Last updated on November 21st, 2016
So when I’m jonesing for the flavors of the Far East and there’s no Wondee Siam in sight, I do my usual thing and make my own. This lemongrass pork recipe, adapted from Food & Wine, is completely addictive and a great introduction to a Thai flavor profile for those of you out there ready to shake up your usual order with something other than General Tso’s or beef and broccoli.
The traditional sweet-and-sour flavor profile of Thai food comes on subtly in this dish—the aromatic combination of garlic, ginger, shallot, chili, and lemongrass are the standard bearer for many curry paste blends and recipes, so they’ll be familiar even if you’ve never started a Thai dish from scratch before. If you want to make things more aggressively tart, a squeeze of lime juice is always welcome, but the pickled carrots that top each bowl bring a sweetly tangy balance to each bite.
I just need to warn you in advance, if you’ve never used fish sauce before, it’s crucial to the flavor of the dish, but there’s no other way to say this—it’s going to smell like feet. It’s going to do this right up until the last minute, when through some bit of culinary alchemy, the brown sugar overtakes it and meshes with the intense, umami-rich liquid to create the most heavenly sauce that will leaving you craving this dish fortnightly. Red Boat fish sauce is worth seeking out if you can get your hands on a bottle, but if you can’t find it at your local market, Tiparos brand is also widely available.
Serve over rice or noodles to make sure you can sop up every bit of the sauce, but try to save some for the next day. Like most takeout-friendly dishes, this magically improves after a night in the fridge, so pace yourself.
Prep time: 20 minutes plus overnight pickling time
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 medium to large carrots, julienned
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 Thai chili, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 lemongrass stalks (tender inner bulb only), minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- rice, noodles, or other starch for serving
Pickle the carrots: whisk the vinegar, sugar, and salt together until the granules are completely dissolved. Add the carrots, making sure they’re completely submerged. Let the carrots marinate at room temperature for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
In a small saucepan, cook the fish sauce and brown sugar over medium heat until the brown sugar has dissolved and the sauce thickens. It will boil and bubble a little. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and brown the ground pork, about 5 minutes (you may have to do this in batches so it browns instead of steams.) Remove the pork from the skillet and reserve.
Add the chili, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, and ginger to the same skillet and cook, stirring, for about a minute while the the mixture becomes incredibly fragrant. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan while the broth reduces, about a minute. Return the pork to the pan and add the brown sugar-fish sauce, stirring to meld all the flavors for another minute.
Spoon the pork and its sauce over your choice of starch and top with pickled carrots. Try not to inhale the whole thing in one serving.