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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens)

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 1

When I originally blogged Thit Heo Kho Trung (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs) long ago, I also included a suggestion for adding in Cai Chua (Vietnamese Pickled Mustard Greens). Then I retook the photos and in updating the recipe, decided to make this variation a separate post. I've been meaning to make this again to re-do the photos, but it's been sitting in the queue since October 2008 so I might as well just get it out there. It seems silly since I've blogged other versions including Thit Heo Kho Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu) and Thit Heo Kho Mit (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Jackfruit).

While some Vietnamese serve pickled mustard greens as a side dish to cut the fattiness of the braised pork, I like how the tartness adds another dimension to the savory sweetness of the thit heo kho.

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 2

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens)

For a 2-quart pot, you'll need:

Nuoc Mau (Vietnamese Caramel Sauce)
1 lb pork belly, butt, or shoulder, sliced into two-inch chunks.
2 heads mustard greens, quartered
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 black pepper

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

The pickled mustard greens can be a bit too sour, since give them a quick rinse before cooking with them.

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 3

The main part of the mustard leaves are pretty sturdy so they'll stand up well in a quick braise.

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 4

Halve and quarter each mustard green. Cut into eighths if you wish. Set aside.

Thit Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 5

Cut pork 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 pickled mustard greens. You don't want to put them in too soon or they'll get mushy.

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 Heo Kho Cai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens) 6


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 Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)
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, Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnamese Beef Carpaccio with Lemon).
2 years ago today, durian - the king of fruits.
3 years ago today, juicy, crispy chicken and Belgian waffles at Merritt Bakery and Restaurant - Oakland.


  1. My grandmother used to make this! The contrast of textures and flavors is really great.

  2. I love mustard greens. I've never pickled them before, so this recipe will be fun to try.

  3. I loved it when my mom made this with pork belly. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Hey!!! =D

    Nothing to do with this post -- except I should mention that I think I would have more than 4 (is that 5?) pieces of the pork belly in my bowl, teehee -- but I just wanted to say that I'm still making & using the sugar & oil scrub that I first discovered from your blog. =)

    That's all.

  5. Do you pickle your own mustard greens? I've always had the 49-cent vacuum packs from the Asian store, but I've had to stop eating them (and most pickled or preserved Asian foods) because I've developed a sulfite allergy and it's used in so many Asian products as a preservative. Hate it! I love almost anything pickled. I remember having this dish as a kid; it's one of my favorite. Thanks for the recipe! And for stopping by the other day :-)

  6. Calvin,
    Why do you have so many blogs? I can't keep track!

    I love pickled mustard greens, but haven't attempted my own yet. I just buy them from the Asian grocery store.

    Surely you've seen all the other variations before?

    Haha. It's nice to hear from you anyway! Well, I'm glad to hear you liked the body scrub recipe.

    I only had 3! The other pieces are the stems of the mustard greens that took on the color of the pork.

    I bought the pickled mustard greens, but I want to try making my own some day. I love pickles too. Allergies suck. Perhaps making your own pickles will be OK?


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