When I lived in Ho Chi Minh City from 2008 to 2009, there was a restaurant named Nguyen Hong on Ly Chien Thang Street (right across the street from AIDS Committee of HCMC) that sold the best office lunch I’ve ever had. Our office back then was about 2 miles away, and in a hot mid-day and terrible traffic of Sai Gon, taking a ride on the scooter to that restaurant was quite an effort, so every time my colleagues decided to go there for lunch, I went crazy. I loved everything they put on the menu, but “thịt kho tiêu” was always on the order list. I tried to develop the recipe for this dish for couple times to recall the flavor of “Thit kho tieu” I had at Nguyen Hong, and the recipe below has come very close. This recipe is also precious for me as it’s one of the fastest and easiest Vietnamese recipe I’ve ever cooked, such a saver for my Vietnamese food appetite in a busy life.
1.2 lb pork butt
1 1/4 cup coconut juice (fresh is the best, but can is acceptable)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 big shallot
1 teaspoon peppercorn, coarsely cracked
1/2 tablespoon clay pot sauce (or caramelized source) for coloring
Salt and pepper
5-6 sprigs cilantro to garnish
Wash the pork butt and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or heavy duty paper towel. Cut the pork against the grain into 2 x 0.5 inch stripes. Season the pork with a little bit salt and fish sauce, combine then set aside and let marinate at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Peel the shallot and chop coarsely.
Now, if you have a good size clay pot, bravo! But, if you don’t, a regular good size pan (about 12 inch wide) won’t kill your dish. I prefer using wider pan or pot because I want all the pork to be distributed evenly while cooking so that the pork stripes on top will be cooked as evenly as the ones at bottom.
So, you’ve figured out what gadget you’re gonna use, now, over high-medium heat on the oven, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and saute the shallot until it turns light brown and fragrances nicely. Add the marinated pork in, still on high-medium heat, saute the pork until it’s twisted on the outside. Add in coconut juice and cracked peppercorn and continue to cook until the mixture hits rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low-medium then simmer with lid close for another 15 -20 minutes. Stir occasionally in the process (twice is enough). Add clay pot sauce, turn the oven to medium high then cook for another minute or two until the sauce almost disappears at the bottom of the pot (as shown in the photo). Turn off the oven, stir the pork again to coat evenly in the sauce.
Transfer to serving plate or bowl, sprinkle some black pepper on top and add in cilantro to garnish.
Serve hot with rice.
Cuisine: Vietnamese (southern)
Preparation time: 35 minutes total (hands on about 10 minutes)
Number of serving: 2
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