Vietnamese Braised Caramelised Pork – Thit Kho
Thit Kho Trung is a beloved dish in Vietnamese cuisine, often directly translated as Vietnamese Braised Caramelized Pork with eggs. This hearty and savory dish is comprised of succulent pieces of pork belly that are carefully caramelized and braised in a combination of coconut water and fish sauce. The process of slow cooking allows the flavors to seep into the meat, resulting in a dish that is rich in flavor and tender to the bite. Coupled with the addition of hard-boiled eggs, Thit Kho Trung provides a comforting balance of sweet and salty flavors, making it a favorite at family gatherings and traditional celebrations.
The melt-in-your-mouth meat is perfect when paired with a bowl of hot rice. The recipe is not at all complicated, let’s dive into it.
Choosing Quality Pork
When it comes to making Thit Kho Trung, the quality of your pork is crucial. Opt for fresh pork belly with a good balance of lean meat and fat – the fat will render down during the slow cooking process, contributing to the dish’s rich flavor. The meat should be firm to the touch, with a light pink color and a little marbling.
Alternatively, you can also choose other boneless cuts of meat. However, for the optimum taste, choose cuts that have a 3:7 ratio of fat to lean meat. This ensures that the meat remains tender, juicy, and avoids becoming dry during the cooking process.
Ingredients You Will Need
For this traditional Vietnamese dish, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 1 kg pork belly
- 10 hard-boiled eggs
- 1.5 cups of coconut water
- 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 5 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 green onion, chopped for garnish.
- Chili peppers (optional)
These ingredients are essential in achieving the flavorful, savory dish that is Thit Kho Trung. Now, let’s move on to the cooking process.
- Begin by soaking the pork belly in saltwater. If necessary, gently scrub with coarse salt to ensure the meat is clean. Afterward, allow the meat to drain and then cut it into chunks.
- Next, marinate the pork with fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of sugar, black pepper, shallots, and minced garlic. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to allow the meat to absorb the flavors.
- During the marination time, start boiling the eggs. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and gently add the eggs. High heat can cause the eggs to crack, and remember to boil the eggs with a bit of salt.
- Boil the eggs for about 7-8 minutes, then carefully remove them from the hot water and immediately plunge them into a bowl of cold ice water. This sudden temperature change makes the eggs easier to peel. Once they’re cool, peel the eggs and set them aside.
- Now, take a pot and begin caramelizing the sugar. Add about 3 tablespoons of sugar into the pot, turn on the heat, and let the sugar melt without stirring. When the sugar turns a brown color, pour in 1-2 tablespoons of water and stir well.
- Next, add the marinated pork into the pot. Stir it evenly for about 5 minutes until the pork firms up.
- Then, pour in the coconut water, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 40-50 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking and to prevent the pork from sticking to the pot.
- If the liquid reduces during the cooking process, feel free to add more water. Afterwards, add the hard-boiled eggs into the pot and let it simmer for another 5-6 minutes. And remember to taste your dish and adjust the seasoning as necessary
- Lastly, turn off the heat. Your delicious, savory Thit Kho Trung is now ready to serve. Sprinkle some chopped green onions on top for garnishing before serving.
Some Helpful Tips
Dealing with the Pork’s Odor
Some individuals might be sensitive to the distinctive smell of pork. If you’re particularly sensitive to the scent, you can briefly blanch the meat. Parboil the pork for about 2-3 minutes in boiling water with some shallots and garlic to help neutralize the odor. This step, while not necessary for everyone, can make the dish more pleasant for those sensitive to the smell of pork.
Substituting Coconut Water
If you’re unable to find coconut water or simply prefer not to use it, there are a few alternatives that you can consider:
- Chicken Broth: Chicken broth can be a great substitute for coconut water in Thit Kho Trung. It will give your dish a savory flavor that pairs nicely with the pork.
- Coco Rico Soda: This is another fantastic alternative. Coconut soda can add a slightly sweet flavor to the dish, balancing out the savory notes of the pork and fish sauce. It’s widely available in most grocery stores or Asian markets. However, be mindful of the sugar content in the soda as it may affect the overall taste of the dish. You might want to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe if you opt for coconut soda.
Determine When the Meat is Cooked
Determining the doneness of the pork in Thit Kho Trung can be challenging, especially if you’re new to Vietnamese cooking. However, there are a few universal indicators you can look for:
- The Texture: The pork belly chunks should be tender to the point that they can easily be pierced with a fork. If the fork meets resistance, it’s likely that the meat needs more time to cook.
