[From September, 2012]
Our first Chefs of the Year issue is still on stands, and one of the newest faces you’ll see is that of Kris Yenbamroong, the NYU Film School alum-turned-Thai street food shaman cooking up authentic regional Thai specialties at Night + Market. Situated nextdoor to his family’s West Hollywood landmark, Talesai, the restaurant is maybe the only place in town to drink Chang beer by the TK-liter tower-full while nibbling snacks fermented pork sausages, banana-wrapped catfish “tamales,” and these pork skewers marinated in condensed milk. You know them as satay skewers, but these have little to do with the dry chunks of chicken you dip in peanutty goo. Kris’ instructions read like a crash course in Thai cooking, which we like almost as much as the snack itself.
2 cans coconut milk (1 for the recipe and a bit more for use while grilling)
1/2 can condensed milk
3/4 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp curry powder
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp thin soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
5 lbs boneless pork butt (untrimmed, with outer fat layer intact)
10 oz fatback (if you couldn’t get the pork butt with the fat layer)
6” wooden satay skewers
A cucumber or two
Satay, like Pad Thai, is one of those truly authentic Thai favorites that sometimes gets a bad rap in the American subconscious. It’s a shame because the truth is, Thais love meat on skewers. It is important to keep the pork slices small. You want to be able to finish the skewer in one large bite. The condensed milk is what makes this version of Moo Satay really decadent.
If you were able to procure your pork butt with a gorgeous creamy white fat layer around the top, slice it off with a really sharp knife and dice it into 1/2” cubes. Do the same thing if you bought fatback. Slice the pork butt into 1/4”-thick strips, approximately 4” long and an inch wide. Don’t worry about them being uniform. Pork butt is particularly hard to slice into decent-looking strips because of the fat and sinew, but that’s why I like it. I feel it is the best cut for any sort of grilled pork (most satay recipes usually call for pork loin or another lean cut). Refrigerate the fat cubes and place the pork butt strips in a large mixing bowl.
Add all of the ingredients except for the condensed milk and pork to a decent-sized saucepan and simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until bubbling. Stir occasionally.
Remove from heat and allow to cool, 20 minutes or so.
Add condensed milk and stir.
Taste it. You want it to be creamy, sweet, peppery, savory. If you feel it needs more of any ingredient, by all means, add it. Thai cooking is all about tasting and adjusting and balancing out flavors by adding complementary flavors. For example, if you feel it is too salty, add some condensed milk.
Pour this marinade into the mixing bowl with the pork and toss, mix, stir. I find that it is best to use your hands at this stage. Once the pork is evenly-coated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Skewer the fat cubes about halfway down the length of the skewer, then skewer a strip of pork. Wiggle and adjust the pork and fat cube so that the end of the pork strip hits the tip of the skewer and the other end meats with the fat.
Brush with coconut milk before grilling.
Serve with sliced cucumbers and shallots.