Normally when I think about caramel I think about sweet dishes but it’s often used in savoury dishes like in Vietnamese style caramel pork! This recipe starts out by caramelizing sugar, simmering it until it turns a golden brown. Once the sugar is caramelized, the sauce is made with fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, garlic, ginger, chilies and coconut water. This sauce has an amazing balance of sweetness from the caramel, saltiness from the fish sauce, sourness from the lime juice and spicy heat from the chili pepper! The pork is browned before being added to the sauce where it’s simmer until it’s falling apart tender and most of sauce has cooked off. After the pork has been cooked it will have cooked off it’s fat and it will then cook in the fat, caramelizing it on the outside, with the remaining sauce sticking to the pork! I enjoy eating this pork all by itself and it’s also goo served on rice, or in sandwiches, tacos, etc.!
Vietnamese Caramel Pork
Vietnamese style sweet and savoury caramelized pork that is melt in your mouth tender!
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 (2-3 pound) pork butt/shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar or palm sugar)
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic, grated/minced
- 1 tablespoon galangal (or ginger), grated/minced
- 1 bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced
- 2 cups coconut water
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the pork and brown on all sides before setting aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the sugar and water, cook until the sugar melts, bring to a simmer and cook until it caramelizes and turns and turns a light golden brown.
- Carefully add the fish sauce, lime juice, lime zest, shallot, garlic, ginger and chili, mix well and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, before adding the coconut water.
- Add the pork, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the pork is falling apart tender and the liquid has mostly cooked off, about 2-3 hours.
- Once the liquid has been cooked off, stir and cook the pork until lightly caramelized and enjoy!
Option: Use another chili pepper or chili sauce (such as sriracha) instead of the bird’s eye chili.
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