Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4 or 5

Appears in

I had this warming Karen version of sour soup in a village not far from Moulmein, the port at the mouth of the Salween River. Rather than being fish-broth-based, as many sour soups are, it is made with pork and freshly cooked greens. The shrimp paste (ngapi) is very subtle and blends into the other flavors seamlessly.

Serve as a main dish over rice, perhaps with some roasted root vegetables or a crisp salad on the side. Leftovers are exceptionally good the next day.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound pork shoulder or other boneless pork, such as tenderloin
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and smashed (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon fermented shrimp paste (ngapi)
  • 5 cups light vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup hot water
  • About 4 cups loosely packed coarsely chopped bok choi, Napa cabbage, or Taiwan bok choi, or substitute 3 cups loosely packed chopped Swiss chard or romaine lettuce

Method

Thinly slice the pork, then cut into small (approximately 1-inch) pieces and place in a bowl. (You should have about 1 packed cup.) Add teaspoon of the turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt and turn and mix to distribute the seasonings; set aside.

Heat the oil in a wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Toss in the remaining teaspoon turmeric, and when it sizzles, add the shallots, ginger, and lemongrass (if using), lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced pork and cook, stirring frequently, until all surfaces have changed color.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp paste in a small bowl, add about ¼ cup of the broth or water, and stir to dissolve the shrimp paste completely. Add to the pot together with the remaining broth or water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the broth thickens, place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl with the hot water. Mash it with a fork to help dissolve it, then set aside for several minutes to soak.

Rub the tamarind with your fingers to help it dissolve further, then place a sieve over a wide bowl and pour the tamarind water through, pressing and mashing the pulp against the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the pulp.

Add the tamarind liquid to the broth, bring to a boil, and add the chopped greens. Cook at a medium boil for a few minutes, until the greens are just tender. Add salt to taste (if the broth you started with was unsalted or you used water, you will need about 2 teaspoons salt).

Serve hot or at room temperature.

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