Saksang : Sumatran Blood Curry

Blood and curry – it doesn’t sound like an obvious union, does it? South East Asia, land of creative, improbable, unapologetic food opportunities, begs to differ. This area of the world is notorious for putting every usable part of a food source, whether it be animal or not, to very good use.. And, trust us, blood itself has many useful attributes when it comes to food preparation.

From a culinary standpoint, using blood in this situation isn’t terribly strange. When exposed to gentle heat and treated with care, it can add wonderful body to a dish. If taken a bit further, it acts as a natural, minimally processed thickening agent. This age old technique, though falling out of fashion, can still be seen the world over, especially in areas still holding fast to culinary culture.

Saksang hails from one of these particular places, a land known for fertile soil and rich, aromatic spices. It’s a brilliant representation of the indigenous terroir – andaliman pepper, coriander, shallot, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, kaffir lime leaf, chili, and coconut cream. It’s also a testament of “waste-not” necessity, as the curry is made with the meat/organs of an animal and thickened with its blood. Conceptional credit rests with the Batak people of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The dish is culturally revered, steeped in ceremony and tradition, and often found during events of sacrifice, veneration, and celebration.

Ok.. Enough gushing. We’re excited to share our interpretation of this beautiful, fragrant curry with you. It’s just too delicious to keep a secret.

saksang4

Ingredients:
Recipe makes about 8 servings

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (makrut), center vein/midrib removed, chiffonade
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c fish sauce
  • 1/4 c cooking oil
  • 3 c stock (chicken works well)
  • 3.5 oz coconut cream
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 16 oz pork blood
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds, dry toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 2 tsp Szechuan pepper, dry toasted whole*

Curry Paste:

  • 2 c (200g) shallot, sliced
  • 1 c (100g) garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 c (100g) ginger, sliced thinly against the grain and minced*
  • 1/2 c (50g) lemongrass, white/tender parts only, sliced thinly against the grain and minced*
  • 1/2 c (50g) turmeric, sliced thinly against the grain and minced*
  • 1/4 (25g) galangal, sliced thinly against the grain and minced*
  • 2+ thai chilies, roughly chopped

Method:

blood
coagulated blood
  1. Blend and strain blood, if necessary. Add lime juice and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Bring a pan to medium heat and toast the coriander until fragrant – be careful not to burn. Remove from heat, set aside, and allow to cool. Do the same with the Szechuan peppercorns.*
  3. Grind the coriander to a powder and sift out any remaining large bits. The Szechuan peppercorns can be treated in the same manner, ground to a fine powder and sifted. If you’re particularly adverse to them, they can be left whole for easier removal while eating.
  4. Add the coriander and salt to the pork, mix thoroughly, and set aside.

    aromatics
    minced, sautéed aromatics
  5. Bring a large pan (big enough for the actual curry) to Med/High, add half of the oil and shallot, and sauté until caramelized. Add ginger, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, chili, and continue cook for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant and with some color. Remove from the pan, into a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Add just enough stock to assist with blending, if you’re having difficulty.*
  6. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and sear meat in batches until golden brown. Don’t over crowd the pan or you may steam the meat. Be careful not to burn the fond on the bottom of the pan, as this will be used to add flavor to the curry.
  7. When the meat is seared, add half of the fish sauce to the pan and let it reduce for a few seconds while stirring to coat the meat. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
  8. Add just enough stock to slightly cover the bottom of the pan and begin scraping up the fond (this stuff is flavor magic, so don’t waste it ;P).

    saksang5
    seared meat and coconut curry paste
  9. Add the coconut cream, blended curry paste mixture, kaffir leaves and (fry) simmer on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Be careful with the temperature here or you may break the curry.
  10. Add 3 cups of stock, black pepper, Szechuan pepper, the remaining fish sauce, and simmer, covered, until pork is tender, about 20 minutes. Be sure to stir the curry frequently to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan.

    saksang6
    blood mixture added to curry
  11. Add blood and lime mixture to the pan and continue to simmer gently until desired thickness, about 10-20 minutes. Again, stir frequently to prevent burning and lumps. If the curry becomes too thick, don’t fret – add more stock to loosen it up.
  12. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  13. Serve with long-grain or jasmine rice. Fresh herbs such as sliced green onion, basil, perilla (shiso), and cilantro are great additions. (Sneak some Indian lime or mango pickles in there.. it’s amazing. 🤫)

    saksang7
    blood thickened curry

Notes and Tips:

galangal2
fresh galangal root

Galangal, ginger, and lemongrass all have stringy, tough fibers going roughly in one direction. Slicing thinly against the grain will allow for them to be eaten, pounded, or blended into curry pastes more easily. Mature galangal is the worst offender, as it can be incredibly woody, so use extra care when slicing and mincing it. Blending the aromatics as finely as possible will result in a smoother texture for the curry.

galangal
galangal, thinly sliced

If you have whole dry spices, we recommend dry toasting most of them, as it will wake the oils and flavors. Avoid burning them (unless called for), as it can bring bitterness to the dish.

Andaliman pepper is the signature spice of this dish, but difficult to come by, sadly. If you can get your hands on it, then by all means, use it instead of Szechuan pepper. They both have similar citrus flavor, though andaliman is mild in comparison when it comes to the numbing properties. We’ve adjusted accordingly, for delicate palates, using less Szechuan pepper than what would be used for andaliman (we’ve seen recipes with 2 Tbsp or more). If you like more numb/tingles (like we do), add more prickly, demon pepper.

andaliman
andaliman Pepper, Jubbuh

The aromatics in this dish were sautéed before blending to coax out as much flavor as possible. It’s not necessary to do this, but the technique will soften the aromatics and assist in blending process. It makes a difference in the flavor of the end product, as well, and you won’t have to aggressively fry your coconut/curry mixture to the point of breakage.

As with the aromatics, searing the meat will add much more depth of flavor to the dish. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or burn the spices as you do this.


Sources:
https://www.tasteatlas.com/saksang
http://tastyslop.blogspot.com/2017/07/saksang-batak-pork-dish.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0UhOFSI5_U

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