Vietnamese Braised Pork with Egg (Thit Heo Kho Trung)

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I’m not a proficient cook. I still follow recipes to fry a simple bok choy and I make mistakes. So it is with sheer idiocy that I decided to try this dish that I found in Savour (quarterly food magazine by Cold Storage). The picture looked appealing enough; braised pork, but cooked in the way I like Asian. I don’t eat braised meat cooked western style as I don’t like the taste but give me Chinese / Asian braised meat any day and I’m game.

The ingredients were easy to get and the instructions were simple enough. Making caramel is a chore but I’ve done it before. Frankly you just throw everything in a pot and stir. I thought that was it until I re-read the same paragraph for the 34th time and I suddenly spotted the all important line:

SIMMER FOR 1 HOUR.

ONE HOUR?!?!?!? it was 9pm and I was STARVING. But I didn’t know the reason behind the 1 hour stewing because like I said, I’m a novice and I’m not immediately sure of the rationale behind it. A quick google revealed that most recipes expect an hour simmering because it ensures that the sauce is adequately absorbed into the meat to make it really tasty, and also to ensure that the meat is soft. I was afraid that it took 1 hour for pork to cook this way and removing it any earlier would be eating raw pork. That is how dumb I am.

Anyway I cheated and stewed it for 45 mins and it came out tender soft and oh so tasty. It’s sweet like char siew but better coz Singapore char siew is quite dry while this is DRIPPING with sauce. So I guess it really depends on your luck or your powers of channeling (I was sending mind waves to make it cook faster).

Ingredients:

1kg pork leg or shoulder (I used pork ribs)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
5 tbsp of caramel sauce (180ml water + 200g sugar)
6 hard-boiled eggs
juice from 1 young coconut (or 1 can)
3 tbsp fish sauce
sugar, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Make caramel beforehand.
  2. Pork leg or shoulder is recommended because the fat gives it added flavour but if you’re health conscious like me (hee hee) pork loin or ribs would work too. Place pork into pot and dribble caramel sauce and sprinkle garlic over it. Make sure the sauce covers the pork entirely. Marinate for 45 minutes, turning the meat over every 15 minutes.
  3. Time to cook it. Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat. Uncover the pot to make sure the meat is evenly covered. Cover again and let it simmer till pork is golden brown (5-10 mins). For me, the pork remained a weird shade of red like it was part cooked and part raw. So I started worrying like a mommy that my pork was under-performing.
  4. Add coconut juice and just enough water to cover the meat. I didn’t add water because my pot was small and the juice was enough to cover the meat. Bring to boil, uncovered over medium-high heat. Skim and discard any scum that rises to the surface, coz scum are the algae of the universe.
  5. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover partially and SIMMER FOR AN HOUR. I’m writing this in caps so you can see it. ONE HOUR. stir the pork occasionally to ensure they cook evenly.
  6. Uncover and add hard-boiled eggs here. Continue to simmer for 15 mins.
  7. Add fish sauce and season to taste. My sauce was really really sweet so I didn’t add more sugar. Finish with some black pepper.
  8. Serve with white rice.

By the end of 1 hour simmer, the coconut juice & water will reduce to a nice thick syrupy sauce full of intense flavour. My pork went from a uneasy shade of I have no idea what to a rich reddish brown. The meat should be soft enough to fall off the bone. Despite all the worrying, the pork came out well. Not bad for a novice eh?

Okay barring that, I couldn’t tell what a clove of garlic meant. I took 3 bulbs instead. So after chopping through 3 bulbs of garlic, my inner Nigella warned me that this was too much garlic for this pork dish. So I googled “what is 1 clove of garlic?” (see, I’m not the only kitchen moron out there) and realised 1 bulb of garlic is made up of many smaller cloves. GAH! luckily I had not thrown them into the dish yet.

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