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Jaw Phak Kat
• Up to 1 week in advance: Make the paste and the tamarind water • Up to 3 days or so in advance: Make the dish • Up to 2 days in advance: Fry the shallots and the dried chiles

• A Thai granite mortar and pestle

A rough Northern Thai translation of jaw phak kat is “mustard green soup,” which makes it sound rather innocuous. But it’s one of my favorites—an earthy, porky broth with a little tartness from tamarind, a perfect accompaniment to spicier fare like laap. This is Northern Thai comfort food—something grandma might make. My guess is that the dish is an old one; it requires just a pot and a mortar. The fried-shallot garnish is likely a more modern addition. The grandma in question might begin with some water. In go pork ribs and a simple paste. As the ribs simmer—typically, vigorously because this is not a high-end French kitchen and grandma does not care if the broth is cloudy—they team up with the paste and some tamarind to flavor the soup. The pork, however, isn’t the main event. As the Thai name for the soup suggests, the phak kat (a type of green vegetable we call yu choy) headlines the soup. As in a bowl of collard greens in the American South, the pork is implied. In Thailand, cooks season with toasted-then-pounded disks of fermented-then-dried soybean called thua nao kap. Here, we have to settle for Thai yellow bean sauce.

Flavor Profile EARTHY, VEgETAL, SOUR, SALTY Try It With Phat Fak Thawng (Northern Thai–style stir-fried squash), page 94,
or Laap Meuang (Northern Thai minced pork salad), page 106. Needs Khao Niaw (Sticky rice), page 33.


kaeng, tom, & co.


{Northern Thai mustard green soup with tamarind and pork ribs, continued}

PASTE 2 grams dried Thai chiles (about 6)

SOup 2 pounds pork spareribs, cut lengthwise across the bone into 2-inch-wide racks by your butcher, then cut into individual ribs (most Asian butchers sell them already cut), rinsed well 8 cups water Kosher salt

1 pound yu choy (stems and leaves), bottoms trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths 7 ounces peeled yellow onion, cut into approximately 1/2-inch-thick wedges 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce 5 to 10 dried Thai chiles, fried (page 12) 2 tablespoons Hom Daeng Jiaw (Fried shallots), page 273


1 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt 21 grams peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise 1 ounce peeled Asian shallots, thinly sliced against the grain 2 tablespoons Kapi Kung (Homemade shrimp paste), page 274

cup Naam Makham (Tamarind water), page 275 1 tablespoon Thai yellow bean sauce

Pound the chiles with a pinch of the salt in a granite mortar until you have a fairly fine powder (most of the seeds will still be visible), about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and pound to a fairly smooth paste, about 1 to 2 minutes, then add the shallots and do the same. Add the shrimp paste and pound just until it’s incorporated, about 30 seconds. You’ll have about a heaping 1/4 cup of paste. You can use it right away, or store the paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Put the ribs in a medium pot, and pour in the 8 cups of water. They should be submerged. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat, then immediately decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, skimming off any gunk that rises to the surface. Add all of the paste, stir, then have a taste (don’t worry, by the time all that water simmers, the ribs will no longer be raw). Stir in enough salt, about 1 teaspoon, to make it taste good and salty (the ribs will absorb some of this salt, and the tamarind you add later will help balance it).

Cover and cook at a steady simmer until the rib meat is tender but not so tender it’s falling off bone, about 35 minutes. Stir in the tamarind water and yellow bean sauce, increase the heat to high, and bring the liquid to a full boil. Add the yu choy and onions but don’t stir. Cover the pot and wait until the yu choy wilts, about 5 minutes. Now uncover, give the pot a stir, and decrease the heat again to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the yu choy stems are very tender but not mushy, 10 to 15 minutes. The greens will be a dull green. The onions will fall apart. Stir in the fish sauce and turn off the heat. Cooled and covered, it keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days and tastes even better after a day. Reheat gently in a covered pot. Let it cool to warm, then taste and season with more fish sauce, if necessary. Right before you serve it, break the fried dried chiles in half (or leave them whole, as in the photo at right) and add them and the fried shallots. Bring the pot to the table along with small bowls and a ladle.

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