Vietnamese Braised Pork and Pineapple (Thit Kho Thom)
Pork and pineapples go wonderfully together. There are many dishes from different countries that include these two ingredients. In Vietnam, we braise pork belly or pork shoulder with pineapples in a clay pot with fish sauce and a thick caramel sauce for color. The dish is savory with a hint of sweetness and it's great with white rice.
My husband doesn't like savory mixed with sweet. So for the longest time in our marriage, I didn't make Vietnamese braised pork and pineapple (Thit Kho Thom). It was not practical to make a dish that only I would eat. The other night, I said, "Screw it! I'm making pork and pineapples and that's that." In my head, it was very dramatic. In real life, husband was just as happy that I cooked him dinner.
Vietnamese Braised Pork and Pineapples Recipe (Thit Kho Thom)
3 lb pork belly slab (buying slabs of pork belly makes it easier to clean)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (for caramelizing)
2 shallots (peel and mince)
4 cloves garlic (peel and mince)
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
40 oz can pineapples (cut into chunks)
2 tablespoons pineapple juice from the can
2 sprigs green onion (slice thinly)
Thoroughly clean the pork belly. Pork has an odor if not cleaned before cooking, particular with pork belly. To thoroughly clean pork, I sprinkle a thin layer of salt (about 1 tablespoon) all around the pork. Then I massage the salt into the meat. I also take a knife and scrape the skin of the pork to remove the outer residue. I rinse the pork with water then cut it into chunks. I blanch the meat in boiling water with a pinch of salt for 3-5 minutes. Drain the pork in a colander, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. The pork is now ready for cooking.
In a clay pot on medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar into the bottom of the pot. No need for oil or any liquid.
Stir the sugar continuously with a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks until it caramelizes into a dark amber color. Do not let it turn black. Black is burnt and you will need to start over.
Once the sugar is bubbling and a dark amber color, add the pork and toss until evenly coated. The sugar will most likely seize up and harden. Do not worry. As long as the heat is on, the sugar will melt back down.
Add shallot, garlic, fish sauce and pepper. Toss the pork for an even coating. Then turn the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid.
Braise for about one hour on low heat.
After one hour, remove the lid and add the sugar, half of the pineapples (reserve the other half for the end), and pineapple juice.
Let the liquid cook down for 20 minutes in the clay pot uncovered.
Add the remaining pineapples and toss until evenly combined.
Sprinkle with green onions when you are ready to serve.