Growing up, I hated all tubers: taro, cassava, potato, yam, etc. And since cooked hard squashes have similar texture to cooked tubers, I avoided them as well. Funny how your taste changes over time. I now love all kinds of tubers and root vegetables including all hard squashes. Kabocha or buttercup squash is my top favorite. This particular type of squash has lower moisture content which means its flesh is firmer; it’s one of the winter squash or pumpkin varieties that are perfect for Thai cooking.
This dish is one of the many dishes I was served quite often when I was growing up. I used to get yelled at for picking off the squash and eating only the meat. Even then, I knew it was the squash that made the dish more delicious; it imparts subtle natural sweetness to the curry and complements the pork very well.
- 1 pound boneless pork shoulder, sliced against the grain into bite-sized pieces
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
- 1 small (1½ pounds) kabocha or buttercup squash, deseeded and cut into 1-inch cubes, skin and all
- 2 ounces phanaeng (also panaeng or panang) curry paste (I use Maesri, but any brand imported from Thailand will do.)
- A handful of fresh Thai or regular basil leaves
- 5-6 fresh makrut lime leaves, cut into very thing strips
- Fish sauce
- Palm sugar
- In a saucepan, set over medium-high heat, heat up the coconut “head” (the thick part that rises to the top of the can) along with the curry paste, stirring constantly.
- When the mixture starts bubbling up around the edges and the coconut cream starts to separate, stop stirring and let it boil gently.
- Turn the heat up a little and add the pork.
- Stir to make sure the pork is all coated with the curry sauce.
- Add half of the coconut “tail” (the remaining thin, watery part) and bring the whole thing to a boil.
- Turn the heat down and let the curry simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes for rib meat or 5 minutes if you use pork loin, stirring occasionally.
- Add the squash and bring the curry back to a boil; turn down the heat and simmer gently for 5-7 minutes or until the squash is soft but not mushy.
- Season with fish sauce and sugar to taste (I either don't add any sugar or only a minuscule amount, as I think the squash adds enough sweetness to the dish).
- Stir in the basil leaves and makrut lime leaves; take the pot off the heat immediately. Serve warm with steamed Jasmine rice.