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Tom khem – Caramelised pork belly stew

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Tonight I made Tom Khem which is a favourite amongst my kids because the pork is so tender and sweet. I make this often because it’s an easy meal to cook and this particular recipe comes out perfect every time.

Tom Khem is a one pot dish that is also full of flavour. The sweet and fragrant spices, the tender caramelised pork and the boiled eggs which soaks up the flavours of the stew makes it an absolute joy to eat.

Everyone who makes this dish has their own version but the flavours are basically the same – a balance of salty and sweetness. You can use pork or chicken meat and you can add vegetables if you wish (such as mushrooms or carrots) but traditionally it is made with just pork meat and eggs (Pork trotters can also be used in this dish – yum!). For this particular recipe I used good quality pork belly, and don’t be afraid to use the fat of the pork belly too – it adds flavour to the dish which of course makes it more tasty.

My mother cooked this dish often for the family as I was growing up, the aroma of the stew was always enticing and we would always finish our bowls with a full belly and a smile on our face. So when I was shown how to make this dish a few years ago I decided it too would be a dish that my own kids would enjoy eating and would love it as much as I did, and still do.

serves 4

800 – 1000 grams pork belly

6 – 8 eggs boiled and peeled

3 Tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 Tablespoon fish sauce

5 Tablespoon white sugar

1 Tablespoon chicken stock

1 Tablespoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon salt

3-4 slices galangal

3-4 slices ginger

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

2 cups of water (approx)

coriander to garnish

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Method

1. The first thing you need to do is to boil the eggs. Put the eggs in a pot, add cold water just enough to cover them. Bring to a rapid boil, turn off the heat and put a lid on straight away. The eggs will be perfectly cooked after 15-20 minutes of sitting in the boiled water. The result is perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs. (A handy trick I learnt from watching Rachel Ray!)

2. Now it’s time to prep the pork belly. Slice into long strips about 2cm thick, then slice again into 4cm in length. I like my pieces to be fat and chunky.

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3. Next you need to caramelise the sugar. Heat sugar in a pot or fry pan on a low to medium heat. The sugar will melt down and turn brown in colour.

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4. Once the sugar has turned into a nice brown sticky caramel, add ginger until fragrant. This should only take a minute then turn the heat up to medium/hot heat, and add the pork slices, garlic and galangal. Keep stirring the meat so it doesn’t burn. Add in salt and chicken stock. Keep stirring until pork is browned.

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5. Once the meat is nice and brown add water, just to cover the pork. Then add soy sauce, star anise and cinnamon stick. Bring to a steady boil for 2 minutes then turn the heat right down to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot and simmer for approx 2 hours so the meat becomes beautiful and tender.

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After about 90 minutes of simmering, add the fish sauce and the peeled boiled eggs. By doing this, the eggs will be able to soak up all that delicious flavour of the stew and the inside of the egg should also change to a brown colour.

Once you have simmered the stew for the required length of time, you will have a beautiful pork belly dish that not only smells good, but will also melt in your mouth! So rich and flavoursome. No doubt it will become one of your favourite dishes…give it a go!

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with steamed jasmine rice and steamed asian greens if you like.

Also goes perfectly with spicy Tum Mak Hoong!

NOTE: If time is not on your side and you are unable to simmer the pork for at least 2 hours, then make sure you put your eggs in the stew for the last 30 minutes of cooking. However, it is recommend simmering the pork for at least 60 minutes to insure your pork is tender.

Also check the pork every 15-20 minutes and give it a light stir. Also turn the eggs carefully so they don’t break down.

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Happy cooking, happy eating!

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