I have an aunt who just cannot take coconut milk. Not that she doesn't like the taste, she somehow gets a tummy ache every time she takes it .... kinda like lactose intolerance,... you get the picture. But she, being a true nyonya, loves her curries and chillies too much to give up on them. I'm not too sure of my facts, but I believe she came up with this recipe all by herself and it became a great family favorite.
The die-hard nyonyas will have my head for cooking a curry in a slow cooker. Yes, I agree the aroma from the saute-ing of the ground ingredients may be lacking but I still think it tastes pretty good. You can always add in this step if you're a nyonya die-hard. Me, I'm a save-some-time
die-hard. Well, perhaps that might not be too true either, since there are periods when I'd do recipes "from-scratch". Fickle minded, that's me. But for now, it's save-some-time curry.
500 g pork soft ribs / short ribs
8 - 10 fresh red chillies (this can be adapted to your preference)
4 onions, cut into wedges / 10 shallots (the more onions the thicker the gravy)
1/4 cup tamarind paste plus enough water to make about 1/2 cup thick juice
1/2 - 3/4 tbs shrimp paste granules / belacan granules
1/2 tbs pork stock granules (you can use chicken stock as well)
1/2 tsp sugar or to taste
1 cucumber, halved length-wise and then cut into wedges
soy sauce, to taste
If you prefer a less spicy curry, remove the seeds and white membranes of half the amount of the red chillies.
Add these together with the onions / shallots, tamarind juice and shrimp paste granules in a blender or food processor. At this point, it's up to you if you prefer your curry to have a smooth or coarse texture. Puree the mix until the desired consistency. (We prefer it to be not overly smooth).
[Should you decide to saute the paste for that authentic nyonya-ness, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a pan and saute the paste for a minute or so until fragrant. But you might need to add a little extra liquid (tamarind juice/water, about 1/4 cup) in the slow cooker as the paste would be drier.]
Plonk ground chillies mixture and pork ribs into a slow cooker. Add in stock granules and stir to mix. You don't need to add any additional water (unless the paste was sauteed) as the juices from the meat and eventually the cucumbers will make it just perfect. Cook on high for about 3 hours.
Taste to see how much sugar or soy sauce you need to add in and also if you need to add more tamarind juice** if it's not tart enough. Toss in the cucumber wedges and cook for another hour or 2 or until the cucumbers are soft but not mushy*.
*Note: My aunt likes to add the cucumbers right at the beginning since she likes it all soft and mushy. I like mine with a little bite.
** The tartness depends a lot on each batch of tamarind. Adjust to taste.
Serve with fluffy white rice.