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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Moo Sadoong (Startled Pig) #FoodiesReads

I was reminded - too late - that I really don't care for this author. I had read Friends in Napa by Sheila Yasmin Marikar and didn't register that The Goddess Effect was also by her. Honestly, I wouldn't have picked up the book if I had realized. But I read it, so I headed into the kitchen and made a dish to share.

On the Page

Anita leaves New York for Los Angeles and discovers an elite workout class called the Goddess Effect. I am not going to say too much because the characters are unlikable and the story is just awful. I will definitely not be picking up any more of her novels.

But there were some food references...

I do agree that birria is life-changing! "'We all have our nights. Jayson and I are gonna check out this taco truck. Wanna come? Patented hangover cure. This birria will change your life.'" I have shared my Quesabirria Tacos.

At the retreat, Anita mentions food that sounds exactly like what you would think would be served at a healthy retreat. And none of it sounded appetizing to me! "I woke up starving. The agenda said that the catered breakfast on the Chumash Terrace would include carob-studded pea protein bites, grain-free parsnip oatmeal, and edible nasturtiums from a local farm that paid its undocumented workers a living wage." I have used nasturiums for beautiful garnishes, but I have made Oil-Cured Fromage Blanc-Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves.

On the Plate

But what sent me into the kitchen was a passage about an evening at Stacy's house with her Thai cook, Kris.

"Kris was setting down a plate of neither chips nor guac nor crudités. 'I thought you might enjoy some traditional moo sadoong, grilled pork—' 'With basil, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, cilantro, onions, rice powder, chili, and garlic? Yes we would, Kris. How did you know that I was also craving some spicy Thai?' Stacy exclaimed. 'Next time, tom yum, promise?' 'As you wish, Stacy,' Kris said with a wink."

Moo sadoong - "startled pig" - is one of my favorite Thai dishes. It has so much flavor! I have been making a version that I adapted from Kris Yenbamroong's cookbook Night + Market: Delicious Thai Food to Facilitate Drinking and Fun-Having Amongst Friends.

The first time I served it to friends, one of them asked, "What's with the name?" Yenbamroong writes that it's a loose translation with the idea that you're heaping so many aggressive tastes onto the meat that you are startling the pig. This dish was so flavorful - spicy, tart, and smoky. I can't wait to try it again. But, like all of the recipes in this book, there are definitely ingredients you'll need to make yourself or find at an Asian market; even my eclectic pantry didn't have everything needed for many of these recipes. And still, I substituted for things I couldn't locate and didn't have time to make.


serves 8

  • 2 pounds pork shoulder steaks, cut to 3/4" thick

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon ground pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon chili garlic paste

  • 6 Tablespoons fish sauce

  • 2 teaspoons organic granulated sugar

  • 4 Tablespoons oil, divided

  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder

  • 4 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and pressed

  • 4 Tablespoons thinly sliced lemongrass

  • 1 Tablespoon chile flakes

  • 1 cuptorn Thai basil leaves

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

  • 4 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

  • Also needed: cast iron skillet or grill pan


Preheat cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat. In a shallow, rimmed bowl, place the pork and sprinkle it with ground pepper. Drizzle it with soy sauce. Whisk together the garlic paste, fish sauce, sugar, 2 Tablespoons oil, chili powder, garlic, lemongrass, and chile flakes. Rub half of the paste onto the pork.

Once the skillet is smoking, place the pork, paste-side down. Cook until well-charred on the bottom. Rub the other half of the paste onto the top and flip it over. Once the pork is well-charred on both sides, remove it from the pan. Put the meat on a cutting board or serving platter and divide the basil leaves and fresh cilantro between the steaks. Slice into strips and drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons oil and lime juice over the top. Serve immediately with steamed rice or coconut sticky rice.

I am adding this to the May #FoodieReads link-up.

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1 Comment

Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
May 26

This does sound delicious Cam and yes, she is an awful author in my opinion as well.

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