Readers of this blog know of our love of markets and street food. Certain foods are more widely available on the street and one of the dishes that I especially love is Stewed Pork Leg Rice – Kao Ka Moo,. A recent Thai cook book categorized this as a Chinatown food – interestingly, I’ve seen it on streets all over Bangkok and Thailand but never come across it in Chinatown.
Although we sometimes make this at home, to do it right you need a pork leg with skin on, and a single recipe makes quite a large quantity. The skin is what really makes this dish so delicious: with the skin on, the dish contains lean meat from the leg muscle combined with the rich, fatty, gelatinous skin and fat.
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)It’s not hard to make: you essentially stew the pork leg with spices until it’s nearly falling off the bone with tenderness. Add some pickled mustard greens, hard-boiled duck eggs and then serve over rice with a hot and sour sauce and blanched Asian broccoli on the side. Usual cost is about 30 to 40 baht for a fairly substantial plate of succulent, delicious food.
There used to be a pork leg rice vendor right outside our hotel an Sukhumvit Soi 55, where I could easily satisfy my craving. Unfortunately, she now makes blended drinks and I’ve not found another nearby pork leg rice vendor, yet.This past January we were headed down south to do some snorkeling and decided to stay overnight in Hua Hin, a sea coast town on the east coast (Gulf of Thailand) about 200 kilometers from Bangkok. It’s one of the closest resort towns to Bangkok. About 25 kilometers north is Cha Am. Cha Am has always been more of a resort for Thais and Hua Hin is more popular with fahrangs (Thai word for Caucasians). Years ago we had really enjoyed the night market at Hua Hin and, since we didn’t want to miss the morning market (Chat Chai Market) either, we decided to stay overnight.
We found a hotel about two blocks from the morning market on Thanon Sasong (Sasong Road). The next morning as we walked to the market, about a half a block from the hotel we spied a street vendor selling pork leg rice from a cart and, both having an immediate Pavlovian response, walked over in wordless agreement.
This is a fairly typical street set-up that you see all over Thailand. He has a cart on wheels so he can move it on and off the streets along with a couple of (flimsy, metal) tables to hold everything else he needs. Heat is provided by a canister of gas. Seating is provided for customers by incredibly flimsy plastic stools and metal tables. Everything can be packed up and carted away in short order.
The dish was every bit as delicious as we expected. The pork was rich and tender while the pickled mustard green added a slightly sour counterpart. It was also served with a light broth with melon in it – good for clearing the taste buds after the rich pork.
If you are in Hua Hin and want to try to find this vendor, here’s how to do it. As you are heading South on Highway 4 (Thanon Phetkasem), you’ll drive past Chat Chai Market (the morning market) on your right. The southernmost boundary of the market is Thanon Dechanuchit (Dechanuchit Street) – turn right there. Go down one block to Thanon Sasong (Sasong Road) – turn left there. Almost immediately on your left is a 7-11 store: the food stand was directly next to the 7-11 store. Be warned, though, street food vendors do come and go.
For information on Hua Hin, check out Thailand Hua Hin dot com. It comes complete with maps and photos of many attractions.
This vendor does a pretty good business of selling the item to go, as well. Here we see a Thai schoolgirl picking up her lunch in a convenient plastic bag. (See our post on Thai Food To Go.)
There are restaurants that serve pork leg as one of their dishes. It’s usually served as one of many dishes, without the pickled mustard. Here’s a picture of Stewed Pork Leg served in a restaurant in Northern Thailand. We’ve also come across deep-fried pork leg, a particularly tasty treat.
Written by Michael Babcock, March 2011