Moo Palo is a traditional Thai dish with Chinese origins. It’s made by braising pork belly slices in a herb paste made of coriander root, garlic, and black pepper, then simmering them with hard-boiled eggs in a sweet sauce flavoured with cinnamon, star anise, cumin, coriander seed, and Sichuan pepper. This stew has a sweet flavor profile and has a pleasant scent. Palm sugar is responsible for the distinctive sweetness of Moo Palo. Although palm sugar naturally has a caramel flavor, you may enhance it by caramelizing it in rendered lard, which gives the stew more nutty undertones and a darker hue.

I return the browned pork belly to the saucepan with the spice sauces—Thai thin soy sauce, Thai black soy sauce, Thai oyster sauce, and Thai fish sauce—along with water. Using non-Thai versions of these sauces will produce a totally different outcome because Thai black soy sauce is naturally sweeter than Chinese black soy sauce, which is on the saltier side.

Now to the eggs, moo palo is commonly served with hard-boiled eggs that have been cooked in the soup for at least 30 minutes. The purpose of this is to let the eggs soak up the flavour of the broth, but it also produces overcooked eggs, which have rubbery whites and a grey ring around the yolks. This is not what I hope to achieve with this recipe. Instead, the eggs are first cooked separately for about 6 minutes, and then I quickly peel them. When the pork is tender, I add the peeled eggs to the stew and let them steep in the flavour for 30 to 60 minutes off the heat. By doing this, they can absorb flavour without needing to cook them for a long time. You can also allow it sits overnight in the stew, it gets better.

To balance the flavour of this meal, which is rich and sweet, it’s ideal to serve it with a plain condiment that is sour, spicy, and garlicky. In this case, the condiment may be simply scaled up if you need more and comes together quickly in a mortar and pestle. The stew is terrific on its own with some steamed rice, but it also works well as part of a bigger spread.




For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • Salt
  • 6 fresh Thai red chilies, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the Stew:

  • 1 teaspoon (5g) whole black peppercorns
  • 4 coriander roots
  • 5 small garlic cloves , peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 910g boneless, skin-on pork belly, cut into 2-inch strips, then cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick chunks
  • 4 tablespoons (100g) palm sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 pieces whole star anise
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Thai thin soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Thai black soy sauce
  • 7 large soft-boiled eggs, peeled
  • Cooked jasmine rice, for serving



  1. For the Dipping Sauce: Combine garlic, a pinch of kosher salt, and chiles in a granite mortar and pestle and pound for 30 seconds, or until a coarse paste forms. Add sugar and continue to pound for approximately a minute, until the mixture is basically a fine paste (some larger parts are acceptable). Add vinegar, stir, then pour into a small basin and set aside. Get rid of the mortar and pestle.
  2. For the Stew: Peppercorns should be added and ground for roughly 20 seconds in the now-empty mortar and pestle. Add salt, garlic, and coriander roots and continue to pound for about 2 minutes, or until a fine paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl, then reserve.
  3. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until it shimmers. Add the pork belly and heat for 5 minutes, or until golden brown all over. Pork belly should be transferred to a medium bowl and left to rest.
  4. Turn the heat down to a low setting. Add the palm sugar, and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to achieve a rich golden brown caramelization.
  5. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise, five-spice powder, and reserved pepper-coriander paste; cook for about 15 seconds or until the aroma is released. You might need to remove the pan from the heat to prevent the sugar from burning. Stir the pork belly back into the pot for about a minute, until it is completely covered in the caramelised sugar sauce.
  6. Add 10 cups (2.3L) of water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, skim out any scum that forms on the top and then stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and black soy sauce. Cook the pork for about 1 hour 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking. After taking the pan from the heat, add the eggs and toss them in the sauce until they’re well-coated. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes to allow the eggs to absorb the sauce.
  7. Serve right away with cooked jasmine rice and dipping sauce.


By Elijah Hughes

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