Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Vietnamese-Style Caramelized Pork Belly (Thit Kho)

Thit Kho is a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of pork belly cooked in a sauce of caramel (yes, that kind of caramel made from cooking down sugar & water), fish sauce, garlic, scallions and hard-boiled eggs. It may sound weird to use caramel in a savory dish but it's actually a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine. There are some variations that also include coconut juice and shallots, but I omitted these (along with the hard-boiled eggs) in this version. Super delicious over steamed white rice!

3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. water
1 1/2 lbs. pork belly, cut into large 2" cubes
1/4 cup fish sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. chopped shallots (optional)
3 scallions, cut into 2" sections
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 cup water
Fresno or Jalapeno chile, seeded and thinly sliced for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro or Thai basil for garnish

1. Place 3 tbsp. of sugar and 2 tbsp. of water into a saute pan or a medium wok. Bring to a boil over high heat and let simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to turn into a light brown caramel, stirring only briefly (over stirring can cause the mixture to crystalize).

2. Add the pork cubes and toss to mix; stir the pork until browned and some of the fat has rendered.

3. Stir in the chopped garlic and shallots (if using). Add the fish sauce, black pepper, and scallions and toss to combine.

4. Add 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Pour the mixture into a clay pot if you have one (otherwise, just keep it in the pan or wok). Cover and simmer for 2 hours or until the pork belly is really tender. Skim as much fat as you can from the top of the braising liquid.

5. Plate and garnish with some sliced fresh chilis, chopped cilantro and/or Thai basil. Serve with steamed white rice.

Black pepper, fish sauce, sugar, water, chopped garlic and scallions.

Pork belly cut into cubes.

Heat 3 tbsp. sugar and 2 tbsp. water over high heat in a wok or saute pan.

Bring to a boil and cook, stirring only briefly, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has caramelized to a light golden brown.

Add the pork belly and toss to mix with the caramel sauce. 
Cook until the meat is browned and some of the fat has rendered.

Add black pepper and garlic.

Add the scallions.

Stir in 1 cup of water and the fish sauce; bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture into a clay pot, bring back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, 
cover, and cook for 2 hours or until the pork is very tender.

Garnish with cilantro or Thai basil and sliced fresh Fresno or jalapeño chiles. 
Serve with steamed white rice.

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