Caramelised Pork Belly (Thit Kho) recipe

Caramelised Pork Belly (Thit Kho) recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Ingredients
  • Meat and poultry
  • Pork
  • Cuts of pork
  • Pork belly

This dish is very popular in Vietnamese households for everyday eating but is also traditionally served during Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. The longer you cook the pork belly, the more tender it becomes.

30 people made this

IngredientsServes: 6

  • 1kg pork belly, cleaned and cut into 3cm pieces with layers of skin, fat and meat
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 5 shallots, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • black pepper
  • 375ml coconut water
  • 6 hard boiled eggs

MethodPrep:15min ›Cook:1hr ›Extra time:10min resting › Ready in:1hr25min

  1. In a large wok, heat the sugar over medium heat until it melts and caramelises into a light brown syrup. Don't let it burn! Add the pork and raise the heat to high. Stir and cook to render some fat then add the shallots and garlic.
  2. Add the fish sauce and black pepper to taste and stir to evenly coat the meat. Pour in the coconut water and bring to the boil. The liquid should reach about 3/4 way up the meat.
  3. Add the eggs and simmer covered over low heat for at least 1 hour, until the pork is tender. Check occasionally that the liquid doesn't evaporate too much. Add water a little at a time if the sauce is drying out.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the dish stand for at least 10 minutes. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and serve with rice.

Cook's tip

If you make this dish ahead, the fat will congeal on the surface making it easier to remove it, and a little healthier! This also allows the flavours to meld a little more.

Coconut water

100% pure coconut water, like Vita Coco, is available online or in some Whole Foods, Holland and Barrett and Waitrose stores.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(8)

Reviews in English (6)

Brillaint dish, the sweetness from the caramlised pork belly as well as the salt from the meat works lovely together. easy to follow and very tatsy . Highly recommand-02 Oct 2012

I have made this a few times now and it always go down well It also is nice without the eggs if you don't have any.-26 Sep 2016

by ary0805

It was a little too sweet for my liking, ended up adding water to bring down the sweetness. I also added two star anise to give it some additional flavor (just like my mom made). Overall, good recipe, I would make again.-18 Jun 2016

Jerry's caramelised pork belly

Thit kho is my winter warm-my-soul-up dish. It brings me such love and comfort, and brings back memories of when I was young and my mum would cook a large pot for the family during Têt Festival.



Skill level

My death-row meal would be a bowl of thit kho with a side of steamed rice.


  • 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) pork belly, cut into 3 cm (1¼ in) cubes
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), white part only, lightly bruised
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) fish sauce, plus extra if needed
  • 60 g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra if needed
  • vegetable oil for frying and deep-frying
  • juice of 2 young coconuts
  • 4 eggs
  • steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Marinating time: 4 hours

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the pork belly and blanch for 10–15 minutes. Drain the pork and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

2. Combine the spring onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a large bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pork and set aside in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.

3. Place 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 4–6 minutes until the sugar caramelises and turns golden brown. Add the pork belly with its marinade and quickly stir through the caramel.

4. Add the remaining fish sauce and give everything a good stir. Add the coconut water and pour in enough cold water to just cover the pork. Simmer for 1–1½ hours until the meat is completely tender. Season to taste with more fish sauce and sugar, if necessary.

5. Meanwhile, to cook the eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and gently lower in the eggs. Cook for 6½ minutes, so that the centres are still soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the pan and plunge into iced water. Peel and set aside.

6. Heat 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) of vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat to 180°C (350°F) on a kitchen thermometer. Carefully lower the eggs into the oil and deep-fry for 2–3 minutes until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.

7. To serve, divide the pork belly and cooking liquid among serving bowls. Cut the eggs in half and add to the bowls, and garnish with the spring onion and a pinch of white pepper. Serve with steamed rice.

Recipe from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99

Thịt Kho (Vietnamese pork belly and eggs)

Boil eggs in lightly salted cold water for 7-10 minutes, then run under cold water and submerge in ice water.

Bring a pot of water to the boil for the pork.

Cut pork, belly side down (this way is easier), into 2.5cm squares, then drop it into the pot of boiling water for three minutes.

Drain pork, clean the pot, return pork to pot and add coconut juice, cola soft drink, onions, garlic, fish sauce, peeled eggs, and pepper.

Heat on high heat, then turn down once almost boiling to a low simmer with the lid off for around 2-3 hours.

About an hour before the pork is ready, cook the rice.

Begin by washing the rice: place your rice cooker pot into the sink and with your clean hands, massage the rice thoroughly to cut the white starchy residue off the rice and clean it. Drain the water off, and repeat this 2-3 times.

Shake the rice until flat in the pan and measure the height of your rice with your index finger. Add that same height of water above and hit cook on your rice cooker, or on medium heat with a lid over it in a saucepan.

Make some quick pickles. Grate the carrot and daikon, and let soak in the fridge in vinegar, water and sugar for at least ten minutes.

Once the pork is soft and the gravy nicely caramelised you're ready.

Cut the eggs in half, then serve over perfectly steamed white rice along with sprouts, pickles and sliced cucumber and fried shallots.

This recipe was featured on Foodie Tuesday, a weekly segment with Raf Epstein on Drive, 774 ABC Melbourne. Michael Pham is an industrial design graduate turned market stall peddler turned advertising graphic designer whose growing interest in food lead him to opening his first caf Tiny in 2010. Fast forward to 2015, Pham returns to his cultural heritage opening Phamily Kitchen, a Vietnamese restaurant in Collingwood showcasing old school, classic Vietnamese dishes from his upbringing in a distinctly new setting.

Caramelised Pork Belly (Thit Kho) recipe - Recipes

After a fascinating tour of Cabramatta with Sydney chef Luke Nguyen, we stumbled upon an outdoor kichen set-up in the local mall. Only then were we told that we would be shopping and cooking dishes to share with everyone for lunch.

I was instantly drawn to the caramelised pork belly , a favourite dish of mine, and one I was keen to learn how to recreate at home.

Cooking in public on portable gas burners was much less of a challenge than it would first appear. Given the time restriction, we only had time to marinate the meat for about ten minutes, but the resultant dish still tasted incredible, the pork both sweet and salty with a melting softness. It's best to allow the meat to marinate for the hour suggested though, to maximise all the flavour the marinade imparts. The sticky sauce is best mopped up with grains of fluffy white rice. Bliss.

The only problem with cooking this dish and making sure you cook enough. It really is that good.

Caramelised pork belly braised in young coconut juice

Caramelised pork belly
braised in young coconut juice (thit kho)
from Luke Nguyen's Cabramatta Tour

300g pork belly, sliced thinly
1 whole green young coconut
2 tablespoons finely diced red Asian shallot
2 tablespoons finely diced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon thick caramel sauce (Elephant brand)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 fresh chilli, sliced

In a bowl, combine salt, sugar, fish sauce, oyster sauce, caramel sauce and half of the red shallots and half of the diced garlic. Mix well until sugar dissolves. Coat the pork belly with the sauce and marinate for one hour. When marinated, drain the pork reserving the marinade sauce.

In a hot saucepan or clay pot, add oil, then fry the remaining red shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add the pork belly and brown both sides, for about 1 minute per side. Now add the reserved marinade and stir well.

Add 1 cup of young coconut juice and bring to the boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half.

Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly and Eggs - Thịt Kho

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.

Thit Kho Tau – Caramelised Soy Pork Belly Recipe

Thit Kho Tau is wonderfully nostalgic, taking me back to my early childhood memories every time l catch a whiff of the aromatics in the air. The thought of the clear broth in my rice bowl sends my taste buds into overdrive mode and that’s before l even mention how tender and sweet the meat falls apart on your tongue! A permanent staple dish at any family table and compliments a simple side dish of pickled greens beautifully with your sticky, steaming, jasmine rice.

All credits go to Van from ‘Van’s kitchen’ on YouTube her Thit Kho Tau recipe is easy to follow and tastes deliciously authentic.

