Known as Thịt Kho Trứng or Thịt Kho Tàu, this popular Vietnamese comfort food features rich, fatty pork braised until tender in sweet & savory coconut and caramel sauce with flavorful boiled eggs. In this recipe, I teach you my tips and tricks for how to make the best authentic Thịt Kho!
Coconut Water vs. Coco Rico for Thịt Kho
Some traditional Thịt Kho recipes call for Coco Rico, a coconut soda from Puerto Rico that has become a bit of a staple in Vietnamese home cooking, particularly for Vietnamese living in the US. For many, this is a quick and convenient way to bring delicious coconut flavor to their Vietnamese dishes. The acidity of the soda also helps tenderize the meat while the sugar and coconut extract add to the color and flavor of the dish.
Unfortunately, cooking with coconut soda also introduces high fructose corn syrup and preservatives into the Thịt Kho, which is a big no-no for me personally. Not only are these unhealthy, but the corn syrup also adds an unappealing aftertaste. Instead, I like to use 100% coconut water for braising. It has the perfect amount of natural sweetness and the true coconut flavor really adds something special to the Thịt Kho. To keep the pork wonderfully fork-tender without acid, I braise it for 2-3 hours instead of the usual 1-2 hours. I highly recommend choosing coconut water over coconut soda if you can!
Caramel Sauce (Nước Màu) for Thịt Kho
Thịt Kho wouldn’t be Thịt Kho without the classic Vietnamese caramel sauce Nước Màu – a simple combination of sugar and water cooked down until it creates a rich, glossy, dark caramel.
Nước Màu is different than the regular golden brown caramel used for sweets. It’s cooked longer, until it becomes a dark copper color, and has more of a bittersweet, nutty flavor that makes it perfect for savory dishes rather than desserts. You can cook a bigger batch of this caramel sauce for easy use in other recipes – like for my Vietnamese caramelized short ribs! It will last around 1 month in an airtight container stored in the fridge.
Adding Eggs to Thịt Kho
Many recipes for Thịt Kho add the egg later in the cooking process. While that can also be delicious, my personal preference for really good Thịt Kho is to let the eggs cook with the pork for 2 hours. This method allows the egg to absorb the flavors from the Thịt Kho sauce. What you get is a beautiful brown egg packed with flavor in both the white and the yolk, similar to Japanese soy sauce eggs or Chinese tea eggs.
What to Serve with Thịt Kho
Thịt Kho is usually served with a side of freshly cooked rice – a perfect pairing since it soaks up all that flavorful braising liquid! At our home, we always have some pickled bean sprouts on the side as well. These are called Dua Gia and they add crisp texture and refreshing tanginess that creates a wonderful contrast with the soft pork and sweet & savory sauce.
Thit Kho Tau / Thit Kho Trung Recipe
- 5 lbs. Pork Belly
- 3-4 Shallots
- 3-4 TBSP Minced Garlic
- 2 TBSP Sugar
- 1/4 cup Fish Sauce
- 2 TBSP Sugar for caramelization
- 4 11 ounces Coconut Water
- 6-8 hard-boiled Eggs
- 1-2 TBSP Fish Sauce to your liking; the less time your meat had to marinate, the more fish sauce you may need to add at the end of the cooking time. Always taste test and season to your liking.
- Wash pork belly thoroughly with salt, vinegar and water.
- Cut pork belly into 1.5-2 inch cubes.
- Minced garlic and shallots or if you have a mortar & pester that is even better. Crushing the aromatics with the mortar & pester releases more flavor.
- Add garlic, shallots, fish sauce and sugar to pork belly.
- For best results, marinate for 2 hours. At the very minimum, I suggest marinating 30-45 minutes.
- Once pork belly has marinated, it is time to caramelize the sugar.
- Melt 2 TBSP of sugar over medium heat until sugar has developed a beautiful caramel color. Make sure to keep an eye on this. It turns from a beautiful amber color to being burned very fast!
- Add marinated pork to caramelized sugar with all the marinade liquid.
- Toss thoroughly and try to get the caramelized sugar on each piece of pork. Put lid on and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
- Now turn each piece of pork so it can brown on all sides. Put lid on and let it cook for another couple of minutes.
- Toss and turn the pork again. At this point you will see that most of the pork started to take on a beautiful caramel and brown color. Put lid on once more and cook for another few minutes.
- At this point, your pork should be nicely browned on all sides. Now you want to add the coconut water. You want all the meat to be covered in coconut water.
- Put the lid back on and get the pot come to a boil.
- Make sure to skim off any impurities and foam that will be coming up to the surface. This will keep the dish tasting clean and the broth clear.
- After about 6-8 minutes, no more impurities should be coming up to the top. Now you want to add your hard-boiled eggs.
- We serve Thit Kho Trung over steamed rice and it is always accompanied with some pickled vegetables. In my family we serve it with pickled bean sprouts with chives called Dưa Giá.