Coconut braised pork and egg – thịt khô trứng

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Thuy Pham's coconut-braised pork belly recipe is proper Vietnamese comfort food. The pork is marinated in chilli, shallot and garlic before cooking low and slow in coconut water until the pork belly is so tender it melts in the mouth. This recipe is taken from The Little Viet Kitchen by Thuy Diem Pham, published by Absolute Press. Photography © David Loftus.

First published in 2018

To my mind this is the ultimate home comfort food. It never fails to bring back fond memories of large family meals, generally for a special occasion like Tết (New Year) or a wedding celebration as pork was considered a luxury, so symbolises wealth and fortune.

This is a beautiful and simple dish that showcases the key technique in Vietnamese cooking of slow braising in coconut water. Sweet, salty and spicy, it is best accompanied with sour and bitter pickles and is perfectly balanced by serving with fluffy jasmine rice.

Slow cooked in the natural sweetness of coconut water, the pork is so juicy and tender that every bite melts in your mouth. Perhaps it is because we had this dish so rarely that even to this day I savour every mouthful like it’s my last.




Coconut braised pork and egg

For the marinade


Put all of the pork along with the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Mix together well and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate
For this dish, you will only need 2 tsp of caramel sauce, but it's best to make big batches for use in other dishes. To make the caramel sauce, heat 500g sugar and 125 ml water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir slowly, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, until the mixture starts to smoke and caramelise, then carefully pour in another 125ml water (be super careful at this point as adding the water will cause the hot sugar to splutter) and stir until fully combined. Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to smoke once more and is a rich dark reddish black colour, then take off the heat and pour into a heatproof jar. Set aside to cool and rinse the pan while still hot to make it easy to clean. Keeps indefinitely at room temperature
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat until it reaches 190°C. An easy way to tell when the oil is ready is to place a wooden chopstick into it – when bubbles form on the surface of the oil it is ready
Add the pork along with its marinade and 2 tsp of the caramel sauce. Toss the pork continually for about 4 minutes, until the caramel sauce has fully and evenly coated all of the pork. It is crucial to keep stirring the pork as it only takes a couple of seconds for it to go from golden to burnt
Now add the coconut water and 300ml of water, and bring to the boil. Skim off any impurities and marinade ingredients that float to the surface. The sauce needs to be clear and not cloudy. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours
Add the fish sauce, the whole peeled hard-boiled eggs and the chillies, and continue to simmer for a further hour
Remove the pan from the heat and serve with mustard cabbage pickle and a generous portion of rice. A bowl of fish sauce with some sliced red chillies in would also make a good accompaniment
First published in 2018

Born in Vietnam, Thuy and her family moved to London when she was eight, and now runs The Little Viet Kitchen in Islington, London.

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