Gaeng Hung Lay Burmese Pork Belly Curry Recipe

Gaeng Hung Lay, a decadent Pork Belly Curry, is our favourite comfort food stew from Myanmar.

Traditional Burmese Pork Curry recipes feature crispy pork belly and tender pork shoulder or pork ribs swimming in a sour gravy thanks to the addition of pickled garlic and tamarind.

This authentic Pork Belly Curry from Myanmar is a traditional main course entree served from Yangon to Mandalay with sticky rice, noodles or flatbread like roti.

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What Is Burmese Pork Belly Curry?

Pork Belly Curry is a popular main dish prepared by chefs in Myanmar and Northern Thailand. It is known locally as Gaeng Hung Lay and Kaeng Hang Le.

Much like “Chiang Mai Noodles,” which are popular in Northern Thailand, this Pork Belly Curry has its culinary roots in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Kaeng Hung Le is known around Chiang Mai as Burmese curry. A homage to the origins of the dish. The name is adapted from the Burmese Hin Lay meaning “heavy curry,” a nod to the rich flavour and viscosity of the gravy. Hung Le’s origins lie in Myanmar, although the modern versions are distinctly Thai.

Pork is the most popular meat in Thailand, especially in the north, and the balance of aggressive flavours in this curry are indicative of a Thai approach to food. The curry’s ingredients vary from bowl to bowl, but the richness of pork, sourness of pickled garlic and tamarind, sweetness of palm sugar and aroma of dried spices are consistent.

While the richness of the curry can be overwhelming for some, typically other dishes help to mitigate the heavy pork curry. The hearty dish is certainly decadent, often prepare by locals for special occasions like birthdays or wedding feasts.

Our homemade Burmese Pork Curry recipe features two cuts of pork: the fatty belly and tender shoulder/butt. It can also be prepared with pork ribs or other meats like chicken.

Each province has its own regional recipe, some of which include sliced ginger, pickled garlic cloves and different amounts of soy sauce that result in the darkness of the curry. Recipes may also have different cooking times, which result in varying levels of thickness and richness of the gravy. The sourness of the curry can be achieved by adding tamarind paste or local santol fruit.

Burmese Pork Curry is usually served with sticky rice, as is customary in Myanmar and Northern Thailand, or noodles.

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Traditional Burmese Pork Belly Curry recipe ingredients.
Traditional Burmese Pork Belly Curry recipe ingredients.

Travel to Myanmar by Cooking Burmese Pork Curry at Home

I love traveling through Asia.

My first visit had me living in South Korea for a year as a teacher and it’s where I was first introduced to fermented vegetables like kimchi.

After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout southeast Asia for 6 months, visiting PhilippinesIndonesiaMalaysiaSingaporeCambodia, MyanmarThailandVietnam and Laos.

I spent a month traveling to the ancient temples of Bagan, floating communities of Inle Lake, and exploring the capital Yangon while visiting luxury hotels like The Savoy and Sule Shangri-La.

What I found most fascinating is Myanmar’s distinct regional food cultures. Much like the regional cuisines found in GermanyItaly or Spain, each town in Myanmar had its own local speciality.

Burmese curry refers to a diverse array of dishes in Burmese cuisine that consist of protein or vegetables simmered or stewed in a curry base of aromatics. They generally differ from other Southeast Asian curries in that Burmese curries make use of dried spices in addition to fresh herbs and aromatics, and are often milder and not as spicy.

Pork Belly Curry is readily available in restaurants throughout Myanmar. The comfort food dish is traditionally accompanied with sticky rice and a variety of side dishes, soup, and Burmese salads called athoke. 

It can also be paired with flatbreads like roti, a tradition clearly influenced by its neighbours Bangladesh and India.

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Prepare the Burmese curry paste in a large mortar and pestle.
Prepare the Burmese curry paste in a large mortar and pestle.

Where To Eat Burmese Pork Curry

If you live in a large city in Canada or America you’ll likely have access to a local Southeast Asian restaurant that serves traditional Burmese Pork Curry.

Haven’t traveled to Myanmar before? It may be helpful to first sample Gaeng Hung Lay at a local restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can assess the spicy heat level of the curry sauce, what type of pork cuts to use and the best complimentary side dishes to serve at the table.

