Sunday, August 03, 2008

Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, and Chilies)

Recipe and photos updated from the archives June 20, 2014:

Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot 9

Do you like your pork firm or tender?

My mom likes it firm and that's the only way I had ever eaten pork growing up. Then about a decade ago, my friend DP stayed with me when she moved out to California. For that week, I'd come home from work with the yummiest homecooked meals. The only dish I can remember her making were these braised pork chops that were so incredibly tender that I became an instant convert.            

So when lil' sis recently requested pork chops, I said I'd make some with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chilies. But instead of grilling them, which is the more popular method, I braised them for almost an hour, until the pork chops were as tender as the memory of my friend's dish.

That's the funny thing about food memories. While many of my food preferences are based upon my mom's cooking, I have very distinctly different tastes from her. I like more tartness, more garlic, more tenderness in my meats. Another friend cooked pork chops by salting and boiling them for several hours until they fell part. That didn't sound very appetizing to me at all. But that was how my friend's mom always made pork chops, so that's how she made them.

This recipe is pretty similar to my recipe for Ga Nuong Xa (Vietnamese Grilled Chicken with Lemongrass) except I like to substitute honey for sugar when braising. I think it adds deeper flavor notes since it's simmered with fish sauce for so long. Braising also eliminates the need to marinate the meat since the flavors will be concentrated as it cooks.

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Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, and Chilies)

For about 4 1/2-inch thick pork chops, you'll need:
2 stalks lemongrass, finely minced
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-inch knob ginger, finely minced
1 chili pepper, finely minced
1 tblsp honey
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups water

Small chop 2 stalks of lemongrass, 6 cloves of garlic, a 1-inch knob of ginger, and 1 chili pepper.

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Then finely mince everything in a food processor until a rough paste is formed.

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Add 1 tblsp honey, 1 tblsp fish sauce, 1 tblsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Then slather the marinade all over the pork chops.

In a large sauce pan on high heat, drizzle a bit of oil and quickly sear the pork chops. Add 2 cups of water, cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes.

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Every 15 minutes or so, check and make sure nothing's burning, flip the pork chops, and make taste adjustments or add water if necessary. This watery marinade will gradually thicken into a rich sauce.

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Ideally, I'd use much nicer cuts of pork, but this ugly cut was $3.77 for the whole pan's worth. With gas prices these days, every little bit of savings counts. Poke the pork chops with a chopstick and see if it's as tender as you'd like it.

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Serve with rice. Spoon the sauce over the rice if you wish.

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Enjoy!

Now, let's look at the old photo. Egads! Reflective overhead florescent lighting, blurry rice fading into the plate, just poorly photographed all around.

Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot 1

Who made my recipe for Vietnamese lemongrass pork chops?
Ning of Heart and Hearth said, "The result is truly a soft, melt-in-the mouth, falling off the bones pork chops."

My other braised pork recipes:
Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork)
Thit Heo Kho Voi Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)
Thit Heo Kho Voi Trung Hoac Gai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs or Pickled Mustard Greens)
Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs)

*****
1 year ago today, an individual batch of Cherry Cinnamon Jam.

21 comments:

  1. i wanna get a food processor! sob sob sob

    i loveee this dish and the spice combo :)

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  2. i like this dish too. I may try it since I think I can get lemongrass in Singapore. It's hard to find in Taiwan except in specialty stores which makes it a chore!

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  3. I will definitely try to cook this dish. The combination of the ingredients sounds yummy. Although we are not exactly fans of pork chops, this dish may make us converts yet. Another bookmarked recipe!

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  4. The lemongrass marinade looks really good, I must try it some day after I buy a mini blender. I love my pork chops tender and juicy.

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  5. Our pork chops are almost always overcooked. Any trace of pink in the meat and we reheat the thing. I don't know where I stand on the whole pork chop thing: seems I can't get it "just right" anymore. I don't know if it has something to do with the meat itself (the pig), but I haven't been satisfied with a pork chop in over 3 years. We have yet to try braised pork chops. I was always afraid that braising them would lead to even harder and dryer meat. This recipe looks delicious and I think I'll definitely give it a try. Maybe this will turn the corner and lead me to pork chop heaven again.

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  6. This looks so tasty! I've never been good at cooking pork chops - they always come out on the dry side. A braise sounds like a great way to get tender meat w/o overcooking it. My mom also always cooked pork chops firm and I have always preferred tender meat. I've also never cooked Vietnamese food before, so I can't wait to take a look through your archives and try some of your great recipes out. I just discovered your blog recently and think it's very informative.

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  7. I like my pork chops to be super tender borderline falling off the bone because I have lazy teeth that do not like chewing. With that said, my mom always fried the pork chops and they always end up kind of tough.

    Maybe I'll show her this recipe and get her to make it for me. YUM!

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  8. I almost busted out laughing because I just ate this EXACT dish last night (and leftovers for lunch today).

    Ohhhhhhhh the sauce......

