Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

If you’re an avid cook, I’m going to guess that you sometimes make your own stock; you may even have a quart or two in your refrigerator or freezer right now. Chances are good that it’s chicken stock, or maybe turkey. Having homemade pork stock on hand is a less likely scenario, but I aim here to change that by sharing this Thai pork stock recipe, known as nam cheua gradook moo. This clear, umami-rich stock is just as easy to make as chicken stock and it serves as the backbone (literally) to some of the tastiest noodle soups you’ll ever eat, such as guaydtiaao tom yam moo saap (tom yam noodle soup with minced pork) and guaydtiaao nam moo (thai clear pork noodle soup).

To make this stock, I use pork backbone, also known as pork spine, because it has a great meat-to-bone ratio. The meat provides flavor and the bones are high in collagen, which gives the stock body without requiring an all-day simmer. Your butcher will often have pork spine; just make sure to ask them to slice it for you on the bandsaw into 2-inch pieces. If you are unable to find pork spine, pork neck bones are a great alternative.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The first step is to boil the bones for about 5 minutes, and then drain them, discarding the cloudy boiled liquid. This is known as blanching the bones and this step removes most unwanted impurities and blood from the bones. Next, the bones and the pot both need to be washed. This might seem like a fussy extra step, but getting rid of any gunk and scum that clings to the bottom and sides of the pot as well as to the bones goes a long way toward achieving a beautifully clear broth. 

The clean bones are then added back to the clean pot, covered with water, and simmered on their own before aromatics are added. I prefer to add the aromatics later in the simmering process to preserve their unique characteristics—cooking them too long can muddy their flavor. As an added bonus, adding aromatics later on makes skimming excess gunk easier and yields a clearer soup.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The aromatics used for this Thai pork broth are similar to those used for Chinese-style pork stock. Ginger is often described in both cuisines as a deodorizer for meats like pork, a common practice in Chinese cooking. Daikon, a vegetable that is irreplaceable in this stock, helps build an important layer of umami in the stock thanks to its natural glutamic acid content. The trio of garlic, cilantro root, and white pepper is a quintessential flavor combination used in Thai dishes for centuries, and scallions provide subtle sweetness. 

Once the stock is finished, all you need to do is strain and cool it. Skimming off the layer of fat is optional but I recommend not just removing the surface fat but also saving it. Because the fat carries most of the aromatic flavor, it’s great for using as a cooking fat; try it in your next stir-fry to appreciate its savory depth.

In a large stock pot, combine pork backbone pieces with water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes and then drain into a colander set in the sink. Wash the pot and bones of any excess scum.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Return the pork to the cleaned stock pot, add 4 quarts water along with the salt, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. After 1 hour, add daikon, scallions, garlic, ginger, cilantro roots or stems, and white peppercorns and continue simmering until stock is reduced by half (about 2 quarts (2L)), about 1 hour longer. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl or second pot and let cool. If stock has over-reduced, add water to bring total volume to 2 quarts (2L). Let cool to room temperature then transfer to containers and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 6 hours. Skim off and remove any fat on the surface, if desired (fat can be refrigerated or frozen for another use). Refrigerate stock for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

Large stock pot, fine-mesh strainer,

Notes

Ask your butcher to cut the backbone; they will have a bandsaw that will make quick work of it. If you can’t find pork backbone, neckbones are a good substitute.

The roots of fresh cilantro (known as coriander outside the U.S.) provide a slight herbal note to dishes but are unfortunately hard to find in the States, as they are often removed from the stems before going to market (though local farmers’ markets in the summer and fall often have cilantro with the roots still attached). Coriander roots can also be found in Southeast Asian markets. If you can’t find the herb with the roots still attached, you can either replace it with an equal weight of tender stems or omit it altogether. And, to clarify, although they are called coriander “roots,” Thai cooks usually also use some of the tender green stems.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Pork stock can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

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