Thit Kho: Take 1
I love thit kho – Vietnamese caramelized pork. It’s one of those “everyday” dishes that Vietnamese households serve for dinner all the time – but certainly, when one moves away from home, it becomes even more extraordinary. My aunt made it for my cousin and me and I tried to copy her at home with mixed results.
First step? Chop onions, garlic, and shallots. I added sliced mushrooms as well, but that addition is far from traditional. Also, it ended up adding too much moisture and made it hard to thicken the caramel sauce.
To make the caramel sauce, heat up some oil and some brown sugar to it. After it starts caramelizing, remove it from heat! I didn’t do that quickly enough, and it ended up being a legit caramel-way too thick and bubbly. Begin adding the onions, garlic, and shallots (and mushrooms). After browning and seeing the sauce thicken, add some coconut water (not too much that it’d thin out the caramel sauce) and pork.
I used a leaner pork loin, but you’re supposed to be using pork short ribs. The problem with pork loin is that it is too lean and dries out quickly, whereas the ribs will add more flavor from the bone and has more fat to prevent it from drying out. At this point, I’d start tasting and adding more brown sugar as needed. Towards the very end, to salt the dish, add fish sauce (any one of these will do: http://cltampa.com/binary/45fe/fish-sauce.jpg ). Add fish sauce to taste, but generally the rule of thumb is 1:1 ratio of brown sugar to fish sauce.
I finish the dish by cracking a ton of black pepper on top. It ended up being good, but nowhere close to my aunt’s/mom’s/grandmother’s. I’ll definitely try this dish again, using the pork ribs instead of pork loin, and skipping out on the mushrooms which made the caramelization too complicated.