Kao ka moo is a dish of Teochew Chinese origin that is now firmly Thai. The flavour profile is salty and rich, with an underlying sweetness (although this recipe isn’t as sweet as many versions you would find in central Thailand). Classed as aahaan jan diao, or a single plate dish for one diner, this style of food is is contrary to aahaan gap kao. The latter refers to the family style serving of multiple dishes to share alongside rice.
Etymologically, the name breaks down as follows:
- kao: rice
- ka: leg
- moo: pork
Hence the dish translates as rice with pig leg. But of course it’s possible to enjoy this dish without using animals, so I use a mixture of fried tofu, TVP soya chunks, and yuba sticks. Sliced seitan or gluten mock duck is also suitable.
Traditional accompaniments include pickled mustard greens, salty garlic chilli vinegar, raw garlic, and fresh bird’s eye chillies. You can also serve kao ka moo with blanched kai lan (Chinese broccoli). The chilli vinegar and pickled mustard greens are bright enough to cut through the fattiness of the stew, which comes in the form of coconut oil instead of animal fat.
Vegan Kao Ka Moo
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 60 grams mild red or yellow chillies
- 15 grams (3 large cloves) garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2.5 litres water
- 10 grams coriander root, roughly chopped
- 5 large cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons white peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon roughly ground black pepper
- 20 grams (1 tablespoon) soft light palm sugar
- 1 tablespoons pa lo (Thai five spice) powder
- 5 tablespoons thin soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
- 3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegan oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon black soy sauce
- 2-3 teaspoons refined coconut oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 pandan leaves, knotted
- 350 grams fried tofu, cut into approximate 1 inch pieces
- 75 grams yuba sticks, snapped into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1½ cup (75 grams) large TVP chunks
- Pickled mustard greens, rinsed
- Freshly steamed jasmine rice
- Fresh coriander
- Fresh bird’s eye chillies and garlic
- Blend all of the chilli garlic vinegar ingredients to fine pieces. Heat chilli vinegar in a small saucepan for about a minute (you can skip the heating step if you prepare this condiment the day before). Decant to a heat proof glass jar.
- Use a pestle and mortar to pound the coriander root, garlic, and white peppercorns into a rough paste.
- Add the water to a large saucepan and knock the heat up to high. Add the paste from the previous step, ground black pepper, sugar, pa lo powder, thin soy sauce, rice wine, sweet soy sauce, vegan oyster sauce, black soy sauce, refined coconut oil, salt, pandan leaves, yuba sticks, TVP, and fried tofu. When the liquid boils, bring the heat down to medium low. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours.
- When you’re ready to eat, blanch of a leaf or two per person of mustard greens in the stock (for about a minute). Remove and slice.
- Dish up 1-1½ cups cooked rice per person and top with ¾-1 cup of stew (mostly solids with a little bit of stock). Top with the blanched pickled mustard green slices and fresh coriander. Serve alongside chilli garlic vinegar, raw bird’s eye chillies, and raw garlic as condiments.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 6-8 with steamed jasmine rice
- Cuisine: Thai