Vietnamese caramel pork is very special to me. If I could name one of the many comfort foods in Vietnamese cuisine that brings back warm, delicious memories to all my Viet friends and family, it would be this dish: Thịt kho trứng. This classic Vietnamese comfort food is braised pork belly (or shoulder/butt) with boiled eggs.

Vietnamese caramel pork in pot
Vietnamese braised caramel pork and eggs in bowl

What is Vietnamese Caramel Pork & Eggs

Thit heo kho trung is one of the many classic examples of Vietnamese home-cooking at it’s best. This humble Vietnamese braised caramel pork dish speaks volumes to me about who I am and the simple dishes in life that I need to keep me satisfied, sane and happy. The rich, slightly sweet broth with tender braised pork is perfection on top of warm white rice. Add a boiled egg with Vietnamese pickled mustard greens and what you have is a classic comfort food that Vietnamese families can all relate to.

Video: How to Make Vietnamese Caramel Pork with Eggs

Every morning, at 6 am, Mom would be busy at the stove, starting her morning routine of cooking for her household of hungry kids and my foodie father. We’d wake up to this warm pot of slow, simmering goodness and it was a wake up call that that filled the house with braised love. My always multi-tasking Mom would get the little twins ready for school with her left hand, while feeding the rest of us with her right hand.

She’s an ambidextrous, culinary super-hero. You would have to watch her genius to believe everything that I say.

With a shoe in one hand and a soup ladle in the other, Mom dished out bowls of hot rice, topped with her braised, melt in your mouth pork. We’d shovel the rice, and braised pork in our mouths, then take a bite of the caramelized boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens. It was a breakfast of champions that fueled us out the door for another day of school.

Saucing Vietnamese Caramel Pork over rice

Homecooked Meals

As children, we didn’t always treasure all the hours of home cooked goodness for three meals a day.  Eating thit heo kho trung all the time as a kid became mundane and sometimes us kids just wanted our big mac and fries, ya know?  Growing up with homemade chow at home, but with the tempting sights of pizza, hamburgers and fried chicken all around us was challenging. Those processed fast food delicacies always made us yearn for the exotic American foods that existed outside my mother’s kitchen.

Eventually,  home cooked meals that my mom slaved over every morning became dull.  We eventually became content with a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast and because it was so quick and easy. I know that sounds sacrilegious to the culinary world, but I suppose when you’re growing up as a low income, ethnic kid like myself, fast food was considered “gourmet”.

Craving Fast Food

As kids we wanted American bacon, sausage and pancakes that Ronald McDonald served at his restaurant.  Even if he was just a clown, he made me happy with his big red lips, jolly face and fabulous cheeseburgers.

As we grew up, moved out and went away to experience the independence and debt that came with adulthood, the days of longing for pizza and burgers slowly disappeared. The freedom of not having parents around meant that home cooked meals by Mom became a scarcity. There’s always that trade-off. It was the thoughts of those mornings with hot rice and Mom’s braised pork belly that we yearned for when we walked back through her door.

She would  snicker with her motherly pride and always know that it was because of her hot rice dishes that we couldn’t be far from home for too long.

Mom always says that no matter where we go or what we eat, nothing brings us back to the comforts of home like a meal of hot rice, a little meat/fish and some greens. Vietnamese braised pork and eggs is a perfect example of those childhood memories that I eventually fall back on. This is the power of humble, home cooking and that’s why this Vietnamese caramel pork is so special to me.

-Diane

This recipe was originally published in 2009 and updated in 2022 with a video and new photos.

