Being ill is terrible. We both fell ill the day after Boxing Day and down we went with terrible colds and pounding headaches. Today is one of many with a terrible cough and I’m sure I’ll be coughing over everyone at work tomorrow (apologies in advance). Anyway, I wanted to blog this earlier but it’s had to wait until the new year (Happy new year, everyone!) until I was able to – so here it is. Leftover pork belly biryani. Sure there’s nothing authentic about adding pork (!) to a biryani but gosh it’s good and that’s how we used up the leftovers from Christmas dinner.

Leftover Pork Belly Biryani

I’m not talking about an all in one spiced rice dish but a proper biryani made of layers of curry and rice. It’s not difficult but it takes a bit of time and the result is something that feels quite celebratory. The original recipe on which it’s based is a Pakistani biryani and I’m now keen to try making biryanis from the rest of the region (I do have a Thai biryani recipe on the blog).

Inside the Biryani

If you don’t have any pork belly to hand, this would work with any leftover meat (anything from a Sunday roast would do nicely). Of course, if you have no leftover meat, add about 800g fresh meat cut into chunks and added to the curry after the garlic and tomatoes – you’ll need to adjust the cooking time, of course, to ensure that the meat is tender.

Leftover Pork Belly Biryani
Adapted from this recipe.
serves about 4-6.

For the onions
3 tbsps sunflower oil
3 medium-large onions

For the curry
3 tbsps sunflower oil
2 tbsps garam masala
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1/2 tsp turmeric
10 black peppercorns
6 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium tomatoes, chopped finely
2-3 green chillies (more or less), minced
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
about 500g leftover roast meat and other suitable things, all cut in bite sized chunks (I used roast pork belly and pigs in blankets and sauteed sprouts)
salt to taste
125 ml plain yogurt
a small handful of chopped coriander

For the rice
650 ml basmati rice, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
8 black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 small stick cinnamon
salt

To finish the biryani
1/2 tsp saffron threads
a small handful of chopped coriander

Start with the onions. Slice them finely and then fry them in the oil over medium-high heat until dark brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the curry, in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the first six spices and fry for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the garlic, tomatoes, chillies and ginger and continue cooking, stirring once in a while, for about 3 minutes. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the chopped leftover meat, salt to taste, and continue cooking, covered, for 10 minutes. Finally, uncover the pot and stir in the yogurt and coriander and continue cooking over low heat for another 15 minutes. Take off the heat and leave it in the pot.

Leftover Pork Belly Curry

Crush the saffron threads and pour over about 125ml of hot water. Set aside.

Set 1 litre of water to boil in a large pan and add all the ingredients for the rice (salt to taste). Let cook for about 5 minutes until the rice is al dente. A lot of the water will have soaked up. Drain and set aside.

Rice

Now to assemble and finish the biryani. Back to the curry pot. Take out half the curry and set aside. Spread the remaining curry in one layer. Add half the rice and spread that over the curry evenly. Drizzle over half the saffron water and mix it gently into the rice layer. Put the rest of the curry into a second even layer over the rice and finally layer over the second half of the rice and saffron water. Cover and place over low heat and allow to steam together for 10 minutes. Top with the chopped coriander and serve.

This was my first attempt to recreate a Vietnamese curry that I loved in Vancouver; however, the curry from my memories had large meatballs while this is a more traditional cà ri gà – a chicken curry. Still, it was delicious and a relatively quick curry with a short ingredient list to make on a weekday; it really helped with my curry craving that day! We sopped up the gravy with a baguette, as is done in Vietnam (so I’ve read, I’ve not been) but you can also serve it with rice or noodles.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry

I didn’t have a proper Vietnamese curry powder (I found a photo of this brand but I have no idea what is available in London)and so, on the advice I found online, substituted a very yellow (yup, lots of turmeric) Malaysian curry powder (Yeo’s brand in the packet). If you need a bit more heat, add some chili paste in but check first if you’re using a Malaysian powder – most have some chilli powder in the blend. Do make sure you give it as long a simmer as you can; too short a time and you’ll still be able to taste the raw spices.

Vietnamese Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry
adapted from this recipe.
serves 2-3.

Approx. 500g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and cut into large chunks
1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large potato (floury), peeled
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick lemongrass, left whole but smashed
a thumb sized lump of ginger, minced
4 tbsps curry powder
2 tbsps sunflower oil
160 mL coconut milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsps fish sauce
salt
2 spring onions, finely sliced
a few sprigs of coriander

Mix the chunks of thigh fillet together with 2 tbsps of the curry powder and a good pinch of salt. Set aside.

Prepare all your vegetables. Cut the potato in half and then chop one half into large chunks and cut the other half into small pieces. These small pieces will help thicken the curry.

Heat a pot over medium heat and add the sunflower oil to heat. When hot, add the shallots, garlic and ginger and saute until the shallots are soft and the ginger and garlic are fragrant. Add the rest of the curry powder and the lemongrass and continue frying for a couple of minutes.

Throw in the chicken and cook until no raw bits appear. Add the coconut milk and then cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the vegetables, add water if required (to cover them all) and continue simmering – probably another 20-30 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and the smaller bits of potato disintegrating into the sauce. As well, there shouldn’t be a raw curry powder flavour to the curry; if there is, continue simmering, adding water if it gets too thick.

Stir in the sugar, fish sauce and salt to taste. Dish out into bowls and top with the spring onion and coriander.

Serve with white rice or noodles or a baguette on the side.

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