Slices of firm pork fat and pork liver are alternately layered on top of one another and tied into bite-sized bundles using green threads made from spring onion. These one-bite parcels, featuring a layer cake-like appearance and a typical pattern of black and white, are then dipped in batter and deep-fried until they are very lightly golden and crispy on the outside. The dish is served as a snack or a side dish along with a bright fresh red chili and vinegar sauce. The pork and fat layers, opposites across every possible paradigm, intersect as they conform to the “principle of yin and yang.” The complementary qualities of these two – seemingly oddly paired – ingredients is what signifies the actual success of the dish.
The firm pork fat is buttery white, soft, tender and succulent. It is pre-cooked in water, cut into thin slices, and then dusted with soft wheat flour and salt. The pork liver is prepared separately and cooked whole. The liver hardens as it cooks and releases a significant amount of its stored blood, thus losing its iron-gamey flavor. The cooked liver is sliced into thin pieces – thinner than the pork fat pieces – and brushed with a pounded powder of salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Slices of the pork fat and liver are stacked together and tied with spring onion knots, then deep-fried until crisp and light golden. As they fry in the batter, the dry, gritty liver is enriched by the fat; in turn, the liver and spices give the luscious fat a sensuous edge.
In the old days, meat, offal and animal fat were considered on an equal basis, but dietary guidelines over the past few decades have generally recommended reducing animal fat consumption. As the taste for fat-rich dishes has gradually waned, glistening firm fat has lost some of its culinary appeal.
As we immerse ourselves in the domain of culinary nostalgia, our ongoing process of resurrecting old recipes and forgotten flavors is designed to gain a contemporary sense of the emotions evoked by these vintage flavor patterns. Each bite of this dish reveals a bygone flavor scheme that is imbued with sentiment alongside our modern conception of culinary aesthetics and flavors.
That said, I hope you will give this dish a try.
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For the firm pork fat:
- 200 g firm pork fat (มันหมูแข็ง) มันหมูแข็ง, cook and slice into thin large slices
- all-purpose flour (แป้งอเนกประสงค์)
For the pork liver:
- 200 g pork liver (ตับหมู)
- sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- white peppercorns (พริกไทย) roasted and grounded
- nutmeg seed (ลูกจันทน์เทศ) roasted and grounded
- spring onion (ต้นหอม) blanched
- crispy tempura flour (แป้งทอดกรอบ)
- Thai red pickling (limestone) solution (น้ำปูนแดง)
- neutral tasting cooking oil (น้ำมันพืช) for deep-frying
For the chili sauce:
- 3 fresh red long chili (phrik chee fa) (พริกชี้ฟ้าแดง)
- 1 teaspoon Thai garlic (กระเทียมไทย)
- 1/8 part sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 1 part granulated sugar (น้ำตาลทราย)
- 1 part 5% white vinegar (น้ําส้มสายชู)
Prepare the pork fat:
- Rub the firm pork fat with salt and lime juice, then wash well.
- Cook the pork fat covered with water starting from cold. Add a bruised lemongrass stalk to deodorize the fat; cook until is fully cooked.
- Slice the pork fat into square equal-size pieces of 1 x 1” (2.5×2.5 cm) and 1/8” thick (1/2 cm).
- Roll the cooked firm pork fat in all-purpose flour mixed with salt.
- Sieve the excess flour and set aside.
Prepare the pork liver:
- In a wok, cook the pork liver whole over medium heat. Using a skewer, perforate the liver, making couple of holes at each side. This allows the large amount of blood stored in the liver to ooze out. Collect and discard the blood as it foams up on the surface of the water. If necessary, add more water and continue to cook until the liver’s surface has darkened, it firms up to the touch, and no blood appears when the organ is pierced.
- Once the liver is cooked, remove it from the wok, and allow it to rest and cool to room temperature.
- Slice the cooked liver into the same size pieces as the fat, but slightly thinner.
- Rub the sliced pork liver with sea salt, white pepper and ground nutmeg seed.
- Set aside.
Prepare the layered snack:
- Blanch spring onions until they wilt. Discard the white parts and set aside the green wilted stalks. We will use these to wrap the pork fat and pork liver.
- Place pork liver on top of the pork fat in an alternating pattern, using two pieces of pork fat and two pieces of pork liver.
- Secure the bundles with a knot made from the wilted spring onion stalks.
- Dip in each parcel in batter and deep-fry on medium-low heat until the parcels are lightly golden.
- Serve with chili vinegar sauce.
Prepare the dipping sauce:
- For the sauce, pound fresh red long chilies with garlic.
- Season with granulated sugar and white vinegar. Cook on low heat until the sauce thickens slightly.