Thit kho (Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Belly and Eggs) was a staple in our household growing up and just like our ca kho to (catfish in clay pot) and ga kho (caramelized chicken), each household has their own family recipe. Caramelization is a common component in each of these dishes and as you can see from the ca kho to (catfish in clay pot) and ga kho (caramelized chicken) posts, there’s many ways to accomplish that. This dish is a popular lunar new years Tet celebration dish for many families because it’s the one time of the year Vietnamese people can really indulge.
There’s a lot of flexibility to this recipe. We like to use juice from young coconuts, but for a quick substitute, use canned coconut juice or coconut soda (coco-rico brand). You can even use all water and caramel sauce or combination of half water/coconut juice/soda. Either way, they all require at several hours of braising for a soft, melting in your mouth braised thit kho with a sweet and savory broth. Yes, we think its more of a broth or consomme and not a sauce so we’ve updated the recipe to make a clear broth/consomme as possible. We love to ladle the broth over hot steaming bowl of rice. For variation, you can try adding additional spices other than garlic and pepper such as cinnamon or cloves.
To chop the young coconut, lay it on it’s side and using a good cleaver, wedge in into the coconut about 1 inch from the tip–make sure it’s nicely wedged and in a single motion, bring both the coconut and knife together and pound on the cutting board, driving the coconut into the cleaver and it will split open. Be quick and don’t let all the juices spill. (update: or get the coco-jack!)
The pork belly of the thit kho is so succulent and rich, we confess we sometimes only nibble at the fatty portion or eat half… it’s blasphemy for sure…but to help cut down on the richness and fattiness our favorite way to eat this is with dua gia (pickled beansprouts, chives, carrots and onions.) It adds a great crunch and just the right amount of acid/tartness to the sweet and savory melt in your mouth pork belly.
- 3 tbs white granulated sugar
- 2 tbs cooking oil
- 1.5 lbs pork belly or use pork butt/shoulder for leaner cut. Cut into ~1.5 to 2 inch pieces.
- juice from 2 young coconut yields ~4 cups or equivalent of boxed coconut water or coco rico
- 4 tbs of fish sauce
- 1 ts whole peppercorns
- 1 garlic head, top sliced off
- 1 red chile pepper optional
- 4-6 eggs soft boiled
- Bring large pot of water to boil and par boil the pork in some boiling water for about 3-4 min until scum is released to get rid of the gunk. Dump out the water and rinse any stuck on scum from the pork. If using same pot, rinse and clean the pot.
- In a heavy bottom pot such as a dutch oven, add the sugar and turn heat to low. Slowly gently caramelize the sugar. Do not go away, text, or instagram. Watch it carefully and it will melt and caramelize to a dark umber color, immediately add the oil and stir to stop the cooking. Add the pork and urn to medium heat and and stir coating each piece with the nuoc mau, 2-3 minutes. Then add the coconut water. It should cover the pork slightly, if not you can add more coconut water or just plain water. Add the fish sauce, garlic, peppercorns and chili pepper. Cover and braise under low heat for until desired level of tenderness. Technically done when internal temperature is 145, but you want it fork tender so we shoot for around 165 degrees or fork tender.
- Now, make the eggs. Prepare an ice bag and bring a steamer or pot of water with steamer basket to boil. We find steaming for 10 minutes is perfect but you can go lower if you like the soft gooey runny yolk eggs. Immediate cool the eggs in the ice bath and when cool, peel and set aside. Remove about a cup of the liquid from the pork braising pot and add to a bowl and add the peeled eggs to allow the color to permeate the egg, stirring occasionally for even coloring.
- When ready to serve, return the eggs and the liquid back into the braised pork. Season braising broth and adjust with additional seasoning to taste. Serve with steaming hot rice and a side of pickle veggies.