Blog

Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Vietnamese caramelized and braised pork belly with eggs, or Thit Kho Tau, is a traditional everyday Vietnamese dish. It consists of large chunks of pork belly and boiled eggs slowly braised in coconut juice. Thit Kho Tau is typically eaten with rice and pickled bean sprouts (Dua Gia) to cut through the fat.

 Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Although Thit Kho Tau is a typical Vietnamese home cooked dish, it’s also served as one of the traditional foods during the Lunar New Year (Tet). Before serving, it is offered to the deceased ancestors on the family altar.

 Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

The star of the dish is obviously the pork belly. It’s ridiculously tender while the fatty skin melts in your mouth. If you can get your hands on pork belly with bones, it’s even tastier. Others, particularly kids, love the eggs in the dish. Duck eggs are used widely in Vietnam for a richer flavor. Others opt for quail eggs. As for the braising liquid, it is both savory and sweet, making it a great dipping sauce for fresh or boiled vegetables.

 Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Keep in mind that this dish yields a lot of fat. If you make this dish ahead of time, put it in the fridge to cool. Pork fat will solidify at the top once cooled. Grab a spoon and scoop it out for a healthier version. Just don’t scoop out all of it, as fat is flavor! You can also skip the pork belly and use pork shoulder instead for a leaner version.

The trick to this dish is the longer the cooking time, the tender the meat and obviously the better the flavor. If you want to make this right, don’t rush it!

Thịt kho tàu Vietnamese braised caramelized pork belly eggs

Vietnamese Caramelized & Braised Pork Belly with Eggs (Thit Kho Tau)

Serves 5

Ingredients


    Pork Belly Marinade

  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pork/chicken/mushroom stock powder
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves (mince)
  • Half large shallot (mince)
  • 1 teaspoon thick soy sauce or homemade caramel cooking sauce

  • Braising Liquid

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Other half of shallot (mince)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can (12 fl oz/ 355 mL) Coconut soda/juice

  • Other Ingredients

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs (peel)

Instructions

  1. Clean the pork. Generously coat pork with salt (about 1 tablespoon) and give it an abrasive scrubbing. Rinse pork under cold water. Slice pork into 2x2 inch cubes and place in a small stock pot. Add water to cover and heat on medium high until water begins boiling. Once it starts boiling, immediately turn off heat and transfer pork to a colander to rinse and drain dry.
  2. Transfer parboiled pork to a large bowl and marinate with fish sauce, stock powder, sugar, garlic, shallot and thick soy sauce/caramel coooking sauce for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
  3. To the bottom of a small pot, add vegetable oil and heat on medium high. Add garlic and shallot. Sautee until fragrant and lightly brown. Add marinated pork and all its liquid. Toss gently with aromatics.
  4. Add eggs, water, coconut soda/juice. Simmer on low without lid for 1-1/2 hours or until nicely tender. Serve with rice.

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

A typical Vietnamese family meal consists of steamed white rice, a soup, a braised/grilled/stewed/fried protein dish and lots of fresh/pickled vegetables and herbs. The whole family gathers around a smorgasbord of food with their own bowl of steamed rice and a pair of chopsticks. Everyone grabs a little from each serving bowl and add it to their bowl of rice. Traditionally, people start off with the protein and vegetables. When the rice bowl is halfway empty, they ladle in the soup with the remaining rice and slurp it down. Slurping is not bad table manners in Vietnam. It’a sign of satisfied appetite and gratitude towards the cook.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

One of my favorite family meals is chicken-based. One whole chicken can be made easily into two dishes. The backbone and wing tips of the chicken are chopped up and made into a stock for soup. My go-to soup in the Fall is Kabocha Squash Soup with Chicken (Canh Ga Nau Bi Do). The rest of the chicken is caramelized/braised with lots of ginger into a dish that we call Ga Kho Gung. I always serve the caramelized ginger chicken with fresh slices of cucumber. That way, I can use the braising liquid has a dipping sauce for the cucumbers.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

When I was working the 9-to-5, I always packed the leftover caramelized ginger chicken for lunch. My work lunch was typically a bento box of caramelized ginger chicken with kimchi or freshly sliced cucumbers and a small portion of steamed white rice. The caramelized ginger chicken was always so much better the next day. So whenever I make Vietnamese caramelized ginger chicken for dinner, I always make sure to make a large batch so I can have plenty for lunch the next day.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

To make Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung), I use a whole chicken minus the backbone and cut it into large chunks. The bones keep the chicken moist and flavorful.  However, chicken bones can be brittle if you don't cut them cleanly. The small pieces of bone can break apart in the pot which would be very difficult to fish out. To ensure a clean cut and avoid shards of bones in the pot, use a very sharp butcher knife and cut the chicken when it is half-frozen. Of course, you can skip the bones and the whole chicken by using boneless chicken thighs, which is ideal for small children and grownups who behave like small children.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Chicken shrinks up quite a bit once cooked so I cut up the chicken no smaller than 2-inch chunks. The chicken pieces are marinated with a mixture of fish sauce, salt, sugar, chicken stock powder, ginger, shallots and black pepper. A tiny bit of thick soy sauce or Vietnamese caramel cooking sauce is used to darken and color the meat. The chicken gets slowly braised with coconut soda until the sugar in the marinade reduces and caramelized into a sweet and savory liquid, which use to drizzle over rice or as a vegetable dipping sauce.

 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Chop up chicken into large 2-inch pieces. Coat the chicken with half of the salt. Rub salt into the chicken to give it a good cleaning. Rinse with cold running water then drain dry.
  2. Marinate chicken with ginger, shallots, dark soy sauce, chicken stock powder, sugar, remaining salt, pepper and fish sauce for at least 30 minutes at room temperature or overnight in fridge for best results.
  3. Lightly coat the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil and heat on medium high. Add chicken in a single layer (without the marinade liquid for now) and lightly fry on both sides until you smell the aroma of ginger and shallots (about 2-3 minutes per side).
  4. Add the marinade liquid and coconut soda. Simmer on medium low heat for 45 minutes (do not cover). Occasionally turn for even caramelization.
  5. When ready to serve, top with cilantro or green onions and a sprinkle of black pepper. Serve with steamed white rice and an optional side soup.
 Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)

Vietnamese Caramelized Chicken with Ginger (Ga Kho Gung)