Five-spice pork

Five-spice pork

Leanne Kitchen

Khao kha moo, as the Thai people call this, is a dish commonly sold by local street vendors. The sweetness from the palm sugar is offset by the bracing, vinegary dipping sauce. We’ve read about and sampled many variations of this dish, even some with Coca-Cola added to the stewing liquid. We’ve opted to keep things simple here – this version reminds us of one we like from Chiang Mai. Choose fresh, meaty pork hocks, not the cured or smoked variety. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.


Quantity Ingredient
8 garlic cloves, chopped
8 coriander roots, scrubbed and chopped
or 1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground white pepper
3 x 800g pork hocks
100ml vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
125ml light soy sauce
80ml dark soy sauce
125g palm sugar, shaved
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
5 pandan leaves, bruised and tied in a bundle
650g pickled mustard greens, drained
6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Vinegar chilli sauce, to serve


  1. Combine the garlic, coriander and pepper in a food processor and process until a coarse paste forms. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook the pork hocks in 60 ml of the oil, in batches if necessary, turning occasionally, for 10–12 minutes or until browned all over. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the paste to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the pork hocks to the pan along with the cinnamon stick, star anise, soy sauces, palm sugar, five-spice powder, pandan leaves and enough water to just cover the pork. Bring to a simmer, skimming any impurities that rise to the surface, and cook over low heat for 3 hours or until the meat is tender. Add a little water if necessary to keep the hocks covered.
  4. Soak the mustard greens in water for 15 minutes and drain well, pressing down on the greens to extract as much liquid as possible.
  5. Add the mustard greens and eggs to the pan and cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender and the eggs are coloured.
  6. Remove the pork from the liquid and pull the meat from the bones, taking care as it will be hot.
  7. Slice the meat, then divide among plates with the eggs and mustard greens. Ladle a little of the cooking liquid over and serve with the vinegar chilli sauce for dipping.
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