If there was a dish that was the flagship of Vietnamese home comfort food it would be thit kho or braised caramelised pork. It is a simple dish made with pork belly and boiled eggs, cooked in a sweet and salty caramel sauce.
Our recipe is a southern Vietnamese style of thit kho, which is made with coconut water and a little sweeter than the northern version.
Like most savoury Vietnamese recipes the main flavour here is fish sauce. Our recipe however also includes chicken bouillon powder and sweet preserved radish. While these ingredients aren’t usually seen in traditional recipes, we think they give the dish much more flavour and body.
Best Cut Of Pork To Use For Thit Kho
The best cut of pork for thit kho is something with a high fat content. The leaner cuts tend to be too dry and do not taste as good. The cuts I prefer to use are:
- Pork belly – traditional and fattier option. The layers of fat will make the meat soft and moist.
- Pork shoulder – cheaper and less fatty option. Consistency can be an issue since pieces will vary from little to no fat, to high amounts of fat.
The amount of fat left on the meat is up to you. Keep in mind though that the more fat you can leave on the more tender the end result.
Par Boil the Pork
Par boil the pork pieces to remove the scum and impurities. This will also ensure the thit kho sauce will be cleaner and clearer.
If you don’t par boil you will need to regularly skim the surface of the thit kho as it cooks to remove any scum. Par boiling means you can just get everything clean once at the beginning.
To par boil:
- In a large pot, boil enough water to completely submerge the pork.
- Add the pork and allow to boil for roughly 8 minutes.
- Remove the pork and discard the water.
- Rinse off any scum on the pork under running water.
Making the Caramel
The caramel in this dish is to give the iconic colour to the meat and sauce. It is very easy to make as long as you watch it. Every time I have burnt caramel I have been multitasking. So be patient, watch it and get it right the first time.
To make the caramel:
- Add the oil and sugar to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium high.
- As soon as the sugar becomes golden, swirl the pot to mix the caramel.
- If the colour is not dark enough, put it back on the heat.
- As soon as it is ready, add the pork and stir.
Cooking the Thit Kho
Cooking the thit kho is as simple as it gets. If you par boiled the pork beforehand then you can simply leave the pot simmering for roughly 40 minutes. If the pork hasn’t been par-boiled then you’ll need to regularly skim the surface of the thit kho to remove any impurities.
As you can see from the pictures below, the longer you cook the pork, the richer the colour. The meat will also be softer and the sauce will reduce and intensify.
Getting More Flavour into Your Thit Kho Sauce
I always wondered why my mum’s thit kho always tasted better than mine. My thit kho was always very one dimensional and tasted mostly of fish sauce. So, one day I swallowed my pride and asked her what she puts in it. It turns out her secret was chicken powder.
Chicken Bouillon / Chicken Powder
Chicken bouillon powder will give the sauce body and flavour. This is particularly important when you drown your rice in the sauce like I do! If you have never tried it before, I urge you to give it a go. I promise you won’t regret it.
Sweet Preserved Radish / Co Cai Muoi
Sweet preserved radish / choi poh / co cai muoi adds flavour and sweetness which enhances the overall taste of the thit kho. This probably sounds odd but I assure you it works very well with the chicken powder. Sweet preserved radish is available at most Asian groceries.
Note: There are two types of preserved radish – sweet and salty. Be sure to get the sweet version.
Boiling / Peeling the Eggs
Yes… I know. Why would we have a whole section devoted just to peeling eggs. Well, it’s because if you have ever peeled eggs then you know frustrating it is when half the egg is gone when you finished peeling! Plus, smooth round eggs just look 1,000 times better.
Here’s a few suggestions for smoother eggs:
- Older eggs are easier to peel – the gas that forms over time will help lift the membrane off the egg.
- The cooking method – place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring the water to the boil then turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 11 minutes. I don’t understand why, but cooking eggs this way makes them much easier to peel compared to boiling the eggs over the stovetop.
- Peel the eggs under cold running water – stops your hands from burning and also pushing water under the membrane helps lift the shell off the egg white. This does use a lot of water though so just be mindful of this if you are watching your water consumption.
What to Serve Thit Kho With?
- Fermented Cabbage – This is easily my favourite pairing. The sourness of the cabbage cuts through the saltiness of the thit kho. The cabbage gives much needed texture to the soft pork and eggs. Match made in heaven!
- Pickled Chillies – Much the same as the fermented cabbage except it also provides some heat. I suggest using larger chillies so more of the pickled flavour comes through. For all you chilli lovers, this is a must to have with your thit kho.
- Pickled Bean Sprouts (Dua Gia) – A very easy and quick pickle that is traditionally eaten with thit kho on Lunar New Year.
- Pickled Mustard Greens – The traditional accompaniment to this dish. Can be bought at Asian groceries or made at home.
- Sliced cucumbers – Easy, crunchy and fresh. Nothing else needs to be said!
Other Rice Dishes You Might Enjoy
- Vietnamese Caramelised Ginger Chicken (Ga Kho Gung)
- Crispy Roast Pork Belly in Air Fryer
- Vietnamese Stuffed Tomatoes (Ca Chua Nhoi Thit)
- Vietnamese Fried Tofu in Tomato Sauce
- Beef and Watercress Salad – Bo Xao Sa Lat Soong
Thank you for visiting our blog and we hope you enjoyed this post.
Scruff & Steph
- 1.2 kg pork (belly or shoulder)
- 8 eggs
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (add more at the end)
- 1.5 tsp salt
- cracked pepper, to your taste
- 20 gm sweet preserved radish available at Asian groceries (optional but highly recommended)
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 600 ml coconut water
- 2 tsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 brown onion, cut into wedges
- Cut the pork into 3 – 4 cm chunks.
- Bring a large pot water on high heat to the boil. Once the water starts boiling add the pork and boil for 6 – 8 minutes.
- Remove the pork and discard the water. Rinse off any scum on the pork under a running tap.
Making the Caramel
- In a large cold pot add the sugar and oil. Set the heat to medium high. Have the pork ready on the side.
- Once the sugar turns an amber colour, remove from heat and tilt the pot to swirl the caramel. Wait for a bit and it should turn a dark golden colour. If not, return to the stovetop for a bit longer. This whole step should take about 7 minutes.
- As soon as the caramel is done, add the pork and stir until covered in caramel.
Braising the Pork and Eggs
- Add the sugar, fish sauce, salt, pepper, preserved radish and garlic. Stir and cook for a 2 minutes.
- Add the coconut water and chicken bouillon powder. Stir and cook for 45 minutes partially-covered over low heat.
- In a separate pot, add the eggs and enough cold water to completely cover the eggs. Turn the heat up to high.
- Once the water reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat (but leave the pot in place) and let the eggs sit in the water for 11 minutes. Take off the stovetop and peel them under cold running water. Set aside until needed.
- After 45 minutes, check the pork for texture and taste. If the pork is still tough then let it cook further. Adjust taste as needed.
- Add the peeled boiled eggs and the onion wedges. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Serve with jasmine rice.