burmese tamarind pork recipe : hsa*ba, myanmar cookbook

burmese tamarind port

This is my favourite Burmese tamarind pork recipe, robust in flavour and the meat melts in the mouth. I usually cook a large pot of this in the hope that it could be eaten over a few days, as the repeated reheating improves the flavour. However in our house, it rarely lasts more than two servings!


50g tamarind pulp
250ml hot water
2 large onions, quartered
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 whole dried chillies, soaked in hot water
120ml peanut oil
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
700g pork, cut into 3cm chunks


Prepare the tamarind first. Add the hot water to the tamarind and soak for a few minutes. Use a fork to mash up the pulp and strain through a sieve to remove any fibres or stones.

Using a pestle and mortar, pound the onions, garlic and dried chillies until they resemble a rough paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion paste for 15-20 minutes. When it has caramelised and turned reddish brown, add the turmeric and shrimp paste. Use a wooden spoon to break up the shrimp paste and stir through the mixture.

Add the pork and cook over a moderate heat until any liquid that has come out of the pork has evaporated. Keep stirring to avoid burning the onions. Pour in the tamarind liquid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes.

Check at regular intervals to make sure the gravy has not dried out. Add a little more water if necessary. Check the pork, it should fall apart easily. Season with a little salt if you wish.

serves: 4
cooking time: 60-80 mins


  1. Adrian on November 4, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Wow, this tastes excellent. Thanks for the recipe

  2. Su on November 6, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    I have a friend who doesn’t eat pork, so I use beef instead and it tastes great.

  3. Amie on November 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I followed your recipe and it came out delicious! Many thanks

  4. Mary on November 17, 2008 at 1:44 am

    This pork is full of flavour and very appetising. Delicious!

  5. Mya on January 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    This is the best ever. If I make a whole pot my boyfriend eats it everyday for every meal until it’s all gone.

    Tips: I tried using pestle and mortar but I cried like a baby because of the onions so I whipped out the good old food processor instead. My cousin cooks this dish in a pressure cooker and it is even better as if that was even possible (but all the sauce goes into the meat) so I’m thinking of investing in one myself.

    • Cho on January 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm

      Thanks for the tips Mya. Wow, I’ll have to look into getting a pressure cooker.

  6. Maung Wunna on March 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Cho

    Which part of the pork would be the best to use in this recipe?

    Thank You

    • Cho on March 4, 2009 at 7:54 am

      Shoulder cut it ideal as it is cooked for some time and will become extremely tender and melt-in-your-mouth! Definitely worth cooking in advance and reheat the next day.

  7. Maung Wunna on March 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you, I will try that.

  8. Herman Oppermann aka Min Naing on March 30, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    OK, I just bought the book in addition to Mi Mi Kaing and the book by Copeland Marks, it is wonderful, new recipes, new twists on old ones…
    The pork is one of the things I tried this weekend: wonderful!! Cooked on Saturday, warmed on Sunday, warmed again today … it only gets better!

    With rice and lentils, lentil soup, pea fritters, I only lived in Burma for three years in the 70´s but the taste, the smells – it was like coming home!

    • Cho on April 9, 2009 at 4:44 am

      Thanks for the comment, Herman. I hope you’ll have fun with the recipes. Share and enjoy.

      – Cho

  9. Casey on April 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    My boyfriend and I go to YoMa Boston all the time. It is hands down our favorite restaurant, especially for weeknights when you want to grab a quick bite. However, I want to bring the flavors of YoMa and Burmese cooking to people outside of Boston, so I’ll be using some of your recipes! Thanks so much!

    • Cho on April 9, 2009 at 4:40 am

      Hi Casey
      I’ve heard many wonderful things about Thawdar and Sai’s food. I would love to try the chickpea tofu that Sai makes by hand.

      – Cho

  10. Zin on October 21, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for the recipe that I almost forgot. My kid and my husband like it.

  11. PoorEnglishSkill on July 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Hi Cho & Mya,

    I bought a WMF http://www.amazon.co.uk/WMF-Perfect-Pressure-diameter-stainless/dp/B00008XWYR pressure cooker 4.5 L and 7L . It works well only for stews and soups. The problem with WMF is that you need to put quite a lot of water for pressure cooking and because of that meat are tasteless compared to conventional way of cooking.

    Maybe Mya can share with us on the brand name of the pressure cooker.

    Am i missing something ? Thanks.

  12. angel on August 8, 2010 at 1:38 am

    can i used chicken with that recipe as well..??
    how about if i cant find tamarin is it fine if im using tamarin powder ??

  13. Bill on April 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Hi Cho

    Is it OK to use less oil in this dish? I’m watching my weight (and cholesterol)

    • Cho on April 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

      You can reduce the oil but keep an eye on the onion paste and stir frequently so it does not burn. Once cooked, the oil will separate from the gravy and you can spoon off the oil to reduce it even further.

  14. Ruth Leader on December 28, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Fantastic. Reminds me of my childhood in Thailand. I also make a similar one with lime and peanuts.

    • Cho on December 30, 2013 at 2:08 am

      Thanks Ruth, look forward to seeing your recipe on your site 🙂