This is a classic Southern, humble Vietnamese dish, eaten at weeknight dinners and also a popular dish during Tet with Banh Tet, Banh Chung, pickled Bean sprout and Green mustard, etc. It is usually made with a large quantity to last several days and tasted even better the next day.
If you travel to the country side, especially the Southern during Tet, you may get invited to make some rice paper rolls with it and pickled Green Mustard, bean sprout with some edible veggie and flowers like marigolds, etc.
Those people do not have a lot of money but they sure not let you go hungry if you stop by at anytime day or night. You will be asked with similar questions: Doi bung khong? Are you hungry? An gi chua? Have you eaten anything?. As with theVietnamese saying, “Nhin mieng dai khach duong xa, ay la com gio cho ta di duong.” which expresses a similar sentiment to the English saying “paying it forward” – I share my meal to you now and I will be fed later.
Make 4-6 servings
1.5 lb boneless pork belly, shank, butt with or without skin, cut into large chunks 1 to 2-in. cubes.
6 eggs,hard boiled, peeled
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fish sauce (squid brand)
2 medium shallot, finely mined
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups coconut water/juice from 2 young coconuts or canned coconut water or 1/2 water and 1/2 coconut water
4 green onions, thinly chopped the green part and finely chopped the white part
1 or 2 small red Thai Chili (optional)
1. Add sugar into a 4 quarts saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Stir continuously until it melts and turn golden brown color and start to have light smokey smell but not burn. Remove from heat, add pork, garlic, shallot, white part of green onion, black pepper, fish sauce. Mix well. The caramel seems sticky but it will be dissolved later easily. Bring this mixture to a boil, stir a few minutes until the pork well cover with caramel, lightly shrunken, and has beautiful golden brown. Pour the coconut water and water. Make sure the pork is covered with liquid. Bring it to a boil. cover the pot and low the heat down to gently simmer for 45 minutes.
2. Add hard boil eggs, red chili (if use), make sure the braising liquid is covering the eggs. It will flavor the eggs and give it a light brown color. Cover and simmer for about 20 more minutes or until the pork is easily pulled apart with a fork or chopsticks. Taste and season with more salt, sugar and fish sauce if needed. Garnish with green onion and extra ground black pepper.
3. Serve with cooked rice, pickled veggie like mustard green or bean sprout. During Tet, it is served with Banh Tet or serve as filling in spring rolls with pickled veggie (Banh trang cuon thit kho dua gia/cai)
My mother in- law likes to heat 1-2 Tbs vegetable oil and stir in garlic and shallot until fragrant. Then add sugar to make caramel.
Pork can be blanching first to help improving flavor: cover pork with cold water. Bring to a boil, remove and discard all liquid. Rinse the pork with cold water again to get rid scum.
In some region, a few star-anise (1 or 2) is added to the braising liquid, and thick soy sauce is used instead of caramel sauce.
The coconut water from young or mature coconut will turn into caramel color or coconut caramel if being cooked long enough.
Get the coconut water from fresh young coconut is required a large knife to cut away the top of the shell. Do not use your good knife. Then use a small knife to pierce and remove the flesh. Taste the coconut water, if it is sour or taste funny do not use. It means not fresh. Remove the coconut flesh inside by a spoon if it is thin or chop the coconut in half first, then remove the flesh if it is thick. The flesh can be eat by itself or cut into small chunks and add to the braising liquid.