Burmese-Style Pork, Potato and Tamarind Curry

, from Issue #37. August, 2015
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth.
Burmese-Style Pork, Potato and Tamarind Curry

This South-East Asian curry is a perfect combination of taste, flavour and texture. 

Serves: 4–6


1 kilogram boneless pork shoulder (we use Freedom Farms)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks curry leaves
2 cups water
500 grams Agria potatoes
¼ cup tamarind concentrate
½ cup coconut cream, optional
sea salt

Spice paste
3 long dried red chillis
1 teaspoon each whole coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons jasmine rice, uncooked
10 black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons each yellow and black mustard seeds
3 stalks curry leaves
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped


Spice paste: Break the dried chillis into small pieces and soak in boiling water for 30 minutes. Toast all the whole spices. Toast the rice in a dry sauté pan over a medium heat until a pale golden colour, stirring frequently. The rice must be toasted as raw rice is very hard to grind. Grind the rice in a mortar and pestle until finely ground. Remove and set aside.

Finely grind the whole seeds and the peppercorns then drain the chillis and add to the mortar with the remaining ingredients, including the ground rice and grind to a smooth paste.

Pork: Dice the pork into 4 cm pieces. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion and curry leaves until tender. Add the spice paste and cook for 3-4 minutes until fragrant then stir in the pork and turn to coat. Add the water, season and cover. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the pork is tender.

Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks. Add them to the pan with the tamarind concentrate and cook, uncovered, for a further 30 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce has reduced. Add the coconut cream if using and cook for another 5 minutes.

Tarka: Heat the oil in a small sauté pan, add all the ingredients and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the curry leaves are crisp. Don’t let the mustard seeds or garlic catch and burn.

To serve: Transfer the curry to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the tarka. 

Pantry Note
Tamarind concentrate: made by soaking dried tamarind pods in water then passing through a sieve to obtain a pulp. You can make it yourself easily from block tamarind or buy the concentrate ready-made in a jar. The flavour is sour-sweet and is used in Asian and Middle Eastern dishes in the same way lemon juice is used in Western cooking. Both pods and concentrate are readily available from Asian grocery stores and good supermarkets.