Ok so, as promised, here's the second Vietnamese pork shoulder recipe (see the first part here). This one's a slow cooked number 'Thit Heo Kho' is the Viet name I think. It's delicious and not hard to make. It's a version of a dish i first saw made a when doing a week in the kitchen at The Modern Pantry - Anna Hansen's great restaurant in Clerkenwell.
I've used young coconut water in the recipe (you can buy it frozen in Asian stores) - it's authentic & gives a really nice background flavour, but if finding it proves tricky then you can replace it with chicken stock plus an extra pinch of sugar.
This dish is often made with pork belly, so use that if you prefer, just take the skin off before you dice it up (or even better ask your butcher to).
Browning the meat isn't the authentic technique here, the meat would normally just be simmered in the liquid, & usually blanched first. It's nice both ways so take your pick.
The Vietnamese style pickled veg are an optional extra but do work really well - adding bit of crunch and sharpness to cut the rich pork, plus look pretty cool. They do need to be made a good few hours (or ideally a day or two) in advance though.
Vietnamese braised caramel pork with pickled veg
Ingredients (serves 4 -5):
- About 800g pork shoulder (trimmed up & diced in to generous bite-sized chunks)
- 300ml or so young coconut water (or use stock, see note above)
- caster sugar - about 6 tablespoons
- about 4 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce - whichever you prefer
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
- 1 or 2 slices of fresh ginger (doesn't need to be peeled)
- star anise 3 to 4 pieces
- 1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper
- 3 to 4 shallots - ideally the red Asian ones - peeled and cut in to quarters
- small bunch spring onions
- 2 tablespoons plain oil e.g groundnut
For the pickled veg:
- 500ml white rice vinegar
- 350ml caster sugar
- pinch salt
- vegetables - especially carrot, daikon, cucumber or lotus root
- *optional extra flavours - a slice of ginger, a star anise, a dried chilli
Pickled veg - if using:
- A few hours / days in advance - simmer vinegar, sugar & salt in small pan until sugar all dissolved.
- Remove from heat, add any flavourings (see above*) you might want and allow to cool down a bit while you julienne your veg (a mandolin might help here), if using lotus root then just peel and do really thin slices.
- Finally put cut veg into a jar or container and pour over pickling liquid to cover.
- Keeps in the fridge for weeks, and goes well with all sorts of of dishes - from spring rolls to grilled meat.
- First make your caramel - heat 4 tablespoons of your caster sugar in a small pan until it starts to melt and darken around the edges, stir just a little bit and allow all the sugar to melt and go a dark brown colour, when it just starts to smoke then add about 2 tablespoons of water. Stand back - it'll spit and splutter, then just give it a couple more stirs and set aside to cool.
- Mix your diced meat with a couple of tablespoons of soy or fish sauce. Now heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy casserole style pan and brown it (you might need to do two batches), chuck in the shallots and garlic while your doing this too.
- Now just add all your other ingredients (including the caramel) except the spring onions, but go easy on soy and sugar - about add a tablespoon of white sugar and 3 of soy or fish sauce, you can taste an add more later if need. Now just add enough water to cover all the meat.
- Simmer v.gently for about 2 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender and the liquid is nicely reduced and darkened.
- Taste and add more sugar / salt / soy / fish sauce to taste, remove the anise if it's getting too strong.
- Garnish with sliced spring onions, pickled veg (if using) and serve with white rice.