Star Anise Braised Pork Belly & quail eggs (Thit Heo Kho Hoa Hoi)

Vietnamese star anise braised-pork-belly-recipe

Another braised pork recipe, you ask? Well, I wasn’t planning on inundating this weeks postings with braised pork but timing seemed appropriate for a number of reasons. Adding to the fact that I love braised pork in ten million different ways, I’ve gotta start writing about braised pork enough to cover it all in my blog lifetime!

Since my last write up about my mother’s classic Vietnamese braised pork in caramel, I’ve received so many touching e-mails and comments from readers about not only the braised pork, but about comfort foods in general. It doesn’t matter where we come from or what part of the globe we hail from, we all have something  in common: a connection to our comfort foods from home. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful forum of ideas and contact. I feel that my mother’s braised pork story is just one example of how powerful humble homecooking is.

You all make me feel like I have an extended, international family now. Thanks for including me.

My mother has always been a culinary inspiration to me and because of her continious ramblings, rants and education about food, I’ve always looked to prepare different variations on my childhood comfort dishes. I’ve taken liberty on tweaking her classic Vietnamese Braised pork in caramel recipe . This is one example of my constant ramblings, rants and thoughts of food. I’m  finally accepting the fact that I’m becoming more like my mother every day. Scary.

From this recipe tweaking, one of my classic dishes is the same Vietnamese braised pork in caramael, but I’ve added some extra spices to it to give the braise a little more depth and comfort. Star anise, cinnamon, fresh ginger and black peppercorns are the powerful foursome of flavors that propel a simple Vietnamese braised pork dish to new levels of tastiness. To tone down the richness of a whole chicken egg, I love turning to bite sized quail eggs for the perfect savory bite, without the overwhelming serving of large eggs.

This is a dish that we make for many of our dinner parties and every time we’ve made it, we’ve been left with an empty pot at the end of the evening. We had a big Vietnamese Tet New Year party last month and this big pot of this star anise braised pork was a hit. I didn’t think there was an empty braised pork bowl in the house. Everyone licked their bowls clean like good little kids!

So that’s why I chose to write two back to back Vietnamese braised pork recipes. Because of all your love and inspirations, I’m really loving my pigs now! But I promise to lay off the love of swine for the next few weeks and maybe post a few…TOFU recipes?


Vietnamese star anise braised-pork-belly-recipe

Vietnamese Star Anise Braised Pork & quail eggs Recipe

Yield: 4 servings.

Total Time: 2 hours

This versatile braised pork can be served with warm rice, noodles or even in a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. We've made this dish on numerous occasions using different cuts of pork: belly, butt, shoulder and even ribs. Every variation of the pork turned out amazing. Choose your delicious poison.

The recipe for this is almost the exact same as my mom's Vietnamese braised pork in caramel, except for the addition of the four spices: star anise, cinnamon, black peppercorns and ginger. Also, add some fresh herbs to brighten up the richness of this dish.


  • 2 lbs pork belly cut in 1″ cubes, or pork shoulder/butt for less fat
  • about 1 dozen (12)  quail eggs, boiled and peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1/4 bark of Vietnamese cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 knob ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • about 1.5 cups water
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • handful of cilantro or fresh Viet herbs

Vietnamese caramel sauce (nuoc mau): Photo tutorial HERE.

  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water


  1. In mortar pestle or spice (coffee) grinder, combine star anise, cinnamon and black peppercorns. Crush/grind spices.
  2. In small heavy bottom pan make caramel sauce. Combine sugar and water over medium heat, allow sugar to melt. Stir occasionally to help sugar and water to combine evenly. Once the sugar melts completely, the mixture will slowly start to turn a golden brown color. Continue swirling the pan until the caramel becomes a light brown color. Immediately remove from heat and put aside.
  3. In another, large heavy bottom sauce pan, heat over medium heat. After the pan warms, add oil, minced giner and garlic. Stir until garlic becomes light brown and fragrant.  Add ground spice mixture.
  4. Once garlic becomes fragrant and light brown, add the pork belly. Cook pork until seared on all sides.
  5. Add the fish sauce and cook for about 3 more minutes. Slowly pour about 3 Tablespoons of the caramel into the pan. The braised pork will become sweeter as more caramel is added. Add more or less caramel to your personal taste.
  6. Allow pork to braise in the caramel for about 5 more minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the water . Continue braising the pork for about 1 hour, or until meat is tender. When the pork is almost cooked, add the quail eggs. The quail eggs are very delicate, so be very gentle when stirring them into the pork.
  7. Serve pork belly warm with noodles or rice.
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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

Read about my mom’s Vietnamese Braised pork & eggs in caramel recipe and my childhood comfort story.