    We also had the grilled version for dinner. See?! Delicious Vietnamese food in Ohio! (homemade though, lol).

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  9. Ooo, I can see this with meatballs! I love the Vietnamese sauces for fish and meats, especially when it's cooked in a claypot. My salivary glands are in overdrive looking at the plated pork over rice. Thanks for the recipe!

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  10. Wow! What a great braising recipe. I love pork, and it's so refreshing to find recipes that are new-to-me. I wonder how this would turn out in a crock pot? With Fall right around the corner, I tend to cook in the crock pot because of my kids participation in after school sports. Braised recipes tend to work well in the crock pot. I like the idea of honey; I don't "cook" with it nearly enough. I'd sure love to have more recipes like this ... full flavored, not a ton of ingredients, and comforting. YUM!

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  11. The flavors of this sound wonderful! All my favorites!

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  12. CP,

    I emailed you back in June when you made an open survey and I said I'd go under "whowantscandy" :)

    Anyways, this pork chop recipe looks really good and I am salivating just thinking about possibly making this dish next week! Could I sub the lemongrass and the rice wine vinegar for, say, lemon zest and apple cider vinegar w/o compromising on the taste?

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  13. This is a delicious recipe. I made it yesterday and am really happy with it, although the porc is a bit dry. Yummy Viet food in Canada :) Thanks for sharing your recipe.

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  14. My family has always eaten them firm. They like the resistance of the firmer meat. I think many Viet cooks prepare it in the same way. At work, every time one of the ladies brings in pork chops, they're usually cooked firm and dry. Many of my non-Viet cook friends like to pound the chops down to tenderize them.Funny how both methods are appreciated. That's the beauty of food, the possibilities are endless.
    That sauce just glistens and looks so yummy. It's the kind of sauce that needs to be licked off the plate. Ya can't waste your sauce!

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  15. MCR,
    Just buy a cheap food processor. One of the best and most frequently used kitchen appliances in my house. I don't have the patience to grind things in a mortar and pestle.

    Tigerfishy,
    I did not know Taiwanese didn't cook with lemongrass. Actually, I can't think of any Taiwanese dishes with lemongrass. Who'da thunk?

    Ning,
    You've got plenty of lemongrass you can use. I can't believe you're growing them in pots, but they look great.

    Noob Cook,
    Ah, another one in the tender and juicy camp. :)

    JS,
    Braising always tenderizes meats. If you don't let it dry out, the longer you cook pork, the more tender it gets.

    Carmen Cooks,
    Thank you. What's up with our mothers liking firm pork? Is it a generational thing? I hope you try some VNese recipes!

    Lil Miss,
    Haha! I don't know if your mom would appreciate you telling her you don't like her pork chops. Moms are sensitive you know. :P

    Christine,
    Ha! Just when you start blogging again, we end up in sync again. Yeah, now try finding good VNese food in a restaurant in Ohio! ;)

    Mtan,
    You know, I guess these would work for meatballs too. I'm not used to adding lemongrass to meatballs since I see it more as a flavoring agent. I'm kinda partial to my meatball recipe the way it is. Hehe.

    Paula,
    This recipe would be great in a crock pot. Long, slow, low cooking and the pork chops will end up fall-off-the-bone tender.

    Pam,
    Thanks!

    Who Wants Candy,
    You can certainly try lemon zest and apple cider vinegar to see what you end up with. But the flavors are so different from lemongrass and rice wine vinegar that the substitutions won't result in the same taste. Never hurts to try though!

    Felicia,
    Did you try adding in more water? Or you mean the pork itself was dry and not the marinade? Can't help you with that as it depends on where you buy your meat.

    WoRC,
    Must be a generational thing then. I wonder why older VNese like firm and dry pork? I need juicy pork!

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  16. I made this last night and it was delicious. I've never braised pork chops before and don't think I'll ever go back to cooking them any other way. Thanks for sharing a lovely recipe.

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  17. Carmen,
    Oh, I'm so glad you liked my recipe. Thanks for trying it out and giving me such nice feedback! You ain't seen everything yet. I got another pork chop recipe coming up. :)

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  18. It's true that porkchops from better grocers are juicier,thicker, more tender, etc. But the secret is just to use a few tablespoons of pineapple/orange juice in your marinades to make any chops more tender. Now you can braise or grill and get the same tenderness. When it comes to pork, I like to marinate overnight - and I always use palm sugar or honey as the sweetener (vs granulated sugar)- caramelizes much better on the grill.

    *whoa!! a decade already? but I do recall I started cooking at the tender age of 8ish* ;)

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  19. DP,
    I think that just means you'll have to make your pork chops again for me. It *has* been a decade after all. ;)

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  20. Hi Wandering!!!...new reader (um..actually new poster, been a quiet reader for a while. I love the spice combination, i like things lemongrassy :) hehehe , infact going to post about my grilled lemongrass porkchop. Gotta try your braised porkchop recipe sometime.

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  21. My College Kitchen,
    Grilled or braised, I love pork chops with lemongrass. :)

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