Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly with Fermented Shrimp Paste (Thịt Kho Mắm Ruốc)

Mam Ruoc is Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, a staple condiment in Southeast Asian cuisines. It can also be effectively used to disperse a crowd.

Mam Ruoc is highly pungent in its raw form and the reason many Asians have outdoor kitchens. It is made from a mixture of ground shrimp and salt that has been left to ferment in the hot sun. lt's a salty condiment that's added to many different dishes and sauces. You wouldn't expect this jar of pungent-smelling ground shrimp to taste any good, but it acts in the same as anchovy paste. A little goes a long way and once cooked with aromatics, the taste is surprisingly well-rounded, bringing tons of umami flavor to a dish.

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly with Fermented Shrimp Paste Recipe

When I was making Vietnamese Caramelized Pork belly with Mam Ruoc, my kids couldn't stand the smell. They pinched their noses the whole time I was cooking. However, once I was done cooking, the smell subsided and guess who ate all the caramelized pork belly with no complaints? Yep. They ate it all. And they ate it happily.

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly with Fermented Shrimp Paste Thịt Kho Mam Ruoc

I have families who live in Sông Đốc, Vietnam, a fishing village. They fish and dry their own food and they make the best homemade mam ruoc. They would occasionally send me mam ruoc through the mail. I am thankful for the awesome delivery but oh, the poor souls at the post office. I am truly sorry.

You don't need to have families in a fishing village in Vietnam to get Mam Ruoc. They are widely available in Asian grocery stores. Just look for the smelly jar labeled shrimp paste or shrimp sauce.

Below is one of my favorite side dishes that uses mam ruoc. It's a quick caramelized salty pork side dish that's best eaten with steamed white and lots of boiled/fresh vegetables.

Happy stinky eating! 

Vietnamese Home Cooking Recipes Vicky Pham

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly with Fermented Shrimp Paste (Thịt Kho Mắm Ruốc)


  • 1-1/2 lbs pork belly
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 tablespoons minced lemon grass (tender bottom parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fermented shrimp paste dissolve in 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon minced Thai chili pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. To clean the pork belly and remove the off-smell of pork, vigorously rub it down with salt then rinse under cold running water. Blanch the pork belly in a small pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the pork belly from the boiling water and give it another rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Allow the pork to cool completely or chill in fridge overnight. A chilled pork belly will make it a lot easier to slice. Cut the pork belly into long strips and then thinly slice. Make sure every slice has a bit of skin and meat.
  2. In a skillet with a lid, heat vegetable oil on medium high. Add lemon grass, shallots and garlic. Stir together and pan fry until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  3. Stir the pork belly into the aromatics and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add sugar and continue to cook for 5 minutes until get a nice a caramelization. 
  5. Add in shrimp paste and reduce heat to low. Cover skillet with lid and continue to cook for another 5-8 minutes until pork is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. If liquid evaporates off too much, add in a few tablespoons of water.
  6. Remove lid and let the pork slowly simmer until the sauce thickens. Mix in the chili pepper if you like a bit of heat, then top with black pepper and serve with steamed white rice and a plentiful platter of boiled or fresh vegetables. 
Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly with Fermented Shrimp Paste Thịt Kho Mắm Ruốc

Vietnamese Escargot Noodle Soup (Bún Ốc)

Calling this recipe Vietnamese Snail Noodle Soup isn't too appetizing. Hopefully, Vietnamese Escargot Noodle Soup is a little better.

Bun Oc originated in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is a vermicelli rice noodle soup with a tomato-based broth made from slowly simmering chicken and/or pork bones. It is topped with infamous escargot and other proteins such as fried tofu, prawns, and fish cakes, and served with a plentiful platter of fragrant Vietnamese herbs (rau thom) and lime wedges. A side dish of fermented shrimp paste and chili oil also accompany the soup for those who want a bit of customization. 

Vietnamese Snail Noodle Soup Bun Oc Recipe

Bun Oc is similar to Bun Rieu, but it's not as intense in flavor. It also has fewer ingredients and takes less time to cook up.

You can find live escargots in most local Asian supermarket that has a wide selection of seafood. Here I simply used the frozen ones available in the freezer aisle. The frozen ones are already prepared so it's much more convenient. Plus, I'm not a fan of slimy slithering snails in my kitchen. There are wide varieties of edible land and sea snails you can choose from. In the below recipe I used Oc Buu. 

If you're like me and wonder if you can go into your garden and pick up the pesky critters and put them in the pot. No, I strongly advise against that. 

Happy eating snails!

Vietnamese Snail Noodle Soup Bun Oc Recipe

Vietnamese Escargot Noodle Soup Recipe (Bún Ốc)

Serves 5-7



  • 3 quarts chicken or pork stock
  • 3 stalks lemon grass (use tender white bottom parts only, bruise with back of knife)
  • 1/3 cup dried shrimp (soak in warm water for 5 minutes, drain, then rinse)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fermented shrimp paste
  • 1 tablespoon chicken or pork stock powder
  • 4 large tomatoes (chopped or cut into large wedges)


  • 2 packages fine vermicelli rice noodles (cook per package instructions)


  • 2 packages frozen Oc Buu (wash and drain well)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 garlic cloves (mince)
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemon grass
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoons granulated whitesugar
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

Optional Protein Toppings

  • Prawns
  • Fried tofu
  • Fried fish cakes

Vegetable Toppings/Condiments

  • Green onions (slice thinly)
  • Vietnamese Perilla (Tia To)
  • Vietnamese Balm (Kinh Gioi)
  • Mint
  • Lettuce
  • Bean sprouts
  • Limes (cut into wedges)
  • Fermented shrimp paste
  • Vietnamese sate chili sauce 


  1. In a stock pot, heat up chicken or pork stock. Once it comes to a boil, add lemon grass and dried shrimp. Reduce heat to a low simmer and season with sugar, salt, shrimp paste and chicken/pork stock powder. Continue to cook on low for 30-40 minutes. Use a mesh strainer to remove lemon grass and dried shrimp. Add tomatoes and continue to cook for 5 minutes then turn off heat.
  2. In a frying pan, heat up vegetable oil. Add garlic and lemon grass. Fry until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add the escargot and continue to pan-fry until garlic and lemon grass are all incorporated. Season with vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and turmeric powder. Pan-fry for another minute and transfer to a bowl.
  3. To serve, add vermicelli noodles to bowl. Ladle on hot broth. Add escargot and other proteins. Sprinkle on green onions. Serve with a platter of fresh Vietnamese herbs, lemon wedges, and a side dish of fermented shrimp paste and Vietnamese sate chili sauce.
Vietnamese Escargot Noodle Soup Bún Ốc