Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thai-style Fried Pork Snack

Oh, hi there! Long time no see! What can I say? It's been busy around here...just not in the kitchen. Hopefully that's going to change, now that I don't have to work full time AND take evening classes three days a week. Besides, and I never thought I'd say this, I'm tired of take out. It's fine once or twice a week, but 3 or 4 times a week for a few months just plain sucks. It takes a toll on the waistline and the pocketbook.

Okay, so maybe deep-fried pork isn't good for the waistline either, but at least it's homemade. Not only that, it brings me back to Mom's kitchen. This is type the of stuff I grew up on. Mom still makes this whenever we visit. And in fact, the last time she came to visit me, she brought 2 large Ziploc bags full of it, ready to be fried. The stuff my family will transport in their luggage just makes me chuckle.

The proper way (as Mom would say) to make this is to marinate the pork in garlic and a little fish sauce then set it out in the sun to dry. She does this with both pork and beef. Of course she lives in scorching hot-dry-sunny Las Vegas so it works perfectly. Here in Portland this wouldn't work. It's never hot or dry enough. I shudder at the thought of leaving fresh meat outside to dry here.

Luckily, I stumbled on an alternative that worked beautifully. Earlier in the week I made a brined pork roast and had plenty left over. I sliced the meat and added finely chopped garlic (several cloves), a stalk of lemongrass (finely chopped), a few crushed kaffir lime leaves and sliced shallot. Into the fridge it went overnight. The next day, before deep-frying, I tossed in about 1/2 tbs of rice powder to absorb any extra moisture (this is optional).

I think Mom would approve of the results. The meat was crispy and chewy without being dry or hard. The seasonings really came through and the shallots crisped up nicely. I served sticky rice and dipping sauce (ingredients below) on the side and it was a big hit. Goes great with a nice cold beer too.

We Thais love our dipping sauces and for a dish like this, it is a key component. It's quite easy to make. All you need is fresh lime juice (maybe 1 to 2 large limes), chopped garlic (about 1 to 2 cloves), chopped chillies (as many as you can tolerate), fish sauce and sugar. Everything is to taste so use more or less as you see fit.

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