Filipino Turmeric-Scented Pork Stew

This image courtesy of Mark T. Shapiro

Another simple homestyle dish from the northern part of the Philippines, this vinegar-based stew has an unusual, delicate flavor and a pleasing color. It’s a cinch to put together and cook. The only somewhat unusual ingredient, chayote squash, is often available at regular supermarkets and always available at Asian, Caribbean and South American grocers. It can be replaced with another green-fleshed squash, such as vegetable marrow or zucchini, or green papaya, but these will not provide the same uniquely light taste and texture. Chayote squash is most easily peeled by first cutting into fourths or sixths lengthwise and then peeled and cored.

NotesFresh turmeric root is often available at Southeast Asian or Indian grocers. It has a very raw taste and is best dry-roasted before using. To use here, first toast 1 ¼ tsp (6 mL) very thin slices of turmeric in a dry pan over medium heat until color darkens and the slices become fairly dry; it should be extremely fragrant by then. Either first pound into a powder or add slices directly to the stew.

Inexpensive pork butt or shoulder is the best cut for the stew, but leaner leg meat (fresh ham) can be used.

Use a mild, light-colored vinegar; if you are able to purchase native Filipino palm or nippa sap vinegar, use it here.


Serve with rice.


Cooking Methodstewing



Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationdiabetic, egg-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low carb, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free


Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, meaty, savory, spiced


  • 1 ½ lbs (750 g) pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1 ½-inch (4 cm) cubes
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) minced ginger root
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) minced garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves or ¼ tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
  • 2 2-inch (5 cm) pieces Asian cinnamon stick or cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) ground turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) black pepper
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) fish sauce or 6 finely chopped anchovies mixed in 2 tbsp (25 ml) water
  • ½ cup (125 ml) small whole shallots or pearl onions (optional)
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups (250 to 375 ml) peeled, cored and cubed chayote squash or green papaya or another green-fleshed squash
  • 1 cup (250 ml) green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 ¾ tsp (9 ml) cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp (10 ml) water
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) finely chopped Chinese celery or regular celery
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) finely chopped mint or parsley (optional)


  1. In a saucepan combine pork, vinegar, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon and shallots, if using; mix well. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. 2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook 45 minutes or until meat is tender. Stir in squash and fresh peas, if using; cook, covered, 10 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir in frozen peas, if using; cook 1 minute longer. Bring to a boil and stir in cornstarch mixture; reduce heat to simmer and cook 1 minute. Stir in celery; cook 20 seconds. Serve garnished with mint or parsley, if desired.


  3. For a slightly different flavor, first brown shallots or pearl onions in 1 ½ tsp (7 mL) oil; remove from pan and lightly brown pork pieces, then add garlic and dry spices; cook 30 seconds, add other ingredients and return shallots or onions to the pan and proceed as above.


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