Pork and Pumpkin Stew

Wak Gominda with basmati rice.

Gominda Wak with basmati rice.

Perfect for an autumn meal: this is Gominda Wak (literally: “pumpkin pork,” also sometimes “Wak Gominda”), a hearty traditional stew from the Garo people in northeastern India. It’s a wonderful pork and squash dish that I was introduced to by my Garo friend, who helped prepare it here. It’s surprisingly simple – only 5 ingredients!

Wak Gominda ingredients.

Wak Gominda ingredients.

Ingredients, here for 6-8 generous servings:

  • Boneless pork; here we used about 3 pounds pork loin; a marbled pork roast might be preferred; it need not be this lean.
  • Pumpkin or other squash, a couple pounds; we used about 2/3 in total of the acorn, butternut, and buttercup squashes shown.
  • Chilis, e.g., 8-10 of the thai chilis shown here.
  • Baking soda, about 1/2 teaspoonful.
  • Salt, to taste.
  • Basmati rice, to accompany the stew when serving.

To prepare:

First, rinse, peel, and remove seeds/guts from squash to prepare it for cubing.
I do not endorse my friend’s peeling technique! Use a vegetable peeler if you can. :)

Peel the squash.

Peel the squash.

Cut the pork into large bite-sized pieces, trimming any gristly fat, but leaving some fat for cooking.

Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.

Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.

In a large pot, beginning cooking the pork pieces over medium-low heat with fat or oil, as necessary to keep it from sticking.

Begin with the cubed pork, over medium-low heat.

Begin with the cubed pork, over medium-low heat.

Cover the pork, simmering over low heat, stirring occasionally until fat renders and some water is released and cooked until white, i.e., at least mostly cooked through.

Simmer the pork, covered.

Simmer the pork, covered.

While pork is cooking, remove the chili stems and cut the chilis lengthwise, just once so that their seeds can be released and they will disintegrate while cooking.  Also, cube the squash.

Baking soda and sliced chilis.

Baking soda and sliced chilis.

Once the pork is cooked, add the soda and chilis, then stir.

Add baking soda and chilis to cooked, stewing pork.

Add baking soda and chilis to cooked, stewing pork.

Next, add the squash and a bit of salt, and then stir, so that meat is no longer on the bottom (to prevent burning).
Increase heat to medium or medium-low, then cover and stir occasionally.

Add cubed squash to pork mixture.

Add cubed squash to pork mixture.

When lightly boiling in the water released from pork and squash, reduce to low heat and simmer slowly, perhaps 1/2 hour, until squash is soft enough to disintegrate.
If necessary, add water sparingly, so that it boils but remains somewhat thick in consistency.

Pork and pumpkin stewing.

Pork and pumpkin stewing.

Stir and use a spoon to squash any whole squash cubes. Taste for spiciness (it will likely be quite spicy with 8-10 thai chilis) and salt, and adjust as you like.

You’re done!  Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!

Pork and Pumpkin Stew served over basmati rice.

Pork and Pumpkin Stew over basmati rice.

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Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I should really come up with names for my dishes well before I go to post them. Tonight I spent half an hour on this one, only to arrive at “Thai-inspired Peanutty Rice Noodles with Catfish, Okra, Acorn Squash, and Onions,” … way too long.

This may seem like an asian-creole fusion dish, but it’s not since both okra and this catfish (I used Pangasius) are common to asian cooking.  Anyway, the dish is a rather nice mix of catfish, vegetables, and rice stick noodles (banh pho) with a sweet sauce including acorn squash, coconut cream, and peanut butter.

I apologize for the horrible state of the following “recipe,” but I didn’t measure anything and I’m apparently in a narrative mood; you’re probably not going to make this anyway. (That there is what’s called a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”)

First I soaked dried banh pho noodles in water to soften them. Then I baked a small acorn squash, halved with “guts” removed placed in shallow water in a baking dish, for 40 minutes in a 375° F oven.

Meanwhile, I prepared the rest of the sauce: a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, peanut butter, and coconut cream. When the acorn squash was cooked, I scooped it from the skin and mixed it completely into the sauce with a wisk.

