Today is a very special day for a friend of mine, Cheryl Tan from my convent school days… I’ve known her since I was 7! She has since morphed into an extraordinary writer, food blogger and cook and today she launches her first book : A Tiger in the Kitchen – A Memoir of Food and Family. It’s been an incredible journey for her and an inspiration to me! Check it out! http://www.amazon.com/Tiger-Kitchen-Memoir-Food-Family/dp/1401341284/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293069855&sr=8-1
In honour of the book launch, Cheryl had asked me if I would contribute a family recipe on my blog, together with a community of food bloggers. I was flattered to even be asked! But then came the other problem… what do I write about? To be honest, most of the recipes I love and use time and time again, are not really anything handed down from my grandma to my mom to me… My mom is not that great a cook to be honest and the closest thing to a family recipe that I sorta picked up from her is my favourite Oxtail Stew. But even that has been massively changed by me over the years AND I’ve already blogged about it.
Then I had a brainwave! A nice Nonya recipe will do the trick. I’ve learned versions of it through the years from my dear cousin, Maddy (who incidentally taught me 70% of my culinary skills), memories of it from my Aunt Monica, whiffs of it at my grandma’s… So I did a little research and here’s a mish-mash of a few recipes/memories that resulted in a Babi Pongteh recipe with a beautifully glossy thick sweet yet tangy sauce.
Babi Pongteh – A Sweet-Tangy Sticky Version
Babi Pongteh is best made with belly pork with its strips of fat inbetween the layers of meat. But I’ve never been a big fan of pork skin or fats so I prefer to use a 40/60 combination of belly pork and a tenderloin or “dark meat” cut (in Singapore we call it “Twee Bak”). For me it gives the dish the nice fattiness and flavouring it needs with the nice bits of meat that I will eat!
Like all Nonya recipes, almost every family has their own version of Babi Pongteh. Some have it more salty, more watery, less tangy, less sweet… I like it with a stew-like consistency with a tangy caramelised sweetness, generously ladled over steaming white rice. Pretty much heaven
Sometimes when I have the time, I will marinate the pork pieces for a few hours with the sweet/dark/light soy sauce mixture (instead of just adding it to the stew).
Ingredients:500-700g Pork (cut depends on your preference but the traditional cut is the belly pork)
To be processed or chopped finely together
4 tablespoons of fermented soy beans “taucheo” - I like to use the ones with dates for extra sweetness if I can find it
1 tablespoon dark high grade thick soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoon corriander powder
1/2 tablespoon of sugar (or it can be substituted with thick sweet black soy sauce)
1 large tablespoon of tamarind pulp mixed with 1/2 cup water and strained
1-2 potatoes sliced length-wise
To give you an idea of the sweet soy sauce and the fermented soy bean paste I used:
Heat some oil in the pot and fry the chopped shallots and garlic till it starts to look limp then add the fermented soy beans (mashed up/pounded).
Once it changes colour, add the pieces of meat to it and brown the pork on all sides as you continue stirring it about in the pot….
Bring the pot to a rolling boil and then let it simmer 3/4 covered for about 30-45mins and all the meat is tender.
By this time, the sugar and potato would have helped caramelised and thicken the stew.
If it looks a bit too watery still, take the lid off and let it simmer for another 15mins uncovered.
Turn off the heat and let it cool down and thicken up some more for another 10-15mins.
Dish it up into a large serving bowl, top it with fresh chopped green chillies (to add some heat and to help cut through the richness of the dish) and serve with steamed white rice.
It’s pretty darn awesome!