Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho)

So.. I love food. I’ve made it my gastronomic life’s purpose to try as many dishes from as many different countries as possible. And maybe learn to make some along the way too. Sometimes I try re-creating and sometimes I go in blind. This is one of those going-in-blind kinda dishes that sound really great and ended up as exactly that!

I mean, the ingredients are nothing foreign to my everyday cooking. Except that I haven’t quite used palm sugar in a savoury preparation before. But you know, caramel should taste good in everything, right? Let me clarify regarding the caramel and palm sugar. Some recipes call for actually caramelizing white sugar whereas some called for palm sugar melted in the pan. Since I have some really authentic good palm sugar in the fridge, I went for that. Palm sugar has a much more complex flavour too.. a deep nuttiness, the tiniest bit of salt and a very natural sugar flavour. Lends a way better flavour to the end product.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 1

Love pork belly for this.  🙂
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 2

I just wanted to let you know I forgot the garlic up top. So I present them to you here.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 3

All the seasoned pork belly is tossed in to sear a bit.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 4

A lot of fond forms at the bottom of the pan because of the sugars in the marinade. So be really really careful not to burn the bottom at this point.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 5

Melt the palm sugar in the middle of the pan and stir everything together!
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 6

Now, with the water in we can settle down for some slow simmering.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 7

Meanwhile, I made a simple ginger scallion sauce to go with the pork though it wasn’t necessary.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 8

When the meat is tender enough, I turned up the heat so the sauce would thicken into a nice glaze.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 9

And thus is the dish!
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 10

A lovely dish to go with rice with all that sticky savoury-sweet smoky sauce.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 11

See that piece in front that’s broken? I poked into that piece to see if it was soft enough. And it was! I like the meat tender but with some bite to it. 
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 12

Lots and lots of rice to sop up that silky sauce.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 13

Goes well with a simple stirfried veggie side & a whole pot of rice.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho) 14

Try this for a twist on braised pork belly. Still haven’t met a Vietnamese dish I didn’t like. Bring in the pho next!

PS: I’ve been made to understand that traditional Thit Kho is braised in coconut water. As always, this is my own spin on the recipe using whatever I have. 🙂


 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” {Hebrews 13:5}

Line divider

Vietnamese Caramel Pork (Thit Kho)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Vietmanese
Serves: 4-6
  • 450 gm (1 lbs) Pork Belly, sliced into 1-inch chunks
  • 1½ tbsp Palm Sugar
  • ½ tbsp Dark Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
  • 1 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Fish Sauce
  • Pinch of ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 1 cups Water (appx)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 slices Ginger
  • 4 fresh Shitake Mushrooms, stem removed & cap washed clean
  • 2 tbsp Chopped Scallions
  • 1 tsp grated Ginger
  • 1 tsp Fish Sauce
  • ½ tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tbsp Canola Oil
  1. In a large bowl, toss pork belly chunks with dark soy, light soy, fish sauce & black pepper. Leave to sit while preparing other ingredients.
  2. Once ready, heat up 1 tbsp oil a wok or deep pan.
  3. Sear pork belly in pan, about ½ - 1 minute per side on MED heat. There will be splattering so be careful. Also turn pork belly a few times as marinade will stick onto pan and burn if not careful.
  4. Push pork aside & toss in minced garlic & sliced ginger. Toss around until fragrant, about ½ minute.
  5. Add in palm sugar and let it melt. Immediately stir everything together to ensure palm sugar coats the pork.
  6. Pour in water. Bring to a boil then down to a simmer.
  7. Drop in shitake mushrooms & cover to braise until pork is tender to your liking. It took about 40 minutes for mine to be tender but with a bite. Feel free to add a bit of water now and again if it looks dry.
  8. Meanwhile, in a small heatproof bowl, stir together chopped scallions, grated ginger, sesame oil & 1 tsp fish sauce.
  9. In a small sauce pan, heat up canola oil. Immediately pour hot oil over scallion mixture. It will sizzle. Stir to combine & set aside.
  10. Once pork belly is ready, adjust the consistency of sauce. If you like it watery, add a little more water in. If you like it thick & glossy like mine, bring the heat up to reduce the liquids.
  11. Dish up & serve alongside scallion ginger sauce!

Tell me more!