2 teaspoons Kapi Kung (Homemade shrimp paste), page 274


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ounce peeled Asian shallots, thinly sliced with the grain (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons mild Indian curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 pound skinless pork belly, cut into approximately 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into approximately 11/2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons Thai black soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid from Thai pickled garlic (straight from the jar)
1 1/2 ounces palm sugar, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons Naam Makham (Tamarind water), page 274
2 cups water
1 (1-ounce) piece peeled ginger, cut into long (about 11/2-inch), thin (about 1/8-inch) matchsticks (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 ounces separated and peeled pickled garlic cloves (about 30 small cloves)
4 ounces long beans, trimmed and cut into 11/2-inch lengths (about 2 cups)
6 tablespoons Hom Daeng Jiaw (Fried shallots), page 273

Kaeng Hung Leh (Burmese pork belly curry)


Combine the lemongrass in the mortar with the salt and pound firmly until you have a fairly smooth, slightly fibrous paste, about 2 minutes. Add the galangal and pound until you have a smooth, slightly fibrous paste, about 2 minutes. Drain the chiles well, wrap them in paper towels, and gently squeeze them dry. Add them to the mortar and pound them, then add the shallots, and then the shrimp paste, fully pounding each ingredient before moving on to the next.
You’ll have about 1/2 cup of paste. You can use it right away, or store the paste in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.


Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-low heat until it shimmers. Add all of the paste, breaking it up slightly and stirring occasionally, until it’s fragrant and turns a slightly duller shade of red, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the shallots and cook until they soften slightly, about 3 minutes, then add the curry powder and turmeric powder and stir frequently for a minute or so to bring out their fragrance. Add the pork belly and shoulder, stir to coat the pork, and cook for a few minutes, so the pork has a chance to absorb a little of the flavor of the paste. You’re not trying to brown the meat; crowding the pot is fine.

Stir in the fish sauce, black soy sauce, and pickled garlic liquid, then add the palm sugar. Increase the heat slightly to bring the liquid to a simmer, cook until the palm sugar has more or less completely dissolved, then stir in the tamarind water along with the 2 cups of water. Increase the heat to high, let the liquid come to a strong simmer, then immediately decrease the heat to low and cover (or partially cover, if your lid doesn’t let any steam escape), adjusting the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, stir in the ginger, then remove the lid and cook at a steady simmer until the pork shoulder is very tender but not falling apart and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 45 minutes more. The curry should still be fairly soupy (not gravylike and dry) with a layer of reddish liquid fat near the surface. You want some of this fat, but depending on the pork’s fattiness, you might have too much; use your discretion and spoon off as much as you’d like.

Stir in the pickled garlic cloves, cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the long beans and cook until they’re just tender but still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes more. Let the curry cool to warm (it’ll taste even better after half an hour), then taste it. There should be a balance between sweet, salty, and sour flavors, with sweetness taking the lead. If necessary, season with more palm sugar, tamarind water, and fish sauce.

At this point, the curry will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days (it actually tastes better the day after you make it).

Before serving, gently reheat the curry. Just before serving, top with the fried shallots.

(* Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with J.J. Goode, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc, Photography: Austin Bush © 2013)

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