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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork With Eggs)

Does your pot make you smile when you cook like mine does for me? What treasure does it hold today?

Tomato Enameled Cast Iron Pot

Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) is simply put a peasant dish. So earthy, so flavorful, so comforting. My mom used to make this fairly often when I was little and I always loved to spoon the sauce over rice and eat it plain.

The caramel sauce infuses the pork and hard-boiled eggs with a slightly sweet, deeply rich flavor that can only be achieved by braising for a long time. The fats and collagens in the pork break down into tenderness, the blandness of the albumen absorbs the caramel flavors, the yolk is smooth and rich. Spooned over rice with plenty of sauce, of course, it's perfect comfort food for a rainy day. The 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 Kho Trung  (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) 1

Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork With Hard-Boiled Eggs)

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. Screw cholesterol and follow tradition if you wish.
3 hard-boiled eggs, or more if you'd like
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

Optional: If you don't want to make the caramel sauce, you can substitute by adding 1 tblsp of Indonesian Kecap Manis

Hard boil eggs, peel shells, and set aside. I usually start boiling the water for this while I prepare the meat.

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. Add the fish sauce, salt, and ground black pepper. 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. My mom likes her pork very firm, I like it fall-off-the-bone tender. 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 hard-boiled eggs, making sure to put the eggs in the middle of the pot so they can absorb the caramel sauce flavor and color. You don't want to put the eggs too soon because they'll get rubbery.

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.

Thit Kho Trung  (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) 2

Now, another variation of this dish is to replace the eggs with pickled mustard greens. I love the contrasts of the pickled sourness to the salty-sweetness of the sauce.

Omit the eggs. Do all the same steps as above, but add the pickled mustard greens at the same time as the meat.

Shhhh. Don't tell anyone, but you can combine it all and make braised pork with eggs and pickled mustard greens, instead of just or. Although I have only seen it offered one way or the other. You can even spoon it over rice porridge instead of regular rice.


My other Vietnamese braised pork dishes:
Suon Kho Xa Gung Toi Ot (Vietnamese Braised Pork Chops with Lemongrass, Ginger, Garlic, and Chilies)
Thit Heo Kho Cu Cai Trang Cu Sen (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Daikon Radish and Lotus Roots)
Thit Heo Kho Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)
Thit Heo Kho Mit (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Jackfruit)
Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatballs)

Who made my recipe for thit kho trung?
The Budding Cook said, "I was impatient so I didn't wait for the coconut juice to caramelize. :D It still turned out delicious though. :)"
Weismommie of My College Kitchen substituted the coconut juice with beer and said, "This is excellent eaten with hot white rice."
Carmen Cooks said, "...was really pleased with how it came out... I’m not a big meat-eater, and my favorite part of this dish were the eggs. While the meat was good – fall apart tender and flavorful – I would have been happy to just have the eggs."


  1. Hello from Northern Virginia!
    This is one of those dishes that my mom would always make for me when I came home during the holidays. As you stated, it's a very comforting dish. Her pot wasn't nearly as colorful as yours :)

    Since my wife is Japanese, we cook more Japanese dishes than Vietnamese these days. I like the Japanese tastes but sometimes I long for good ol' VNese cooking...


  2. Hi TMTruong,
    Thanks for stopping by. I love Japanese food too. But you know, there's just something about how fish sauce makes every meal taste sooo good and comforting that other cuisines can't replicate.

  3. I love your pot! So cute....
    Yes, yes...scoop that gravy and spoon over rice...heavenly! Does coconut juice make it Vnese? Coz I've seen such dish in chinese cuisine too...just w/o the coconut juice.

  4. Hi Tigerfish,
    It's the fish sauce that makes this VNese. If made Chinese-style, the soy sauce imparts a different flavor.

  5. yummi i don't think my mom uses coconut juice but i love this dish.. :) i should try it this way to see how different the taste is. :)

  6. Seems like fish sauce is used in many VNese dishes. I have a bottle and had used that in my Tom Yum Soup. Question re coconut juice... any kind of canned coconut juice drink will do?

  7. Hi Budding Cook,
    I think you can try your catfish this way too to make ca kho.

    Hi SimCooks,
    Well, I leave the choice of coconut juice variety up to you because everyone has their own preference. You just want enough to get a coconut taste and aroma but not to overpower the dish.