In Toronto and Ottawa, popular restaurants that may serve their own unique Pork Belly Curry recipe include Popa and Rangoon Restaurant.

Cook pork belly in a hot walk until browned and crispy.
Cook pork belly in a hot walk until browned and crispy.

Gaeng Hung Lay Recipe Cooking Tips

This homemade Pork Belly Curry recipe is quick and easy to make at home.

  • Gaeng Hung Lay is typically prepared with two different cuts of pork. It always features fatty pork belly as well as pork shoulder or pork ribs. The pork belly is cooked until crispy and pork shoulder or ribs are very tender, offering a lovely textural contrast.
  • We’ve used a large mortar and pestle to prepare the homemade curry paste but you can use a food processor if you prefer.
  • The recipe includes curry powder, which is common in Myanmar as the country is sandwiched between Thailand and India.
  • If you have palm sugar use it to sweeten the curry sauce as it is traditional, or substitute with brown sugar.
  • We suggest using pickled or fermented garlic cloves in this recipe but you can also use roasted garlic. Intention is to give the curry sauce a strong garlic flavour without using acrid raw garlic.
  • We’ve used a spicy Bird’s Eye Chili to heat up the curry but if you don’t like spicy food feel free to omit. By removing the seeds you can considerably reduce the heat from the chili in the dish.
Gaeng Hung Lay Burmese Pork Belly Curry Photo Image
Gaeng Hung Lay Burmese Pork Belly Curry Photo Image

Pork Belly Curry Recipe Health Benefits

Our Burmese Pork Curry recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!

Pork is an excellent source of protein and provides several important vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of thiamin, selenium, niacin, vitamin B-6 and phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin and potassium.

Lemongrass is a rich source of antioxidants. It’s an effective antibacterial and anti-fungal agent. 

It is only recently that scientists have begun to identify the components responsible for garlic’s myriad health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals and potassium, garlic helps boost your immune system, fight cancer and protect your heart.

Shallots are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of onions can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Ginger contains at least 14 phytochemicals, many of which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a good source of copper, which supports your bones, blood and nervous system. 

Chili has been proven to help reduce the duration of sickness, prevent heart disease, and promote weight loss. 

The star component of turmeric is curcumin, a potent phytochemical that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is often prescribed in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to help relieve arthritis, aid digestion and inhibit the growth of cancers. 

Tamarind is a rich source of magnesium and contains more calcium than many plant-based foods. 

Beans are rich in cancer-fighting vitamin C, energy-boosting B vitamins, and gut-healthy fibre.

The eugenol in basil can block calcium channels, which may help to lower blood pressure. The essential oils in the herb can help to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides. Basil also contains magnesium, which can help to improve blood flow by allowing muscles and blood vessels to relax.

Serve Pork Belly Curry garnished with Thai basil and fried shallots.
Serve Pork Belly Curry garnished with Thai basil and fried shallots.

Types of Curry

In Southeast Asia, curry refers both to dishes that are made with various types of curry paste and to the pastes themselves. A wet curry is made from curry paste, coconut milk, meat, seafood, vegetables and herbs. 

You’ll find unique regional takes on the curry concept in countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Thailand is perhaps most famous for its curry repertoire featuring a multi-coloured buffet including Green Curry, Red Curry, Yellow Curry, Penang Curry and Massaman Curry.

In Malaysia Hokkien Mee and Roti Canai are popular curry options while neighbouring Singapore serves Bak Chor Mee and Seafood Laksa.

Vietnam also has a penchant for curry, which is best expressed by comfort food bowls of steaming Ca Ri Ga.

A curry base of fresh onions, shallots, garlic, chilis, ginger, and turmeric is typically used to prepare authentic Burmese curries. Dried spices such as paprika, chili powder, and spice mixes like garam masala can also be found in the ingredient list for many Burmese curries.

Myanmar’s geographic location, between India and Thailand, has influenced traditional Burmese recipes for hundreds of years. Celebrated cooks in Yangon take the finest flavours from aromatic India to fragrant Thailand and make a unique culinary impression on our taste buds.

The most common variety is called sibyan (meaning “oil returns”), which is typified by a layer of oil that separates from the gravy and meat after being cooked. The name itself refers to the cooking technique that is used.

