Tofu is a great addition to this braised pork dish as it absorbs all the rich flavor of the pork and caramel sauce. While you can buy fried tofu, I prefer doing it myself. I use soft tofu, slice it 1-inch thick, deep fry it, and then cut it. The frying helps the tofu maintain its shape during braising, but then cutting it will allow the unfried part of the tofu to absorb all the sauce.
Making caramel sauce is a must for this dish to provide color and flavor to the pork. If you're not going to do this step, then skip the sugar in the recipe as the coconut juice will provide plenty of sweetness on its own. The coconut juice will mostly cook off, leaving behind a slight sweetness to add depth to the pork. If you don't want any coconut juice at all, then simply substitute with water.
Thit Heo Kho Voi Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork With Tofu)
For a 2-quart pot, you'll need:
Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce) 1 lb pork butt or shoulder, sliced into two-inch chunks. Traditionally, a nice fatty portion with skin attached is used.
A block of tofu or less, depending on preference
1 medium onion, sliced or diced, and/or a few cloves of garlic if you wish
1 cup fresh coconut juice, or substitute with Coco Rico
About 1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), or more according to taste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Slice tofu about 1-inch thick and deep-fry until golden. Drain. When cooled, slice the tofu into large chunks, about 2 inches. Set aside.
Cut meat into 2-inch wide chunks.
Slice or dice onions. Set aside.
Make the caramel sauce, then add the pork and stir to color the pork. Add the onion and about 1 cup of coconut juice, or half a can of Coco Rico, and enough water to cover the meat with about an inch of water over. Stir again to mix it up. If you like sweeter meat, you can use additional coconut juice in lieu of the water. Taste and adjust sugar or fish sauce if necessary. Turn heat down to medium low and allow to simmer for at least half an hour, ideally an hour. Pork gets more tender the longer it cooks so this is really a personal preference. The water will cook down and meld everything together -- the pork and onions will soften, the almost burnt sugar takes on a deep molasses flavor, the saltiness of the fish sauce balances it all. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
About 15 minutes before the pork will be the done, add the tofu, making sure to put the tofu in the middle of the pot so they can absorb the caramel sauce flavor and color. You don't want to put the tofu in too soon because it'll fall apart.
This dish can be pretty fatty if you choose to use pork belly or a skin-on portion, so I'd suggest making this and then refrigerating it for several hours or overnight. The excess fat will congeal for easy removal. Just reheat by letting it simmer for a few minutes.
Serve with rice.
My other braised pork dishes:
Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, and Chilies)
Thit Heo Kho Mit (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Jackfruit)
Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)
Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs)
1 year ago today, one of my favorite broken rice restaurants, Da Nang Com Tam Tran Quy Cap - Westminster (Little Saigon) and one of my most popular recipes, Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls).