Vietnamese food is known to be uniquely diverse, with a wide range of dishes that showcase the country’s rich culinary heritage. Vietnamese braised pork belly is no exception, with its succulent and tender meat that melts in your mouth. Often served with steamed rice, Vietnamese braised pork belly is a true delight for food enthusiasts seeking a taste of Vietnam’s gastronomic wonders.
1. Vietnamese braised pork belly – An essential New Year’s food in South Vietnam
Vietnamese braised pork belly, also known as “thit kho tau” in Vietnamese, is a traditional dish with deep roots in the cuisine of Southern Vietnam. The dish is characterized by its unique flavor, featuring tender and smooth meat, the red color of lean meat, and simmered skin, combined with the beautiful yellow caramelized fish sauce and the savory taste of coconut water. The meat, comprising both lean and fatty parts, provides a rich and velvety taste. Sometimes, it is served with a few boiled duck eggs or little quail eggs, adding an extra layer of attractiveness. Its warm red color also signifies abundance and prosperity for the new year. This is why Vietnamese braised pork belly is one of the most beloved Vietnamese New Year’s foods.
Together with other Vietnamese pork dishes, the braised pork belly dish is not confined to the Tet holiday but has become a common dish in the daily meals of local people. Vietnamese braised pork belly is rich in nutrients, with a savory and easy-to-eat flavor suitable for both the elderly and young children. All these elements contribute to the special and irresistible taste of braised pork belly.
2. Easy thit kho tau recipe that everyone will love
Vietnamese braised pork belly, or “thit kho tau”, is a dish with an intricate taste but is actually very simple to make. In Vietnamese supermarkets, you can find a lot of instant spices that can be used to cook this dish. But if you like to test your cooking skills, then this Vietnamese braised pork belly recipe is perfect for you.
To make this delectable meat dish, you will need the following ingredients as follows:
- 1 kilogram of pork belly
- 5–6 duck eggs
- 1 lime
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1–2 chili peppers
- 2–3 shallots or purple onions
- 1 fresh coconut for extracting coconut water
- Fish sauce, salt, sugar, and seasoning powder
Clean and slice the pork belly into square pieces (4–5 cm), wash thoroughly, and blanch with boiling water. Marinate the meat with 3–4 tablespoons of sugar to enhance the crispiness of the fat and make it more flavorful.
Continue marinating the meat with 1/2 lime juice, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, and 1/2 tablespoon of salt (or bouillon powder), along with the crushed garlic and chili. Mix well and marinate for 1 hour.
Once the eggs are boiled, peel them and soak them in cold water for easy peeling. You can use a toothpick to poke several holes in the eggs to allow the flavors to penetrate inside the eggs, making them more flavorful.
After marinating, stir-fry the meat until it becomes golden, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the spices and let them absorb into the meat. Continue by adding coconut water to the meat. When it boils, skim off the foam, reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat turns a beautiful brown-red color.
2.3. Important notes for a perfect pot of Vietnamese caramelized pork belly
There is also a “thit kho trung” recipe that originated in Northern Vietnam, which might be a little more intricate. In this recipe, you can make a caramelized sugar syrup first by simmering sugar and water on low heat. To create a beautiful amber-colored sugar syrup without bitterness, you should be extra mindful so that the sugar is not burned. As the sugar evaporates, reduce the heat and lightly shake the pot without stirring. When the sugar forms little bubbles, add hot water and stir until the syrup reaches a slightly sticky consistency. After making this sugar syrup, you can later simmer it with the marinated meat to make the delicious braised pork belly.
You can also substitute duck eggs with chicken eggs or quail eggs in your “thit kho” recipe, or you can just cook the meat without them. Some would fry the eggs before putting them into the simmering pot with the braised meat, which is another creative way to add flavor to this dish. For extra fatness, you can add sliced coconut meat or radishes to the stew.
3. What pairs well with Vietnamese braised pork belly?
Vietnamese braised pork belly, or “thit kho tau,” pairs exceptionally well with a variety of accompaniments, creating a harmonious and satisfying meal. The dish can be paired with white rice—the classic pairing that exists in any Vietnamese daily meal. The tender, flavorful pork and its savory sauce complement the simplicity of white rice, creating a perfect balance.
You can also add a side of pickled vegetables, such as carrots and daikon radish, to create a refreshing, sweet, and sour taste to the dish. The crunchiness of the pickles provides a delightful contrast in texture, and the sour elements in the dish help reduce the greasiness of the meat.
Freshly boiled vegetables, like broccoli or bok choy, also add an extra layer of appeal, balancing the rich taste of the pork and making the meal more nutritious. You can use either boiled veggies or fresh vegetables like lettuce, herbs (such as cilantro and mint), and sliced cucumbers to accompany the braised pork. These fresh elements bring a light and herbal taste to the meal, creating a well-rounded flavor profile.
Known as a true comfort food, Vietnamese braised pork belly is a culinary masterpiece that encapsulates the rich and savory essence of Vietnamese home cooking. This iconic dish, with its tender and succulent pork, presents a harmony of sweetness and saltiness that is loved by many. With a simple recipe, this braised pork belly dish can be easily recreated at home as well, so you might want to try making this wonderful dish to enjoy with your friends and family.
As you embark on your Vietnam travel journey, the diverse world of Vietnamese cuisine will make your trip worthwhile. To learn more about Vietnamese cuisine, you can explore other famous tourist destinations like Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, or Phu Quoc. When planning a visit to these destinations, make sure to arrange your accommodations ahead of time. It is recommended that you book a room at Vinpearl – a chain of hotels and resorts that provides visitors with luxurious rooms, all-inclusive services, and a range of attractive amenities such as restaurants, bars, swimming pools, etc.
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