Recipe :: Coconut Kiam Chai Bak

24 Apr 2011


Another foray into cooking Peranakan food in my own kitchen. What is Peranakan cuisine? Check out my first installment here.

Coconut Kiam Chai Bak
Pork Ribs Sauteed with Tomato and Salted Veggie in Coconut Gravy

Serves 4

300g Salted Veggie (Kiam Chai)
500g Pork Ribs
2 Tomatoes
2 cups Coconut Milk
15 Dried Chillies
15 cloves Shallots
6 Candlenuts
3 cloves Garlic
1 inch Turmeric
1/2 Tbs Shrimp Paste
2 Tbs Tamarind Juice
1 Tbs Sugar
1 tsp Salt
3 Tbs Cooking Oil


1. Slice the salted veggie into small pieces and soak in water. Doing this will prevent the salted veggie from being too salty.

2. Slice the tomatoes into pieces. Set aside.

3. Pound dried chillies, shallots, candlenuts, garlic, turmeric and shrimp paste together. You will yield about a cup of spice paste. Heat up cooking oil in wok and fry this spice paste until fragrant.

4. Add in pork ribs. When pork ribs are looking opaque and adequately browned, add in coconut milk. Simmer until pork ribs are fully cooked.

5. Lastly, add in salted veggie, tomatoes, tamarind juice, sugar and salt. Cook until gravy thickens.

The spices on stand-by, neatly laid out on the cutting board.

Candlenuts aka Buah Keras

Salted Veggie (cured mustard green). Sometimes it comes dried so be sure to soak in water first to rehydrate.

Salted Veggie, in wet form. It is often sold vacuum-packed in green-colored brine. It is very salty/pickly, hence this recipe recommends that you soak it in water first for a short while to tone down the saltiness.

Tamarind. This is what it looks like in its natural form, but you don’t often get to see it like this in the Asian supermarkets.

Tamarind — processed and packaged. This is normally how you find it in supermarkets nowadays. Check out this great writeup on how to obtain tamarind for cooking from this block of gooey sticky pulpy mess. I just tear off a knob, soak it in hot water for a while and use the resulting juice.

Into the mortar all the spices go and pound away merrily with a pestle! Doesn’t this actually look pretty and wholesome?

The resulting spice paste after pounding (about half an hour or so).

The finished dish.

I actually liked the flavours of this dish quite a bit and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to mix coconut milk, salted veggie, tomatoes and pork. But it works! The flavours marry beautifully and I enjoyed this dish very much. :) Try making this in your own kitchen and let me know what you think.


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