My dad is a classic extrovert – the type who does not mind any situations with a massive congregation of people. Sometimes, I think that he actually lives for those moments. Our family is not Christian, but every year for Christmas and New Year, my dad would somehow gather enough energy to throw a big house party in the front yard of the porch. (I am only 24 now, yet I don’t even have the energy to go to other people’s parties, set aside throwing one.) Every year, he would promise the “introverts” of the household that the crowd would be small, but I do not remember any of his parties with fewer than a hundred attendees. I am not shamelessly brownnosing my dad on the blog to get a better Christmas because he might be potentially reading this post. But, it was honestly quite fun growing up with him.
Decorating for these big nights was an experience. Children were practically free labor in our household, and we would help wrap light bulbs with colored plastic wrap for hanging later, sweep the front porch, set up a 32-inch tube TV, hooked with to a karaoke machine with spider-web tangled yet explosive speakers. Throughout the night, we would take turns and sings Burmese songs. My dad and my aunts are great singers. I, on the other hand, sound like a Peking duck roasted alive. More importantly, I will always remember that we had amount of food large enough to feed a whole village for a week. But, one of my personal most anticipated dishes is my aunt’s Burmese pork curry.
You are probably thinking at this point, “Ok, this kid is definitely BS-ing me. There is no effing way that people eat pork and curry on Christmas”. Trust me when I say, unlike other parts of the world, Christmas in Myanmar (Burma) demands less formality and rigidity when it comes to food. We have a saying that “the king of leaves is tea; the king of fruits is mango, and the king of meat is pork”. When special occasion, like Christmas, calls for a lavish celebration, people seek to adorn their dinner with part or all of these “luxurious” ingredients. This pork curry dish, by the virtue of its simplicity and luxuriousness, is traditionally served during weddings and novitation ceremonies, but its warm comforting heat and thick gravy also makes it a popular dish among households of Christian and non-Christian households during Christmas times.
Traditionally, the recipe calls for long simmering with occasional stirring. While I don’t mind the former, I would much prefer that I just put everything together in an oven-safe pot, stash it in the oven, and attend to other matters. This is exactly what this revised recipe strives for – satisfying a lazy student with an uncompromising palate. Finally, you can use two types of pork cut – pork belly or pork butt, but absolutely no tenderloins or other lean cuts. You can take the skin off, but leave the fat intact. You really need that white miracle of globule to make the gravy very indulgent. What I am going after is the warm luscious melt in your mouth, not the endless stringy chew from the lean cuts.
Every time I eat this curry dish, I feel as if I get hugged by a voluptuous Santa Claus – a true comfort deep to the core. I won’t be able to go back to Myanmar this Christmas. I wonder what it will be like without my singing.
- 2 lbs. of organic pork butt with skin-off (cut into one-inch chunk)
- Half of one large yellow onion (diced)
- Four cloves of garlic (minced)
- Four Thai chilies (minced)
- 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne powder
- ½ teaspoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 2 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 large russet potato (cut into rings that are about ½ inch thick)
- Marinate the pork cubes with 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Let the meat marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degree.
- In a Dutch oven, heat up the oil and sauté onions, garlic, and chilies under medium high until the oil gets fragrant (about 2-5 minutes).
- Add paprika, cumin, cinnamon stick and the rest of the turmeric powder and cook under medium heat until the spices become fragrant (about 5 minutes).
- Add in the marinated pork, and turn up the heat to high, and brown the meat thoroughly for about 5 minutes.
- Add in water until it generously covers all the pork pieces.
- Clamp the lid of the Dutch oven, and put it in the oven for 1 hour.
- After an hour, add in potato rings, and put it back in the oven uncovered for another 1 hour.
- After two-hour total of cooking time, most of the water will be evaporated, and you will see gorgeous magenta-tinged oil floating among the meat cubes. If you see potatoes disintegrating, please remain clam. It is actually a good omen since it will seep into the gravy, making it luscious and thick.
- I personally like to garnish mine with ample amount of cilantro, and serve with white rice.