Thit Kho Tau Recipe

Prep time 15 – Cooking time 1hr 20mins – Serves 6


Cut your pork into large cubes (3ࡩ inches) and transfer into a large pot of boiling water with salt and vinegar. Parboil for 5 minutes on low-medium heat, drain, wash and set aside.

Crush shallots with the flat side of a large knife and char-grill in a pan on low-medium heat until brown.

Make your caramel by stirring the sugar and water in a small pot on medium-high heat until dissolved. Leave to turn a golden brown before returning the pork back into the pot.

Stir pork until the caramel sauce is covering all sides of the meat before adding salt, shallots, pepper, coconut juice, water and cover with a lid on medium heat for 10 minutes.

Bring to the boil, skim off any scum on the liquid line and leave to simmer on low-medium heat for 30 minutes uncovered. (If using a pressure cooker, 35mins pressure cook with 10mins NPR)

Add fish sauce and eggs to pot, cover with lid and simmer for a further 30 minutes on low heat.

Mrs. Hue’s Caramelized Pork in Clay Pot (Thit Kho To) from www.savourasia.com

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Mrs. Hue was our housekeeper in Hanoi. She didn’t like to cook so didn’t do it very often, but I think she was amused by how much I loved fatty pork and amazed at the quantity I could consume, so she would indulge me from time to time with her wonderful carmelized pork. The classic version (and the only one in my eyes) of Thit Kho To uses cubed pork belly but for a healthier version you may substitute with leaner pork shoulder. It is a rich and deeply savory dish (especially with the pork belly), in spite of the caramel sauce used to stew the pork. The coconut pieces are also now seen only rarely in preparations of this dish, but adding them lends a subtle complexity and the crisp coconut adds a great texture contrast. Traditionally this dish is prepared in a clay pot over a charcoal fire, but these days it is usually prepared stove top and served in a clay pot for presentation.

The pan-asian pork & egg dish

This dish is seen in very slightly modded variations across other ethnic cuisines, not just Vietnamese. I’ve seen variations in Japanese food, Chinese food, and Taiwanese food. In fact, it’s extremely similar to the recipes I have for Filipino pork adobo and chicken adobo.

I don’t know the actual connection–why all these Asian cuisines have this. Perhaps is the readily available and common ingredients for a simple recipe. It keeps well, and is delicious too.

Tom Rang Thit Ba Chi (Caramelized Shrimp and Pork Belly)

To thinly slice skin on pork belly, freeze for about 30 min to 1 hour.


1/2 lb thinly sliced skin on pork belly, 1 inch wide and like thick cut bacon in thickness
1 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs sugar
1 medium shallot, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 tbs water
1/2 lb medium sized shrimp, shell on
fresh ground pepper


Make a quick marinade of pork, fish sauce and sugar and mix well. In large thick cast iron skillet under medium low heat, add oil, minced shallots and garlic till fragrant. Add pork belly stirring occasionally—this is where you have to be patient and let the caramelization process work—-render the fat and as meat releases it’s juices, render that down. If the pan gets dry, and a tbs of water at a time and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the fond and all the delicious bits. Continue to stir and render and caramelize the pork and add water by the tablespoon full as needed until the color is dark brown. Add the shrimp at the end and cook until shrimp is done. Adjust seasoning to taste with fish sauce and sugar, if needed.

Finish with generous amount of freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy with steaming hot rice, side of pickled mustard greens, and home style soup.

*Cooks note: A leaner cut of pork butt can be used but might be tad dryer so reduce cooking time if using. Some prefer the pork to be almost crispy on verge of burnt, if so, simply extend the the cooking time of the pork and render over low heat. Peeled shrimp can be used, but add near the very end as it would take least time to cook. By the end of cooking, the liquid will be nearly completely reduced. If you like a little sauce, add another few tbs water at the end and deglaze the pan, and season as needed.

I love recipes like this. Forgiving, tastes exotic, kapow! flavours. It sounds and looks exotic, but the flavours are universally appealing.

Asian Food Lovers – this is for YOU! It’s an absolute ripper that I think you’ll love! – Nagi x

Get your Vietnamese fix!

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