How To Make Vietnamese Braised Caramel Pork & Eggs 

How to marinate the meat step by step thịt kho trứng
Above: Cut the pork into bite sized pieces and marinade with spices in a bowl.
making the caramel in the pan
Heat sugar and water until it slowly melts and caramelizes. Don’t walk away from the caramel. It might burn if left unattended.
How to Make Pork Recipe | WhiteOnRiceCouple.com
Add marinated pork to the caramel sauce and stir. Add water or coconut water (not coconut milk) and fish sauce.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork Recipe | WhiteOnRiceCouple.com
Skim excess and simmer on low heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, OR until pork cooks tender. Cooking time will depend on the size of your pork cuts. Add boiled eggs to absorb the sauce. The sauce is amazing on rice! As kids we loved the extra sauce/liquid on our rice. Mom would always make her batch extra saucy so we can have extra for our rice.
Hard boiled eggs in the braised pork mixture thịt kho trứng
Adding caramel pork and pickled daikon to thịt kho trứng banh mi
Want to make banh mi with the pork? Here’s the caramel pork banh mi recipe.
Saucing Vietnamese Caramel Pork over rice

Vietnamese Braised Caramel Pork & Eggs (Thịt Kho Trứng)

See more step-by-step photos and watch the video in the recipe story.
Traditionally we make this with pork belly and the flavor from the fat is fantastic. Expect a thick layer of oily delicious fat when pork belly cools. But over time, we realize we can’t indulge in fatty pork belly too often, so we’ll make this with 1/3 pork belly and 2/3 pork shoulder/butt. It’s still a fantastic and balanced combination with more pork than fat.
For a less fatty version, use all pork butt/shoulder and cooking times aren’t too much longer than cooking with full pork belly. Mom has switched to using only pork butt now because she doesn’t think that the family needs to eat all this fat anymore. She’s right.
For the leanest option, you can use cubed pork chops or pork loin, but you’ll have to add more water and cook it longer to break down the meat. This version will have less flavor and not as tender because it doesn’t have all the fat, but it’s definitely healthier!
5 from 17 votes

Ingredients

Pork Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (907 g) pork shoulder and/or pork belly (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) oil
  • 3 large shallots (or 1 small onion), minced (about 3-4 tablespoons)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic , minced or crushed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) black pepper (preferably fresh ground)
  • 1.5 cups (360 ml) water or Coconut water (not coconut milk or coconut juice)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fish sauce
  • 4 (optional) hard boiled eggs , peeled

Caramel Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (67 g) sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) water

Serve With Options

Instructions 

Marinate the Pork:

  • In bowl combine pork, oil, onion/shallots, garlic, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, set aside.

Make the Caramel Pork:

  • Make Caramel: Combine the sugar and 2 Tablespoons water to sauce pan large enough to later fit the pork. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. After several minutes of boiling, the mixture will begin to turn to a golden brown. Using silicone spatula (less sticking), stir the mixture slowly as the caramel browns. Do not leave the caramel sauce unattended!
  • Once the sugar begins to caramelize, it will turn color very quickly. The caramel should have have consistency and color like light maple syrup.
  • Add Pork: As soon as the mixture turns to a medium golden brown, add the marinated pork. Slowly & carefully stir the mixture to completely coat the pork with the caramel sauce. Make sure to scrape the sides of the pan to incorporate all the caramel.
  • Continue browning the pork on medium/high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the 1.5 cups of water or coconut water and the fish sauce then bring to a low boil.
  • Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and continue braising on low heat for about another 45 minutes to 1 hour, OR until pork is tender. Skim excess fat/bubbles that floats to the top. Make sure to stir occasionally while cooking. After 45 minutes, taste the pork. If it’s to your desired texture, remove from heat.
  • If you're adding boiled eggs, add the boiled eggs about 2 minutes before you finish cooking the pork. Don't cook the eggs too long in the sauce or the eggs will be over boiled and too hard with green edges. When the pan is removed from heat, the eggs can continue sitting in the sauce to absorb more flavor.
  • Serve the pork and/or boiled eggs over rice, pickled mustard greens, carrots & daikon and whatever other serving options you desire. Spoon some sauce over the rice because that's the best part!

Notes

Homemade pickles: The carrot and daikon pickles can be made ahead of time and be stored in the fridge for about 3 weeks.

Video

Nutrition Information

Calories: 199kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 140mg, Sodium: 731mg, Potassium: 318mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 136IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 1mg

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