In a large pan with canola oil, I fried the catfish (thawed from frozen) and onion strips (thinly cut from half a large yellow onion). Once those were mostly cooked, I reduced the heat, added sliced okra (defrosted from frozen) and fresh thai bird peppers. Once the vegetables were warmed, I added the sauce (~2 cups total) and added the drained noodles to the pan, stirred carefully, and simmered until desired consistency.

I served the dish topped with cilantro leaf and chili garlic sauce.

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

Okra and Catfish Rice Noodles

I couldn’t find any precedent for this dish in my cursory search for Internet recipes.
Many thai dishes have catfish and others have noodles, but apparently the two don’t usually touch. If you’re familiar with one, please let me know. :)

Spicy Curry with Catfish

Spicy Curry with Catfish

Tonight I made a hot curry spiced with one fresh habanero chili.

This curry was prepared similarly to an earlier curry, with garam masala, cumin powder, toasted cumin seed, turmeric, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon, a spicy chili powder, a thinly-sliced fresh habanero and these vegetables and fruits: onion, garlic, red potatoes, acorn squash, apple, eggplant, rainbow chard, a yellow tomato, and cilantro. I also added a can of coconut milk, some honey, and peanuts. The large catfish fillet was splashed with lemon juice, seasoned with salt and pepper and pan-fried in canola oil, then divided into smaller pieces to serve.

I’ve definitely overcome my aversion to cooking things with very many ingredients since this dish has more than twenty-five!

Squash, Potato, and Chard Curry

Squash, Potato, and Chard Curry

This is one of the first Indian-style foods that I’ve made – a vegetarian dish that is both spicy and sweet; its inspiration was simply to make use of the fresh vegetables at hand and the Garam Masala I’d bought a couple months ago but had yet to use. :-)

Starting with one acorn squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds, but do not remove the squash peel; the peel will keep the squash from disintegrating during cooking, yet will become tender enough to eat. Cube the squash into approximately 1″ pieces and one medium potato to about 3/4″ pieces, and one coarsely chopped tomatillo. First, toast about two tablespoons of cumin seed in a pan (large enough to hold all ingredients), and remove them from the pan. To the pan, on medium heat, add a few tablespoons of canola or other oil and return the cumin seeds to the pan. Then add a coarsely chopped red onion and sauté it until the onion begins to turn translucent. In a mortar or bowl, mix four crushed garlic cloves, a finely chopped jalapeno and thai pepper (both with seeds), perhaps a teaspoon each of these spices: garam masala, turmeric, ground ginger, ground cloves, curry powder, and make it into a paste by stirring in about a quarter cup of water. Next add the squash, potato, and tomatillo to the pan and thoroughly stir in the spice paste, then cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and simmer on medium-low heat until the squash and potato is tender – about 20 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes to check tenderness and add a bit of water as necessary to prevent burning. Lastly, add chopped green swiss chard, and cook for a few more minutes until the chard is cooked tender.

Serve over rice cooked with cumin seed. Enjoy!
I like this with tzatziki too; that’s arguably very similar to raita (Indian yogurt sauce), e.g., http://www.phamfatale.com/id_1846/title_Cucumber-Raita-Indian-Yogurt-Recipe/

I took some hints from the following recipes:
“Vegetable Masala”: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/vegetable-masala/detail.aspx
“Rava Dosas with Potato Chickpea Masala”: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Rava-Dosas-with-Potato-Chickpea-Masala-356035
“Acorn Squash Masala Fry”: http://yummyodds.blogspot.com/2011/01/acorn-squash-masala-fry.html

Sourdough Bread Pizza and Acorn Squash with Swiss Chard

Sourdough Bread Pizza and Acorn Squash with Swiss Chard

Thanks to a visit to my friend’s community garden plot, I got some great veggies! Here I used the fresh oregano and sun gold tomatoes to make a sauce for the pizza topped with fresh basil; green swiss chard is mixed with the squash that had been on my countertop for at least 6 months!

Related: http://nancysgarden.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/sungold-cherry-tomatoes-are-a-must-grow/