Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thit Kho To

 Vietnamese Clay Pot Roast Pork

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I absolutely love Vietnamese cooking. It is a simple yet exotic style of cooking that is beyond comparison. I am indeed grateful to our Vietnamese immigrants who brought this grand style of cooking to the US and I want to learn as much about it as I can. Thit Kho To in this cooks opinion is a VERY special dish and yet it is so very simple to make. 

With several not so hard to find ingredients anyone can make this dish with ease. There are a couple of steps that may at first glance seem complicated but don't be put off. With a little practice you can make this authentic old world, melt in your mouth,Vietnamese dish that will amaze your fellow diners.

Thit Kho To is typically made in a clay pot like this one. But don't worry if you don't have one. You can use a dutch oven or any pot with a lid that is oven safe. 

  • 2 lbs boneless pork butt or shoulder cut into two inch square pieces.
  • Water from one green coconut. (You can find them in almost any Asian grocery store.)
  • Three tablespoons of Fish Sauce
 Lets face it, many westerners are turned off by fish sauce. The smell makes it understandable. But when you learn how to use it and what it actually adds to your food you will change your mind. 
  • 4 or 6 scallions chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of caramelized sugar 
Caramelized sugar is a common ingredient in Vietnamese cooking. It is also found in other types of cooking and it is a very useful ingredient. After you make it it stores well in a jar in the cabinet. If you are like me and as with fish sauce you will find yourself using it in other types of cooking as well. Making caramelized sugar is not hard to do at all. You just can NOT walk away from it while it is on the stove.

Place a pot with one cup of water and one cup of sugar on a burner set on high. As it begins to boil be very careful as it becomes fantastically hot and sticky. Bring it to a boil and watch it. I have to reiterate, Do NOT walk away as it will change very quickly and become a burnt mess in no time at all.  It will boil and the water will begin to evaporate.

As the water evaporate it will become just boiling sugar. Gradually it will start to turn brown.

 Very soon after this it will turn dark brown, with hints of red like wine. Then remove it from the burner.
Now very carefully add about a half cup of water. Be very careful because there is a violent reaction when cool water comes in contact with the molten sugar. Once the water is added return it to the heat and stir it until all is blended with no lumps of caramelized sugar.

The finished product will look like this.

 Dark and very reflective. 

Now take what you will for the Thit Kho To and pour the rest in a jar to use later. It will keep forever. Literally. 

To prepare the Thit Kho To place the meat in the pot with all of the dry ingredients and toss it around until the meat is well covered. Pour over the green coconut water, fish sauce and caramelized sugar. 
Cover with a tight fitting lid and put it into a preheated oven at 400 degrees. Cook for about an hour and remove to to check. Turn the meat over if need be put the lid back on and return it to the oven. This time turn it down to about 300 degrees. Cook it for another half hour or so. The meat should be well cooked and tender to the point of almost falling apart. 

Serve it with a salad, jasmine or better yet broken rice and some Jasmine tea.

Grow a pair, and don't fear the FISH SAUCE!