Phuketian means the dish originated in the Thai island of Phuket which is famous for its beaches. I was there once but never got to try its regional take on curry. In fact, I didn’t even know that Phuket has its own version of curry until I bought curry pastes after dinner at Blue Elephant.
As it turns out, Phuket does have its unique version of curry. Why I hadn’t heard about it before (have you?) is probably because I belong to a generation where a curry dish means chicken and potatoes cooked with curry powder and coconut milk, and that’s it.
So, that’s the Phuktian heritage curry paste used in this recipe. All 70 grams were used and the amount was just enough for half a kilo of pork belly and about four cups of vegetables.
That’s the back side of the packet where the ingredients of the curry paste are listed. If you’re reading this from your phone and the text in the photo isn’t large enough, the ingredients are soybean oil, shallot, dried red chili, garlic, tamarind paste, coriander powder, lemongrass, turmeric, cumin powder, black garlic, salt, black pepper powder, garnicia and fenugreek.
But what is black garlic?
It’s featured prominently on the front of the curry paste packet so it must be significant. I searched around a bit and discovered that black garlic is not something you can just plant and harvest. It really is just regular garlic but it has undergone an aging process. By the end of the process, the cloves have darkened and the flavor of the garlic has transformed. I haven’t tried it except as an ingredient of Phuketian heritage curry paste but, from what I’ve read, the flavor of black garlic has been described as having the “deep taste of seared meat and fried onions” and, for others, “a slightly sweet, licorice twist and a chewy texture.“
How is Phuketian heritage curry paste used?
There is a recipe in the packet. Cook fish and orka, saute the curry paste in oil, add coconut milk, add the fish and okra… Of course, that’s not what I did. But I heeded the wisdom of cooking the protein component and vegetables separately.
First, the pork was simmered in lightly salted water until tender.
The curry paste was sauteed in a little oil then coconut milk was poured in.
Cubed squash and yard-long beans were stirred in and left to cook in the sauce. When the vegetables were half cooked, the fully cooked pork and a cup of coconut cream were added. By the time the vegetables are done, the pork had soaked up enough flavors from the sauce.
Phuketian heritage curry with pork and vegetables
- With the stove set to medium, pour the oil into the pan and heat for half a minute.
- Stir in the curry paste and cook, stirring often, until the color has deepened.
- Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil.
- Taste and add fish sauce, as needed.
- Drop in the squash and beans, cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Taste the sauce again and add more fish sauce, if needed.
- Stir in the pork and pour in the coconut cream.
- Continue simmering until the vegetables are done.
- Taste the sauce one last time and add more fish sauce, if necessary.