Thit kho (Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Belly and Eggs) was a staple in our household growing up and just like our ca kho to (catfish in clay pot) and ga kho (caramelized chicken), each household has their own family recipe. Caramelization is a common component in each of these dishes and as you can see from the ca kho to (catfish in clay pot) and ga kho (caramelized chicken) posts, there’s many ways to accomplish that. Another way to get a beautiful caramelization on these beautiful pork belly and eggs is to braise it in sweet coconut juice–the natural sugars eventually reduce and like magic, steeps a golden brown and delicious color to the pork and eggs.
There’s a lot of flexibility to this recipe. We like to use juice from young coconuts, but for a quick substitute, use canned coconut juice or coconut soda (coco-rico brand). You can even use all water and caramel sauce or combination of half water/coconut juice/soda. Either way, they all require at several hours of braising and reduction of the liquid for a soft, melting in your mouth braised thit kho and a sweet and savory sauce.
To chop the young coconut, lay it on it’s side and using a good cleaver, wedge in into the coconut about 1 inch from the tip–make sure it’s nicely wedged and in a single motion, bring both the coconut and knife together and pound on the cutting board, driving the coconut into the cleaver and it will split open. Be quick and don’t let all the juices spill.
The pork belly of the thit kho is so succulent and rich, we confess we sometimes only nibble at the fatty portion or eat half… it’s blasphemy for sure…but to help cut down on the richness and fattiness our favorite way to eat this is with dua gia (pickled beansprouts, chives, carrots and onions.) It adds a great crunch and just the right amount of acid/tartness to the sweet and savory melt in your mouth pork belly.
Thit Kho Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Belly and Eggs
2 lbs pork belly (or use skin on pork thigh--won't be nearly as soft as pork belly of course. Cut ~2-3 inch pieces.)
juice from 2 young coconut (yields ~4 cups)
4 tbs of fish sauce
fresh cracked pepper
2-3 garlic cloves, gently crushed or thinly sliced
1-2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 whole hard boiled eggs peeled (or more if you like--boil ahead of time)
We like a very clear sauce so we par boil the pork in some boiling water for about 3-4 min to get rid of the gunk. Dump out the water and rinse the gunk off the pork and the pot. Return to pot and add the coconut juice.
Add the eggs, fish sauce, shallots, and garlic. The liquid should be generous enough to cover both the pork and eggs to caramelize evenly, if not, add a bit more water or additional coconut water if you still have some left. Turn to medium high heat and bring to rolling simmer and cover lid, reducing heat to low. Braise for at least 1 hr--we go to 2.5 hrs even. The natural sugars of the coconut juice and fish sauce will caramelize the pork and eggs. Taste sauce and adjust with additional fish sauce or sugar to taste. Add plenty of fresh cracked pepper just before serving with fresh steaming hot rice and a side of veggies.
Cooks notes: If no young coconut water is available, used canned coconut water. For more complex sauce, try adding 5 spice, star anise, fennel, coriander seeds, or cinnamon in a stainless steel tea strainer. Also, you can cook mustard greens in the sauce as it braises for a great veggie side.