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If phở is the most iconic restaurant Vietnamese dish, thịt kho is probably the most iconic trang chính cooked Vietnamese meal. It is the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and fatty.
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“Kho” is the quintessential Vietnamese cooking method of braising food low and slow- traditionally in a clay pots. Since “kho” just means “braised”, there are many ways lớn kho but many recipes will contain fish sauce and sugar. You can kho anything: pork, beef, mushroom, tofu, vegetables.
This version of braised pork is the most iconic. Fun fact: “thịt kho” just means “braised meat”, but most Vietnamese people will know that it means this exact braised pork dish- not beef or other meats and not braised in a different way, whereas braised beef would be specified as trườn kho.
It’s not clear why this dish is called “thịt kho tàu”. Some people mistake that this comes from Trung Quốc because “Tàu” can mean “Chinese”. While the results look similar lớn Chinese red braised pork, the ingredients are very different.
One possible explanation is that in the South-Western dialect “tàu” means “half salty-half sweet”- normally used lớn describe brackish water in estuaries where freshwater and salt water meet, and is also the flavor profile of this dish. Another theory is that when Vietnamese fishers used lớn go on month-long fishing trips, they would make a huge pot of thịt kho lớn bring onto the boat (tàu) since it is nutritious and keeps well.
Thick pieces of pork are braised in a beautiful mix of ingredients starring fish sauce and “nước hàng”. Nước hàng (Nothern dialect) or nước màu (Southern dialect) – a Vietnamese caramel sauce that is made specifically for braising. You can buy it premade or click here for our recipe!
This recipe will work with other cuts of pork but pork belly is the most decadent and my favorite for this recipe. Pork ribs are a close second!
If you’re familiar with Vietnamese food in the United States, you may have seen a version of this dish made with eggs. My family’s version is from the North of Vietnam, which does not contain hard boiled eggs or coconut water lượt thích the Southern style. Both versions are delicious but this is the one I grew up with and is closer lớn my heart!
Interested in other kho recipes? Check out the classic Cá kho tộ (claypot braised fish), Gà kho gừng (gingery braised chicken), or Nấm kho chi phí (vegan peppery braised mushrooms).
INGREDIENTS FOR THỊT KHO TÀU
- Pork belly – Thịt thân phụ chỉ
- Nước hàng/nước màu (Vietnamese caramel sauce)
- Shallot – Hành khô/Hành tím
- Garlic – Tỏi
- Fish sauce – Nước mắm
- Bouillon – Hạt nêm
- Ground Black pepper – Tiêu đen sạm xay
- Water – Nước
DIRECTIONS FOR THỊT KHO TÀU
- Cut the pork into 2.5 – 3 centimet pieces.
- Add the meat lớn a pot and add enough cold water lớn barely cover.
- Bring lớn a boil on medium high heat.
- Let boil for 3-5 minutes, depending on the amount of meat you’re using. For 500g of pork, we boiled for 3 minutes.
- Strain and rinse the meat well with cold water lớn remove any scum.
- Mince garlic and shallot.
- Add pork lớn a bowl with bouillon powder, ground pepper, fish sauce, all of the minced garlic, and half of the minced shallot.
- Mix well and let marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (If you marinate for any longer kêu ca 1 hour, put the meat in the fridge)
- When the meat is done marinating, heat a heavy-bottomed sauce pan or pot on medium.
NOTE: you don’t want lớn use a pot that is too large and would leave a lot of space between the pieces of meat.
- Add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil.
- Add the remaining half of the minced shallot and sauté until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
- Pour in the pork belly and any remaining marinade.
- Sauté for one minute.
- Add just enough water lớn barely cover the meat. (About 300 ml)
- Add the nước hàng/nước màu sắc (braising caramel sauce).
- Cook on medium low with the lid off, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Over the course of the house, the the meat will become tender and take on the dark brown color of the caramel sauce.
- Keep an eye on the sauce level- if it starts getting too thick and dry towards the kết thúc, add a bit more water.
- Add more fish sauce lớn taste if needed. Serve with rice!
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