Pork Strips with Star Anise

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    3 or 4

Appears in

Burma

By Naomi Duguid

Published 2012

  • About

One evening in Mandalay I went out to supper at a little Shan restaurant with a German woman named Ann and a young monk friend of hers, even though he couldn’t eat at that hour (see “Offerings at Dawn”). Afterward we went to see the Moustache Brothers, a comedy troupe headed by three brothers. Their show was subversive, funny, and touching all at once. Now that is changing, for as Burma moves toward democracy, they don’t have as much edgy material to play with.

This deeply flavored pork dish was another memorable star of that evening. There’s definitely more than a hint of China in the flavoring (star anise, soy sauce, a touch of sweet), a reminder that the Shan come from the border regions of Thailand, Burma, and Yunnan. I like to serve it with something acidic, perhaps Succulent Grapefruit (or Pomelo) Salad, or a simple vinaigrette-dressed salad, to balance the smoky dark flavors of the pork.

Ingredients

  • About ¾ pound pork tenderloin or boneless pork shoulder
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil or rendered pork fat
  • 2 tablespoons crushed or minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Fermented Soybean Paste or store-bought, or substitute 1 teaspoon brown miso paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 star anise, whole or in pieces
  • 2 teaspoons Palm Sugar Water
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped coriander (optional)

Method

Cut the pork into strips about 1 inch long, ½ inch wide, and nearly ¼ inch thick. Place in a bowl with the salt and toss to coat; set aside.

Place a wok or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the oil or fat and toss in the garlic and ginger. Cook until they are well softened, then add the pork and cook, stirring it to expose all sides to the hot surface of the pan, until it has all changed color.

Stir the mashed soybeans or miso into the water, then add to the pan, along with the star anise, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for several minutes. Add the palm sugar liquid and soy sauce and simmer over low heat, half-covered, for another 10 minutes. Taste and add a little salt if you wish (the dish is traditionally a little salty).

Sprinkle on the coriander just before serving if you wish.