  8. I LOVE this dish! My sister and I especially love how the eggs soak up the sauce, so instead of 3 eggs, we usually have about 10 eggs in the pot :)

    Do you also eat it in spring rolls? The broth, some more nuoc mam, chili sauce and mashed yolk makes a tasty dipping sauce.

  9. i wanted to buy a similar type of cast iron pot. do you use your pot a lot? what type of dishes do you prepare in it. :D

  10. Hi Christine,
    I totally use banh trang to mop up anything I make with sauce. :)

    Budding Cook,
    I use my little tomato pot several times a week. It's a nice size for cooking portions for two to three people.

    Let's see, I've made this, my pumpkin curry, soups. The cast iron is ideal for retaining heat when I want meat to become really tender.

  11. Bill,
    Well, it's just my translation. Dunno what other people would call it in English.

    Fat makes everything tasty. :)

  12. WC, thx for showing off your cute apple pot, so cute !! OOhh..love those eggs with some pork belliess..delicious fattts ! :)

  13. Hi from Ireland! I came across your blog and LOVE the recipes! Just like mom makes. As she is in California and I am in Ireland, I can bring some tastes from her home to mine thanks to you! Man there is nothing so delicious as those soaked eggs and the sauce over rice itself is DIVINE!!!

  14. Ahhh. So this is what you were talking about. The cooking is similar to adobo, but kho would definitely be sweeter than adobo. It looks good though.

    Hmmmm, a plate with an adobo rib and a kho rib, with some rice, sounds pretty good doesn't it? Sweet and sour?

  15. This is awesome! I'll definitely try this.. been meaning to ask my mom how to make it but here it is! Awesome!

  16. Marvin,
    Sounds perfect to me!

    Hope you like it!

  17. Hi Hung,
    Yeah, I'm not a fan of bittermelon. Can't eat it. But I can do the same recipe and stuff bi with it for you. :)

  18. I came across your blog when I was looking for something to use my pickled mustard greens in. I love the braised pork dish but never thought to add it to that - I will give it a go. Love the blog!

  19. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. i've lurked on your blog a few times. i've been searching for a better part of an hour for a good thit kho recipe, only you and gastronomy have it! it is my goal to make more vietnamese food, rather than order out so much. there just aren't any homestyle vietnamese cooking recipes out there.

  20. Angry Asian,
    That's weird. There's lots of thit kho recipes out there. But I'm glad to oblige.

  21. Lizzie,
    Thanks! I love pickled mustard greens and think the sourness adds a nice contrast to the caramelized taste of this recipe.

  22. Hiya, I finished cooking (and eating) a while ago, it was absolutely delicious to me, although the true judge will be my vietnamese boyfriend :-D But it tasted like his mom´s recipe, so I think I´ll stick to this version :-) Thanks so much for posting this recipe, I hope to try more of them in the future!

  23. Lenka,
    Tasting similar to anyone's mom is always a good thing! I'm glad you liked the recipe. :)

  24. Hi WC,

    Do you ever skip making the nuoc mau and use the nuoc mau already in the bottle? I've used it a couple of times and it turns out pretty good.

    Just wondering...

  25. Johnny,
    The caramelization is so quick and easy that I don't really bother buying bottled nuoc mau. If I want a bit of color, I cheat and add kecap manis.

  26. Thanks for posting the banh mi entry or else I would have never found this. It seems very similar to a dish from my childhood that I've been wanting to make. It's called "kaw" in Khmer. Is that how Kho is pronounced? I don't know if it's the same, it sure looks like it, though my parents always added big chunks of bamboo - my favorite part! Sometimes, my mother would throw in small quail eggs too.

    Can't wait to make this!

  27. Hey! This reminds me of my childhood. I used to take this stuff for granted until I cooked it myself. Following my mom's recipe I use pork belly for the meat, and for seasoning, fish sauce and soy sauce. It's funny my mom had to warn me of scaring off housemates with the fish sauce odor. Poke holes all over your boiled eggs with a fork to encourage more sauce absorption!

