Pork in Spicy Dressing With Iced Broccoli Stems (Mu Manao) From 'Simple Thai Food'


[Photograph: Erin Kunkel]

Most connoisseurs of Southeast Asian food know that Thai salads are not often leafy, vegetable-based dishes. In fact, they are much more likely to be filled with meat and tossed in a funky, fish sauce-laden dressing. This duo of pork and broccoli in Leela Punyaratabandhu's new cookbook, Simple Thai Food, is no exception.

Lean pork tenderloin is sliced and tossed in a bit of baking soda before being quickly poached in simmering water. The soda tenderizes the pork and adds a silky exterior texture that is primed for coating in a spicy, tart sauce. Eaten on its own, the pork is a bit intense, but when served alongside cooling raw broccoli stems, it reaches a perfect balance.

Why I picked this recipe: I never would have thought to serve pork with ice cold broccoli.

What worked: Alternating bites between the pork and the broccoli was a revelation, warming and cooling the mouth for a balanced meal. The ice cubes seem unnecessary, but don't skip them—they keep the broccoli extra crisp and cool.

What didn't: Nothing.

Suggested tweaks: You can use regular broccoli stems or asparagus in place of the Chinese broccoli stems. Punyaratabandhu says that you can skip the baking soda step if you'd like, but I don't see why you'd need to skip it. This dish can be served with rice or on its own as a salad.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Simple Thai Food to give away this week.