In sibyan, the curry ingredients are simmered in a combination of water and oil until the water has completely boiled off, leaving a layer of oil that separates and rises to the top, which enables the raw and potent curry paste ingredients to properly blend and become milder in taste.

Important to note that the Burmese language does not actually have a unique word to represent “curry;” the closest approximation is the word hin, which is used to describe protein-based dishes eaten with rice. Burmese curries can be generally categorized by cooking technique, used ingredients, or region.

Pork Belly Curry is a decadent entree popular in Myanmar and Northern Thailand.
Pork Belly Curry is a decadent entree popular in Myanmar and Northern Thailand.

What To Serve with Pork Belly Curry

Pork Belly Curry is typically enjoyed as a main course entree in Myanmar, served alongside sticky rice, noodles, flatbread or salad.

If you’re planning the menu for an authentic Burmese feast you may also like to serve Shan Noodles, Ginger Salad, Fermented Tea Leaf Salad, Tomato Salad, Chickpea Tofu, Mohinga, Creamy Coconut Burmese Chicken Curry and Burmese Khow Suey Pork Coconut Noodle Soup.

If you’re hosting a large Southeast Asian-inspired dinner party, we suggest serving some of these yummy homemade recipes:

Gaeng Hung Lay keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days so store it in an airtight container.

Serve Burmese Pork Curry with rice or roti.
Serve Burmese Pork Curry with rice or roti.

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Now you're an expert on how to make the best Burmese Pork Belly Curry recipe!
Now you’re an expert on how to make the best Burmese Pork Belly Curry recipe!

How To Make Burmese Pork Belly Curry (RECIPE VIDEO)

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Burmese Pork Belly Curry

How to make Burmese Pork Belly Curry. Our traditional Gaeng Hung Lay recipe is a spicy stew featuring long beans, pickled garlic & tamarind.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Burmese
Keyword: Pork Belly Curry
Servings: 6
Calories: 729kcal


  • Wok
  • French knife
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • Mortar and Pestle
  • Dutch Oven
  • Wooden spoon


Curry Paste

  • 30 g Lemongrass thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 14 g Galangal thinly sliced
  • 7 g Dried Chilies soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
  • 45 g Shallots thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp Shrimp Paste

Pork Belly Curry

  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 lb Skinless Pork Belly cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 30 g Shallots sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp Indian Curry Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 1 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 40 g Brown Sugar or Palm Sugar
  • 6 tbsp Tamarind Paste
  • 2 cups Water
  • 30 g Ginger peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 40 g Pickled or Fermented Garlic Cloves (30)
  • 2 cups Long Beans trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
  • 1 cup Thai Basil
  • 1 tsp Bird's Eye Chili seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Fried Shallots


  • Combine the lemongrass in a mortar and pestle with salt and pound for 2 minutes until you've created a paste. Add the galangal and pound until smooth. Drain the chilies and add them to the paste with the shallots and shrimp paste. Pound each ingredient before moving on to the next. You should have around 1/2 cup of paste.
  • In a large pot or Dutch Oven over medium high heat cook the pork belly chunks. Let sear on all sides until browned and crispy. Discard rendered fat. Set cooked pork belly aside.
  • Heat the oil in the same pot over medium low heat until it shimmers. Add all of the paste, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until it's fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in the shallots and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes, then add the curry powder and turmeric and stir frequently for a minute. Add the pork shoulder, stir to coat the pork, and cook for a few minutes.
  • Stir in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Increase the heat slightly to bring the liquid to a simmer, cook until the sugar dissolves, then add the tamarind along with 2 cups of water. Increase the heat to high, let the liquid come to a strong simmer, then immediately decrease the heat to low and cover, cooking for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and stir in the ginger and cook at a steady simmer until the pork shoulder is very tender, approximately 45 more minutes.
  • Stir in the pickled garlic cloves and chili, cook for 10 minutes then stir in the long beans, Thai basil and pork belly, cook until they're tender and slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes. Let the curry cool to warm and season with brown sugar or fish sauce to taste.
  • Serve in a large bowl topped with fried shallots.


Calories: 729kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.8g | Protein: 57.2g | Fat: 41.9g | Saturated Fat: 15.2g | Cholesterol: 172mg | Sodium: 3169mg | Potassium: 646mg | Fiber: 3.1g | Sugar: 12.5g | Calcium: 185mg | Iron: 5mg

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