Serves 6 to 8.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ground pork
3 tablespoons tamarind juice
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons peeled, finely chopped ginger
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted and coarsely ground
1 bunch (40-50 leaves) Chinese spinach or other smooth, flat-leaved spinach (optional)
Cilantro sprigs and sliced red bell pepper, for garnish (if not using the spinach)
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the garlic and shallots until crisp and brown but not burned, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
In the same pan, brown the pork, breaking it apart as it cooks, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tamarind juice, sugar and salt. Stir in the fried garlic and shallots and the ginger. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes more, or until the liquid has almost evaporated. Stir in the peanuts. Remove from the heat and set aside.
If you want to make little packets, dip the spinach leaves in boiling water to blanch and lay out on a towel to drain. Place a teaspoonful of the pork mixture in the center of each leaf, and fold over both sides of the leaf and then fold the top and bottom over. Arrange seam side down on a platter. If you decide to forgo the packets, put the pork mixture in a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro and red peppers. Serve warm or at room temperature with rice.
Recipe excerpted from The Elephant Walk by Longteine De Monteiro (1998)