As I shopped in my suburban grocery and noticed fresh turmeric had moved from the novelty produce to the everyday produce section, I wondered when things changed, food-wise, around me. My opinion is we are on a different path than 5-10 years ago. Cooking shows have become the new reality TV and farmer’s markets are now places to meet your future mate instead of place to score rhubarb for jam. Is this good? I am not sure. It is different though. When fresh turmeric reaches mainstream, it is safe to say we are in a vastly different place than the potato, corn, broccoli, carrot and bagged lettuce oligopoly of the produce section from a decade ago.
And once the tuber-ish turmeric moved into the mainstream section, I grabbed a couple. I had been waiting for the moment to make these Northern Thai sausages using a recipe from the great Pok Pok book since I got the book. Only I would need energy to pound the hell out of the aromatics to form the paste that supercharges the flavors of the sausages. After charring the ramps which were substituted for shallots, garlic, turmeric, and galangal, I pounded, pounded and pounded some more. Then I added fresh lemongrass, chills, kefir lime zest, and coriander root until I could pound no more. The paste was a bright orange red.
After adding the paste to the sausage mixture, I added fish sauce, cilantro, kefir lime leaf and black pepper. This was no shrinking violet. I grilled up a small piece of sausage to test the seasoning and struggled to not break into the stash that very moment.
These sausages carried colors of green, red, yellow and orange, but the brightness of color paled in comparison to the flavors which are huge. The heat is not great but the brightness from the herbs and kefir lime additions was matched by the depth of flavor from the dried chills. In Ricker’s recipe, he notes to use half pork shoulder and half pork belly to boost fat content. I had ground pork on hand, so I ignored this reminded. I’d imagine the additional fat might boost the flavor even more. While there are many recipes in Pok Pok which are great, this has been my favorite so far. The sausage is nearly impossible to dislike bright, deep and funky, it is a blast of many flavors – the food version of the wall of sound.
As I continue to shop at my white bread suburban grocery and am enabled to replicate such a great sausage, one that was previously unmakable without expending a massive time investment to find ingredients, I look forward to seeing the upcoming changes we’ll see.