Vietnamese Caramel Pork

Recently I was gifted a jar of Fifth Dimension ChocolatesSoy Caramel sauce and challenged to come up with a recipe for it.

I wanted to go savoury and stumbled across this recipe.

Thịt kho, or Vietnamese caramel pork, is so delicious you won’t believe how easy it is to make. Fifth Dimension Chocolates’ Soy Caramel sauce makes it even easier and oh-so-tasty.

 Fowl Mouths' take on Vietnamese Caramel Pork (photo:  @fowlmouthsfood

Fowl Mouths' take on Vietnamese Caramel Pork (photo: @fowlmouthsfood

There are several recipes for this dish but traditionally, they call for the pork to be added to bubbling caramel before the rest of the ingredients are mixed in and it’s cooked over a slow heat for a couple of hours.

But I’ve tweaked the recipe to slow-cook it first, and then crisp the skin before finishing in caramel to a sticky glaze. When crispy skin is finished in a sticky sauce it gives it the most incredible texture that’s more than worth the extra effort.

Both methods are included here, depending on how much time you’ve got and personal preference. Either way, it’s delicious. Serve it with tangy pickled carrot and daikon to cut through the fat.

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Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)

  • 1kg pork belly (remove ribs or ask your butcher to)
  • 1 100g jar 5th Dimension Chocolates Soy Caramel
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 250ml coconut water
  • 1 inch piece ginger 
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 spring onions (white part chopped into 2 sections, green part finely sliced)
  • 1 tsp white pepper (black will do)
  • Soy sauce (optional)
  • Coriander (optional)

Method 1

Pre-heat oven to 200C. Crush ginger and garlic in a pestle and mortar and rub over pork belly. Place into an ovenproof dish skin side up and add 2tbsp of the soy caramel (to the side of the meat, not on top, so it mixes with other liquids), 1 tbsp of the fish sauce, pepper and add coconut water until it reaches three quarters up the side of the pork belly but not so that it’s submerged.

Cover tightly with tin foil and place in oven, immediately turning it down to 140C. Leave for 1.5 to 2 hours – so the skin is softened but not easily breakable. Leave to cool covered for 30 minutes before uncovering. Pour off cooking liquid through a sieve and reserve.

Lay a flat board (chopping board or tray) on top of the pork (cover with cling film or greaseproof paper so it doesn’t stick), and weigh down with anything heavy – plates, books etc. and put in fridge once cool.

Once chilled and compressed (ideally overnight), slice into 1.5 x 3cm cubes and brown in a pan over a medium heat, paying particular attention to the skin to crisp it up. Keep them constantly moving as they can burn easily.

Once browned, remove and drain off excess fat. Wipe pan clean, and add remaining soy caramel, pepper and fish sauce, plus the cooking liquid and reduce over a medium heat until it’s about half the quantity. Add pork belly and the white part of the spring onions, coat in liquid and cook on a medium-high heat until the sauce has thickened and become dark and sticky. Taste and add a bit of soy sauce if it needs salt.

Serve with rice and a carrot and daikon salad. Garnish with slices of green spring onion and coriander.

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Method 2

Cut pork belly into 2x4cm cubes. Heat half the jar of soy caramel in the bottom of a wide pan and add pork, covering in the bubbling caramel. Once coated, add the rest of the caramel, coconut water and garlic and ginger. Bring to the boil and skim off any impurities that rise to the surface, before reducing to a simmer. Add the remaining fish sauce and pepper. cook until the pork is tender and the sauce dark and sticky – about 1.5 to 2 hours, ensuring the sauce doesn’t reduce too much – loosen with coconut water if necessary.

Serve with rice and pickled carrot & daikon, garnish with spring onion and coriander, if desired.