Since i shared my comfort food story, share your story with me or if you’ve already written about it, please leave our link. I’d love to read about your childhood food stories!


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Kirsty

    Well I have tried a version of this recipe before, it was delicious but I had some problems as the caramel was made first and the pork added to that, also it did not have all of these spices just a bit of star anise. When I added the pork belly to the caramel I had problems as it cooled the caramel (I know I should have brought the pork up to room temp..) but actually your recipe gets round all of that. It is just brilliant but I have added more garlic and ginger, I then put the pork in a very low oven for a very long time and I could get a bit teary. It is fall off tender, can eat it with spoon. so I am scooping the pieces of pork belly into some gen lettuce leaves and spooning the cooking juices over, just a little chopped spring onion and coriander to finish, wee squeeze of lime and it’s all mine…. So thanks for a great recipe and technique, will be enjoying my traditional Sunday dinner in London :o)

  2. Paula Maack

    Pork belly for days! And, such tempting photos!!

    Mmmm… Yum. Yum. Yum. Yum. Yummy!!!

    Keep it up! I love it!!


    ~ Paula

  3. David

    that looks worth peeling all that damn quail eggs for!

  4. mlle noelle

    I’ve been big into braising lately- just did a big pot of oxtails- but I’m looking to get into some non-European flavors. I only *wish* we had this kind of comfort food growing up, I think the gene must have skipped a generation! Sorry, ma.

    I found your blog through Shayne of Fruitcake or Nuts (we’re in a Google group called Michigan Lady Food Bloggers together) and will be adding you to my blogroll. Thanks for the beautiful recipes and photos. (And good luck with those possums, I have the same problem!)

    -Noelle of simmer down! (a food lover’s blog)

  5. Becky

    sigh, i always ask my mom to make this dish whenever i come home from school. i think she incorporates shiitake mushrooms as well, and it’s probably one of the most delicious and comforting things to eat. i like the idea of adding the egg as well. i’ll tell her to try it next time.

  6. Julia

    Wow, this one looks even better than the last! But I’m biased towards pork and viet foods. 🙂 I especially like this because I’m looking for savory recipes to use my Viet cinnamon… this looks perfect!

    Sadly, I don’t have a lot of fond childhood food memories… one that stands out is the burn marks on a piece of steak my mom was cooking on the stove tops… She had put a pan on the electric coil stove, put a piece of meat in it, turned it on high and walked away. When she returned the electric coils had branded burnt the meat.

  7. missginsu

    You guys are simply amazing. I have to learn not to read your blog before bed. It just leaves me with crazy unfulfilled cravings for star anise-spiced pork, and fresh citrus and well… adorable dogs. I may not have the dogs or the garden, but I’m definitely bookmarking this recipe for the weekend. Cheers to you! Miss G.

  8. we are never full

    it’s official – i must have pork belly this week. we’ve been talking about it for ages, i’ve been seeing it everywhere. i ordered it at the korean restaurant the other day but i want it BRAISED. like THIS. NOW.

  9. Marc @ NoRecipes

    Wow, that looks fantastic! I would eat pork belly every day if it wouldn’t kill me. Love the way you plated it!

  10. Nate

    That looks so delicious. Gonna have to try it. Love that pork belly!

    One of Annie’s comfort foods is, coincidentally, a braised pork belly dish called Tau Yu Bak:

    Not as complex as your dish, but still very tasty.

  11. Lang

    I’m with Matt above. Never too much pig! I’ve noticed that here in Seattle pork bellies have been in the spotlight for a couple years now, as if we just discovered them. Yours look beautiful!

  12. Gastronomer

    All I can say is, NGON QUA!

  13. matt wright

    You can NEVER have too much pork. Especially fatty pork. Especially braised fatty pork. I am just loving the whole pork and eggs thing too.

    Great photo BTW. Is there anything you guys cannot do?

  14. mikky

    wow, i can just imagine all those flavors playing… lovely recipe… 🙂 btw, i hope you’ll be able to enjoy those beautiful calamansi soon…

  15. Phoo-D

    Now I really need to find a source for pork belly around here! I love the flavors of star anise and Vietnamese cinnamon – with pork belly they must be delightful.

  16. The Daily Colander

    Well, now I’m going to have to search for quail eggs! What a great idea. By the way – I can’t get enough pork, so the pork posts were fine by me.

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