Porco Balichao Tamarinho (Pork with balichao and tamarind)
By: Annabel JacksonServes: 6
To handle their trading routes in Asia, the Portuguese merchants fixed upon Macau, a tiny blip on the bottom of China (Guangdong Province), as their trading base. When they arrived around 450 years ago, the place was virtually unpopulated, save for a few fishing families. The Portuguese arrived with wives and servants from other Portuguese colonies (Goa, Malacca and so on)…. And so was born Macanese cuisine. Put simply, it is essentially Portuguese cooking accented with Asian spices and excellent, locally available meat, fish and vegetables; and featuring non-perishables off the ships such as olive oil, bacalhau and churico.
This recipe tells that story beautifully – excellent local pork (as well as tasty local onions and garlic), local unrefined sugar blocks known as jaggery, southeast Asian tamarind and, finally, the unique Macanese fermented shrimp sauce, balichao. The irony of sharing this recipe is that balichao is almost impossible to find now (even for me) but its near extinction is one of the reasons I wrote Taste of Macau (Hong Kong University Press, September 2003) at all. The entire cuisine is in danger of disappearing.
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Portuguese olive oil for frying
1 kg pork loin cut into one-bite-sized cubes
2 tbsp balichao, fried (substitute a walnut-size piece of finely chopped Malaysian balachan)
150g tamarind pulp soaked in one cup hot water, and strained
85g jaggery (or 3oz dark brown sugar)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1. Sautée onion and garlic in a little olive oil until beginning to soften, add balichao, continue cooking for a few minutes until well combined.
2. Stir pork cubes and soy sauce together, add to the pot, stir well.
3. Add strained tamarind juice and brown sugar, add about 1 1/2 cups of boiling water to the pot, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes until the pork is tender and the sauce thick.
© Recipe copyright 2003 Annabel Jackson