While in Nha Trang, Marcia Kiesel learned how to make this satisfying country meat stew from a wonderful home cook named Madame Phai. The key ingredient in the stew is purple taro root, a vividly colored variety of this starchy, slightly sweet root vegetable. If you can't find it at an Asian market, substitute ordinary taro root or purple or yellow potatoes.
More Hearty Stews
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups water
1 pound taro root, preferably purple, or 1 pound purple or yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
3/4 cup diagonally sliced garlic or onion chives
How to Make It
In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add half of the pork at a time, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring once, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the saucepan. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce, increase the heat to high and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the sliced taro and the browned pork and its juices.
Simmer the stew over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pork and taro are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the garlic chives. Let the stew stand for 5 minutes before serving.
The pork stew can be made one day ahead and refrigerated. Gently rewarm the stew and stir in the chives shortly before serving.
Madame Phai would probably be surprised, but a robust red Zinfandel actually pairs amazingly well with her hearty stew, especially one from Napa Valley.
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