- The Color: Cooked pork often has a white or pale pink color. If your pork is still displaying a bright pink or raw-like color, it may need additional cooking time.
- The Cooking Time: While the exact cooking time can vary depending on the size and thickness of your pork belly chunks, a typical Thit Kho Trung recipe requires a slow simmer for about 40-50 minutes. If you’re still unsure, allow it to cook a little longer – slow-cooked dishes like this are forgiving, and a bit of extra cooking time can often enhance the flavors.
What to Serve with Thit Kho Trung?
Thit Kho Trung is a versatile dish that pairs well with a variety of sides. Here are a few suggestions:
- Rice: This is the classic pairing for Thit Kho Trung. The savory and slightly sweet pork belly and eggs perfectly complement the subtle flavor of steamed jasmine rice. In fact, in many Vietnamese families, Thit Kho Trung and rice is a staple combination.
- Pickled Mustard Greens (Dưa Cải Chua): The tangy flavor of these pickled vegetables offers a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory pork and eggs. This also helps balance out the richness of the dish and leaves your palate feeling refreshed.
- Stir-Fried Vegetables: For a healthier meal, pair your Thit Kho Trung with stir-fried vegetables. You can choose any vegetables you prefer, but common options include bell peppers, bok choy, mushrooms or broccoli.
Remember, the best side for Thit Kho Trung largely depends on personal preference. Feel free to experiment with different combinations and find the one that suits your taste best.
Storing and Reheating Thit Kho Trung
Thit Kho Trung is an excellent dish to make ahead of time as it stores well and its flavor even improves after a day or two.
After cooking, allow your Thit Kho Trung to cool down to room temperature. Never place hot food directly in the refrigerator as it can raise the overall temperature, potentially putting other food at risk. Once cooled, transfer the dish into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. Properly stored, it should last for about 3 to 4 days.
When you’re ready to eat, reheat the Thit Kho Trung on the stove over medium heat. Allow the dish to simmer for a few minutes until it’s heated through. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave. Be sure to stir the dish to ensure even reheating.
If your dish seems a bit dry during reheating, feel free to add a little water or broth to help rehydrate the meat and keep it juicy. Remember to always reheat only the amount you plan to consume and avoid repeated reheating to maintain the best texture and flavor.
If you want to store your Thit Kho Trung for a longer period, you can also freeze it. Once the dish has cooled, transfer it to freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Thit Kho Trung can be frozen for up to 2 months without significant loss of flavor or texture. When you’re ready to eat, thaw the dish in the refrigerator overnight and reheat as described above.
Thit Kho Trung is a beloved Vietnamese dish that’s full of flavor and savory goodness. Whether you’re looking for a delicious meal or simply want to impress your family and friends, this traditional delicacy is sure to be a hit. With its simple yet flavorful ingredients, it’s easy to understand why Thit Kho Trung has been popular for centuries, and why it continues to be a favorite today. With the help of these tips, you can easily whip up this delicious dish in your own kitchen! Enjoy!
Can I Use Quail Eggs Instead Of Chicken Eggs?
You can use quail eggs as a substitute for chicken eggs in Thit Kho Trung. Quail eggs are smaller and have a slightly richer taste, which can add a unique touch to the dish. If you opt for quail eggs, remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly as they will cook faster than chicken eggs.
Are There Other Vietnamese Braised Dishes?
Indeed, Vietnam’s culinary scene offers several other braised dishes that are well worth exploring:
- Thịt Kho Tàu (Braised Pork with Coconut Water and Eggs): Similar to Thit Kho Trung but often includes tofu and a different cut of pork. It’s a typical dish during the Tết holiday in Southern Vietnam.
- Gà Kho Gừng (Braised Chicken with Ginger): This dish features chicken marinated in fish sauce and simmered with caramel sauce and ginger. It’s often served with rice.
- Cá Kho Tộ (Braised Fish in Clay Pot): Typically made with catfish and caramel sauce, this dish is a Southern Vietnamese classic. The fish is slowly braised until it’s tender and infused with the flavors of the sauce.
- Đậu Hũ Kho Tộ (Braised Tofu in Clay Pot): A popular choice for vegetarians, this dish features tofu braised with mushrooms in a flavorful sauce.
Each of these dishes showcases the depth and richness of Vietnamese cuisine, with complex flavors developed through slow, careful cooking. You’re sure to find a new favorite among them!
I’m Godfrey Jensen, CEO and head chef at Lapps Meats. We’re a top-quality butcher with over 70 years of experience. Our goal is to provide our customers with the best, freshest products possible. We take our food seriously, and we love serving the community by providing them with quality meat products.