I can't believe that we are already almost halfway into October. Where did the September go? For that matter, where did the entire summer go? It seemed like only yesterday that I had been busy bookmarking summer concerts and looking forward to beach trips and lazy days in the park, most of which did not materialize. (This summer I did, however, finally discover Arrested Development, and spent a good many 100-degree weekend days with the Netflix instant queue, a powerful fan, and an icy gin & tonic.) Yes, in general, the summer seemed to have flown by.
To be fair, many of my waking hours this summer had been devoted to not only side editing projects but also something pretty big and exciting. So I apologize for having been somewhat absent on the site. But the absence has been for a good reason and I can't wait to share the news with everyone in the coming weeks. And postings will definitely become more frequent again.
But first, here's a recipe fit for the fall. This week I'm teaching a Macanese cooking class at Bowery Culinary Center at the Whole Foods on Houston St. The class is already sold out, but I wanted to share one particular favorite Macanese dish with you. (And I really should post up more Macanese recipes; almost everything is hearty and good comfort food to eat in cool weather, even though Macau itself is in the sub-tropics, just west of Hong Kong.)
Macanese cuisine is a Chinese-Portuguese fusion cuisine that stems from the 16th century, when the Portuguese first arrived. Over time, dishes evolved and picked up influences from around Southeast Asia and other colonies in Africa, Goa, and Brazil. One such dish is tamarind pork. The use of olive oil or butter as the cooking fat stems from Europe, while the tamarind paste comes from Southeast Asia and the shrimp paste is thoroughly Chinese.
What I love about tamarind pork is the very nice balance of tangy, salty, and sweet flavors (from the tamarind paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar, respectively.) A bit of warning: when you first start cooking, the shrimp paste will make the dish smell a little pungent. (Just under the pot lid, not your entire kitchen.) One friend eloquently described the aroma as "like barnyard". But I promise, after 45 to 50 minutes of cooking time the smell will have dissipated. The pork comes out so juicy and full of flavor that you may start wondering what else you can use shrimp paste for.
For a spicy kick, have a few slices of jalapeño on hand for garnish. And be sure to have plenty of rice to soak up the sauce.
(If you're in Macau, check out Restaurante Litoral for a very good version of this, plus other Macanese dishes.)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound pork shoulder or stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 tablespoon dried shrimp, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until aromatic and slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the pork and cook on all sides until the outsides begin to brown.
- Add the brown sugar, tamarind paste, soy sauce, fish sauce, and shrimp paste and give everything a quick stir. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 45 to 50 minutes.
- While the pork is simmering, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Fry the dried shrimp until aromatic and golden brown, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.
- When the pork is done simmering, transfer the meat and sauce to a serving bowl. Garnish with the chopped dried shrimp and sliced jalapeños.