Fried Pork Fat (Tep Mo)
The last time I made fried pork fat (tép mỡ), it almost costed me an eye. I didn't remove the skin from the fat and coincidentally learned that small bits of pork skin explode in hot oil. Dodging hot oil splatters was no fun and the mess that was left in the kitchen ... I almost cried.
Why was I frying up pork fat? If you have ever visited a well-loved Chinese egg noodle soup venue in the heart of Chinatown, you will notice that they take great pride in their noodle soups (and not so much their customer service). You put up with the verbal abuse because their noodle soups are simply amazing. And what makes it amazing is the detail in the little components that make up the noodle soup. One of which is the fried pork that tops each bowl. It's this simple addition that elevates the noodle soup to the next level of awesome.
If you are lucky enough to have an Asian supermarket around you, you may be able to get free pork fat from the butcher in the back. If not, you can use fat from a big slab of pork belly or gather up pork fat from pork trimmings and make your own.
You can fry pork fat in advance and keep them in an air tight container at room temperature for a couple of weeks or months in the fridge. Fried pork fat, the Vietnamese equivalent of bacon bits, is a great addition to any noodle soups and it is what makes the world go round.
Vietnamese Fried Pork Fat Recipe (Tep Mo)
1 lb pork fat
Cut the pork fat into 1/4-inch cubes.
Add the pork fat directly into a dry pan or wok. Oil will render out from the pork fat as they crisp up. Occasionally stir to prevent burning from the bottom. Be patient as the pork fat might take anywhere from 7-10 minutes to crisp up and turn golden brown.
Once golden brown, transfer the pork fat with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Spread out fried pork fat evenly to dry.