Thit Heo Kho Trung (Pork and Eggs in Caramel Sauce)

Thit Heo Kho Trung (Pork and Eggs in Caramel Sauce)

Tet is for savoring abundance, which explains why this rich, savory braise of pork and eggs in bittersweet caramel sauce is a must-have on many southern Vietnamese Lunar New Year menus. It’s an extravagant treat. Pork leg with the skin attached (fresh ham) is the cut of meat traditionally used, but pork shoulder or belly also offers the delicious balance of fat and lean meat. The eggs lend an interesting contrast of chewy white and buttery yolk, while the sauce featuring coconut water is softly sweet. Searing the meat and including peppercorns are modern touches that induce greater complexity. The cook time can be cut nearly in half by making the braise in a pressure cooker. Crunchy pickled bean sprout salad is the traditional accompaniment, along with plenty of rice. Stir-fried greens can be served alongside too.
  • Total:
  • Serves: 4 persons



  1. Step 1

    Make the caramel sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the 1/4 cup sugar, vinegar and 1 tablespoon water until the sugar nearly dissolves, 60 to 90 seconds. Cook without stirring until the mixture turns champagne yellow, about 3 minutes, then continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes, frequently picking up the pan and swirling it to control the caramelization. When the mixture is a dark tea color (expect faint smoking), turn off the heat and keep the pan on the burner. Let the caramelization continue until the mixture is burgundy in color, 1 to 2 minutes. Slide the pan to a cool burner and add 3 tablespoons water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Warm over medium heat to loosen, if needed.
  2. Step 2

    Cut the pork into chunks about 1-inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long, making sure each piece has both lean meat and fat. Warm the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in 2 or 3 batches, cook the pork on all sides until lightly browned, about 1 minute per batch, holding the seared meat on a plate. When done, return all the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot, then add the caramel sauce, fish sauce, onion, garlic, peppercorns and coconut water. Bring to a boil over high heat, skim the scum, then adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until a knife tip inserted 1/4 inch into the pork meets little resistance, about 1 1/4 hours.
  3. Step 3

    Use tongs to retrieve the pork and hold in a bowl, loosely covered to prevent drying. If peppercorns cling to the pork, leave them for zing, or knock them off and discard. To quickly filter and remove fat from the cooking liquid, set a mesh strainer over a large heatproof bowl, line with a double layer of paper towels and pour the liquid through. After most of the liquid passes through and a layer of fat remains above the solids, set the strainer aside. (Save the fat for cooking if you like.) You should have about 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid.
  4. Step 4

    Return the liquid to the pot, bring to a boil over high heat and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, then add the pork and eggs. Cook, gently stirring now and then, to heat through and coat with the dark sauce, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let rest 5 minutes, uncovered, to concentrate flavors. Taste and add up to 1 1/2 teaspoons of fish sauce or 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or both, as needed for a pleasant savory-sweet finish. Transfer to a shallow bowl for serving. Invite diners to halve the eggs themselves. If you’d like spicy heat, gently smash the chiles in individual dishes for dipping sauce with some sauce from the pot, and use it to dip the pork and egg or to drizzle into the bowls.