There's no arguing that a store-bought curry paste* makes life simple. But will it also make it more fragrant and exciting, flavoursome and delicious? Well, perhaps a good-quality one will. In the meantime, try mastering this quick and easy (promise!) dry-curry stir-fry, a favourite lunchtime go-to of mine. Serve with a bowl of steamed rice and greens.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
350g pork loin, sliced into 5mm-thick and 4cm-long pieces
3 tbsp grated palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
100g snow peas, trimmed
50g fresh black fungi, torn
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
juice of half a lime
For the spice paste
2 dried long red chillies, deseeded, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes, chopped
3 red eschalots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
1 tbsp chopped galangal**
6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
6 white peppercorns, roasted and crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1. Pound the spice-paste ingredients using a mortar and pestle until you have a fine pulp – or process in a blender, adding a little water if necessary.
2. Heat a wok until just smoking. Add the vegetable oil and, when hot, stir-fry the pork in batches until well browned. Remove from the wok and set aside.
3. Add the paste to the wok and stir-fry briefly until fragrant, then add the palm sugar and fish sauce.
4. Return the pork to the wok with the snow peas and black fungi and stir-fry for a minute or so to integrate the flavours.
5. To serve, stir through the coriander leaves and lime juice.
**A good substitute is the same amount of young, fresh ginger root, chopped, with a dash of lemon juice.
Find more of Neil Perry's recipes in the Good Food New Classics cookbook.