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Pumpkin & Pork Curry (Fak Thong Muu Krung Kaeng Phed)
1 1/2-lb. kabocha or pumpkin
1# lean pork, such as butt
2 19-oz cans of coconut milk
4-6 Tbs. red or yellow curry paste
1 1/2 to 2 Tbs. palm sugar
Fish Sauce to desired taste* optional
2 lemongrass stalks, each cut in half lengthwise, bruised with the flat of a knife
3 lime leaves (Kaffir Lime), stalked and cut into thin slivers
2-4 red hot chiles, cut into thin slivers with seeds (optional)
2 cups Thai basil leaves and flower buds
Basil sprigs for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lime to taste
If using kabocha cut in half, scoop out the seeds and pith. Cut into 1" chunks. If using pumpkin prepare much the same way using 1 1/2# of the cleaned flesh. You can peel the pumpkin or squash if you desire. I find the skin of the Kabocha cooks very tender and adds colour to the dish.
Cube the pork into bite size pieces.
Do not shake the cans of coconut milk. Place the thick part of the coconut milk into a large soup kettle and add the curry paste heating over medium-high flame. Stir and mash the curry paste into the coconut cream and fry for a few minutes until it is very aromatic and darkened in color. Then pour in the remaining milk from both cans, stirring well to dissolve the paste to make a smooth rich sauce.
Add the pork cubes, the date palm sugar, lemongrass, lime leaves stiring well to blend into the curry sauce. Gently cook until the meat is tender. Add the kabocha or pumpkin, tamp down with a wooden spoon and cook for perhaps 5-10 more minutes leaving the pumpkin/kabocha with a tiny bit of bite to it. Check it often as cooking times vary for squash and it can become mushy very quickly.
Skim off the oil floating on top of the curry sauce by tilting pan and using a large spoon to remove the oil.
Remove the lemongrass for easier serving.
Stir in the basil just until it wilts.
Serve with steamed jasmine rice and garnish with fresh basil sprigs.
This dish cabn easily be made vegetarian by omitting the pork and adding some baby bok choy or greenbeans.
** You can garnish with chile pepper flowers: slit chiles into four sections leaving them attached at the stem, place in ice water for 20 minutes and they will curl to form chile-flowers.
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