  28. OH what a cute pot! i want it :) this dish looks very delicious and comforting. yum. x

  29. The fat you've left in looks soooo succulent! Yummy!

  30. My thai mom makes a similar dish - she adds five spice powder (pae lo) to it and we use soy instead of fish sauce. I'm sure it's not the same recipe but they look similar - this recipe looks very delicious!!

    Huyzee: great tip poking the eggs! I will definitely do that next time!

  31. I'm making this right now - should I cover the pot while simmering or simmer uncovered? Sorry if this is a dumb question. :)

  32. Vuthy,
    Yes, kho is pronounced like kaw. I do have another version with bamboo too. :)

    Ah, nice tip.

    I kept debating whether or not I should buy the pot, in the end, it was just to cute to pass up.

    Imagine how much fattier if I made it with pork belly!

    Miss Tish,
    Five spice powder and soy sauce sounds like the Chinese version.

    I keep it partially covered. Enough to reduce and thicken the sauce, but not too much so that the juices are all gone. Let me know how it goes!

  33. Thank you! I just finished cooking the dish and put it in the fridge so I can take the fat off later in time for dinner. :) It smells wonderful! I've never made a caramel sauce before, but your instructions were perfect. It went from lightly colored to very dark in a flash! I turned my head for what seemed like only a few seconds and the next thing I knew, it was very dark - I was worried it was scorched, but I tasted the sauce before putting it in the fridge and it's very deep and complex, the way I think it should be. Thanks for your great detailed instructions!

  34. Hi: I hope it's okay with you if I write about this dish on my blog and link back to your page? I'm not copying the recipe onto my page at all, just directing people here and letting everyone know how much I liked it. :)

  35. Carmen,
    Thanks so much for trying out my recipe and for giving me feedback! I'm so glad you liked it. :)

    Of course it's OK if you blog and link back to my recipe. Much thanks for the link love!

  36. I just made this tonight following your recipe. It's been so long since my mom made this so I'm thrilled to have found it on your blog. It's strange... for the past decade my mom has been making more western dishes and rarely makes Vietnamese dishes anymore. And I guess I'm older now where I want more Vietnamese dishes, whereas growing up, I was all about American food.

    Anyway, this dish is wonderful... very filling and sticks with you. I'll have a good night's sleep tonight for sure.

  37. Wendy,
    How weird. Maybe your mom has become Americanized through the years? I crave VNese food and just have to have it.

    Thanks for trying my recipe!

  38. I've tried this dish time and time again, but can't get the flavor to fuse into the yolk. I can't remember if trung kho traditionally did that, but I know in Chinese cooking, they somehow "marinate" the eggs. Any idea how to do this?

  39. I made this last night and it came out really well. I didn't think I'd like the eggs but they were very tasty. Thanks once again for the excellent recipe and instructions. And I followed your advice to remove some of the fat and was a good idea! :O)

  40. I'm going to try this out this week. I can't wait! I told my mom about your blog and she got mad because she thinks I should be learning these recipes from her! typical Viet parent :)


  41. Am I missing it, but I don't see where it says to put in the fish sauce, salt and pepper.

  42. Debbie,
    You're thinking of tea eggs, where the eggs have been soaked for days? The eggs here don't really absorb that much of the sauce. Rather, spoon the sauce over the eggs and rice and eat them together.

    La Takahashi,
    Thanks for trying so many of my recipes! Very cool that even though you didn't think you'd like the eggs, you tried them anyway.

    Frugal Philly Mom,
    Ah, how'd it turn out?

    Haha. Oops. I must have deleted that when I was editing the recipe. Thanks for pointing it out.

  43. i made this lastnight with my boyfriend! it was soooooo goood thank you soooo much for posting this! my dish wasnt as brown? how come?

  44. Isouderzi,
    Did you make the caramel sauce?

  45. I did make the caramelized sauce maybe not enough sugar? If I use more does it change the taste?

  46. souderz,
    If you use more, it'll just have a deeper flavor. If you don't like it, just add a bit more water and let it cook down.

  47. I haven't made this yet but will be sure to when I return home from traveling. I'm in Vietnam at the moment and this, by far, my favourite dish across south east Asia.

    Thanks so much for the recipe, I've tried asking the people that make it but my Vietnamese is sorely lacking and I usually end up with nods and blank looks!

