This is a Thai Yai/Shan dish that one sees for sale all over Mae Hong Son, and it combines ingredients essential to virtually every local dish: soybeans (both in the form of tofu and thua nao, disks of dried soybeans), garlic, tomatoes and turmeric. However, just like any other dish, there appears to be several different ways to make thua phoo khua. My neighbour claims that thua nao has no place in the chili paste of this dish, and that she normally uses fresh chilies. The ladies selling meat in the morning market told me that I have to use thua nao and dried chilies... I've followed the latter method, combined with a recipe from a Thai-language cookbook printed in Mae Hong Son.
Regarding the other ingredients, the people here prefer the small, slightly sour tomatoes – use these if you can get them. Also, try to get the firmest tofu you can get. And in place of thua nao you could use a tablespoon of tao jiaw, the salted soybean condiment popular all over Southeast Asia and China.
Thua Phoo Khua
Chili paste ingredients:
Garlic, 2 Tbsp Shallots, 4 Tbsp Dried chili, 25 small chilies Thua nao, ½ disk
Quartered cherry tomatoes, 2 cups Oil, 2 Tbsp Turmeric, 1 tsp Ground pork, ½ cup Firm tofu, squared, 2 cups Salt
Combine the chili paste ingredients in a mortar and pestle and grind until you get a fine paste. Add sliced tomatoes to chili paste mixture and blend thoroughly.
Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add turmeric and blend thoroughly with oil. Add curry paste mixture and simmer over medium heat until tomatoes have broken up completely and oil starts to emerge, about five minutes.
Add pork and cook, stirring, until no longer raw:
Add tofu and blend with curry paste mixture. Don’t be afraid to allow the tofu to crumble, although you don’t want a mush:
If the mixture becomes too dry, add water. Continue to cook until tofu is slightly broken up and heated through, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt. People here in Mae Hong Son will also sometimes add a bit of cha om, a pungent leafy vegetable, at the end.
Serve with hot rice.