This is an aromatic stew that leans into the sweet spectrum of the palate. An all-time Thai favorite, moo palo was introduced locally by the Chinese-Cantonese and Tae Chiew immigrants who flocked to the Kingdom in the early nineteenth century.
The name of this dish originates from two Chinese words: pah ziah and lou.
Pah ziah refers in Chinese to the art of medicinal herbal preparations, while lou indicates a broth or a stew; placed together, the word phalo describes a broth made from an assortment of medicinal herbs.
Phalo-style dishes are usually made from duck or goose, pork, chicken or eggs, and are highly praised by Chinese and Thais alike.
The legendary Chinese five-spice mix, an all-purpose preparation believed to strengthen and stimulate the body, is in the heart and soul of this heavenly scented dish.
Acquire a small bottle of the five-spice mix. While you may not use it very often, it is definitely worth trying this stew for an exotic change.
- 400gr pork belly (sliced bacon), cut into 3cm (1.5") cubes
- 300gr pork shoulder or tenderloin, cut into 3cm (1.5") cubes
- 7 large eggs
- 300gr firm bean curd, cut into 2cm (1") cubes
- Neutral taste cooking oil for deep frying
- 10-20 (25gr) dry shiitake mushrooms
- 1/3 cup (125gr) palm sugar
- 3 star anise fruits
- 3 pieces of cassia tree bark, 5cm (2") each
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (phalo powder)
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons dark sweet sauce
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 3 medium coriander roots (about 10gr), scraped, washed and finely chopped
- 5 large cloves garlic (about 20gr), finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns (about 5gr)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Soak the shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water for about 15 minutes.
- When rehydrated, strain. Save both the water and the mushrooms, and set aside.
- Remove and discard the hard stalks.
- Gently place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to prevent the eggs from cracking. Bring to boil, and let it boil for one minute on medium heat. Then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let rest for 15 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a cold water bath, and let them cool down. Peel and dry. Set aside.
- Cut the bean curd into 2cm (1") cubes
- Deep fry the bean curd on medium-low heat until the cubes are golden.
- Remove the bean curd from the oil. Soak the cubes in 1 cup of boiling water for about 15 minutes, then strain and set aside.
- Thoroughly clean the skin side of the pork belly, and cut into 3cm (1.5") cubes. Cut the pork tenderloin into cubes of the same size.
- In a hot wok, without oil, roast the pork belly pieces. The heat will render out the fat.
- When the pork starts to brown, and there is liquid fat in the wok, then add the pork tenderloin cubes. Sear together until the meat is browned from all sides.
- Set aside.
- In a mortar and pestle, pound the coriander roots, the garlic and the peppercorns with a teaspoon of salt as an abrasive.
- The paste does not need to be very fine. Set aside.
- In a wok on a low heat, melt the palm sugar. Slowly caramelize it to a deep amber color, being careful not to burn it! You may add a tablespoon of water here and there, to control the rate of caramelization.
- Now the sugar is nice and brown.
- Add the garlic-coriander paste, the cinnamon sticks, star anise and the Chinese five-spice powder. Mix well.
- Add the pork and eggs to the sugar sauce. Mix well.
- Transfer the pork and eggs to a pot, and cover with a lid.
- Add the rehydrated mushrooms and their water.
- Add fried bean curd.
- Fill the pot with 4 cups of water.
- Add the sweet black soy sauce, the fish sauce, the light soy sauce and the oyster sauce.
- Cover, and simmer on low heat for about 1 hour until the pork is soft and the eggs are a nice deep brown color. Skim any oil that floats to the top.
- Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander leaves.