    I'm glad I stumbled across this blog and will be sure to check it out in future to recreate the delicacies I've sampled along the way.

  48. Hi WC!
    I've been reading your blog and have finally made something of yours, specifically this recipe. It turned out really well! :) You can see the pics + my comments here: http://dailyhau.posterous.com/23365-i-made-thit-heo-kho-voi-trung-braised-p

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories and recipes. I really enjoy what you've written.

  49. Matt,
    Jealous! You don't need to make it, you've got way grander adventures.

    So glad you liked it.

  50. Hi, I think just adding 3 tsp of fish sauce is enough if you still want to taste the sweetness of coconut juice. Any more will make this more like braised pork.

  51. Sorry, I just mean that it's gonna be too salty. Yes, it's still braised pork.

  52. Incredible! My hubby's Vietnamese mother used to make this for him all the time when he was younger. One day a while ago he was telling me about this dish with pork and eggs and how much he loved and misses it since he moved across country from them. After much research I found and followed this recipe. He was literally falling over himself and ate it ALL in two days! Our 22month old girl loves it as well. Thanks SO much for this recipe!

  53. Khoa,
    Yup. That's why I said to adjust to your own preference. Did you know someone made this and added 1/2 cup of fish sauce. Ack! That's too salty. Waaay too salty.

    I love comments like yours. So happy your husband and daughter liked it. :)

  54. I tried making the nuoc mau. It turned the same color as yours. When I added in the thit heo into the nuoc, it hardened and became hard caramel crystals. Should I have added in the water first before adding in the meats?

  55. Liz,
    Usually the meat has enough moisture that it loosens the caramel, but the caramel crystals are fine since they dissolve when the water is added anyway.

  56. Going to try this today! It was a staple in my home growing up! Will let you know how it goes!

  57. Radish Girl,
    Funny how so many Vietnamese start out with this recipe when tackling Vietnamese recipes in general.

  58. This came out beautifully today. I had picked up some pork shoulder boneless ribs on sale. I had it simmering for 1.0 hour. I also added cabbage but added it too soon so it lost its crunch.

  59. Jojo,
    Glad the recipe worked for you! See? Just a little experimenting and you can make caramel sauce.

  60. I have seen this recipe elsewhere and star anise and a red chilli(es) are included, is this still authentic to include these..?

    I love the flavour of star anise and the heat of the chilli

  61. Phil,
    I think the only really "authentic" ingredient that you need is the coconut juice. Otherwise, feel free to make adjustments and add star anise or chilies if you like. I add Chinese 5-spice powder or lemongrass sometimes.

  62. Thank you for your reply WC, I have a cold at the moment and made this last night again , I added just 2 star anise. I also had a can of chinese pickled cabbage in the cupboard which I added to my plate at the end. It complimented the dish very well with the added texture and a different taste. A great simple recipe thank you WC!

  63. LC,

    Sounds great! I'm glad the recipe turned out well for you. Thanks for letting me know! Hope you feel better soon.

  64. Hi WC! I found your website a while ago and since then, you've been my go to spot for good viet recipes. I don't live that close to my mother and ngoai anymore and getting them to give me a proper recipe is impossible since they don't use recipes and they sure as heck don't measure anything :-p One of these days I'll get the family's version, but until I do, thank you for this awesome resource! Ps. Making this for Tet today and it smells heavenly!!!

  65. L. Bien,
    So sweet. What a nice compliment to start off the Lunar New Year. :)

  66. My grandma used to make this dish but she doesn't cook anymore. It is one of my favorites. I'm so glad I found your site since I've been wanting to cook more viet dishes on my own. I made this last night with pork belly with skin on, it was delish! Thanks so much! (Do you have a recipe for thit dong?)

  67. Trang,
    You mean cha/gio thu? I do, but I haven't posted it yet. :P

  68. Try this (if you have not already). Shred the thit kho up a little and cuon it with some egg in banh trang. Put some of the thit kho sauce in a chen, little extra nuoc mam and a crush a thai bird chili with the back of a spoon. Dip and eat, I love it that way! If you have some rau cai, cuon that in the banh trang too.

  69. Johnny E!,
    I've done that plenty of times! I like to mash up a bit of the egg yolk into the sauce to dip. What can't you roll up in banh trang? :)


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