Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly and Eggs - Thịt Kho
Moderate - You'll be right
This recipe was created in partnership with Fairfield City Council to acknowledge the Lunar New Year.
Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs (thịt kho) is traditionally served to welcome the Lunar New Year but also consumed throughout the year by Vietnamese families. This is a dish that represents more than sustenance. It symbolises the coming together of family and the new year as a time to reflect on the deceased and wish prosperity and good fortune to those around you. Through this tradition, I have been able to witness our family’s thịt kho recipe get passed down through two generations.
My grandma emphasised the importance of slow braising, to achieve pork belly meat that is fall-apart tender, fat that melts in your mouth and pork rind that is sticky and gelatinous. My mum stressed the importance of accentuating the sweet tasting profile in thịt kho by making your own caramel as opposed to using over-processed bottled caramel. Her rationale was that the combination of canned young coconut water and homemade caramel would ascertain the sweetness required to balance your thịt kho. I firmly believe recipes are made to be changed and, in my hands I’ve created my family's third thịt kho variation.
The changes I’ve made to the family recipe revolve around the young coconut water, pork belly cooking process and the brand of fish sauce used. Growing up in a family of first generation immigrants, money was hard to come by. Mum used canned young coconut water because it was cost effective. In this recipe, I replace canned young coconut water with it’s fresh alternative. This adds a more subtle undiluted and unprocessed natural sweetness to the dish which I find better rounds off the balance of the dish. I also sear the pork belly prior to braising it, to seal in the flavour. Finally, I use Son Fish Sauce which is moderately high in fish protein and low in salt. Because of this, I am able to add almost 30% more fish sauce than grandma and mum did and eliminate the need for added MSG. As a result, the dish's level of umami is increased but its saltiness remains the same when compared to its two previous iterations.
Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs (thịt kho) can be enjoyed all year round, so do your family a favour and impress them with this recipe’s umami flavour.
1kg pork belly, cubed in 3cm pieces
1 tablespoon oil
2½ tablespoons sugar
2 young coconuts
40g ginger, halved and crushed
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
½ tablespoon anchovy salt
40ml Son fish sauce
6 free range eggs, boiled and peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt or ½ teaspoon of MSG
1 birds eye chilli (optional)
1. Blanch pork belly in hot water for 1 minute then rinse well under cold water to remove any impurities.
Duncan’s tip: this step removes and debris and impurities from the pork to give the braising liquid a clear appearance.
2. Marinate pork belly in 20ml of Son fish sauce, ¼ tablespoon anchovy salt and garlic for minimum 1 hour or for ideal results in the fridge overnight.
Duncan’s tip: If marinating overnight, remove from fridge 1 hour before cooking and allow pork to return to room temperature.
3. In a large casserole pot, add cooking oil and sugar and warm on low-medium, occasionally stirring until sugar turns copper brown then immediately add the pork belly and garlic and sauté on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes or until most liquid has evapourated.
4. Deglaze with young coconut water then add water, boiled eggs, sea salt and bring to the boil then cover and simmer on low for 2 hours.
5. Season with another 20ml fish sauce and ¼ tablespoon anchovy salt and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Duncan’s tip: Add additional seasoning and sugar to your taste at this stage.
6. Serve with freshly steamed rice, pickled baby leeks, fresh cucumber and tomato.