This Vietnamese pork banh mi recipe and story was originally published in 2010. It was re-shared in 2021 with new photos and a Vietnamese caramel pork video. My mother has retired from her the nail shop and is now cooking full time to her hearts desire.

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Banh Mi being held by hands

Mom’s Food Story

I’m not a comedian, nor was I trying to be one when I spoke frankly about my mother’s Nail shop cooking escapades. Like I’ve always said, my mother is a culinary magician. She’s an obsessed woman who lives to feed her family of 6 kids and our extended family of neighborhood friends. She’s been known to get even more carried away with her cooking. Mom loves to feed her nail shop clients homemade noodles and fish sauce while they’re getting their pedicures.

My mother’s nail shop has launched her notoriety as the local nail salon that leaves you twinkling with pretty red nails while sometimes smelling fish sauce. Or in our case, smelling so umami-delicious!

Her salon is a combination Viet food joint slash Tuesday-after-5pm-pedicure-special nail salon. And it tickles me #32 bottle-pink to see the buzzing jive of food and eyebrow waxes that are happening.

vietnamese pork banh mi stacked on a plate

The leaning tower of Vietnamese pork banh mi: not for the light hearted

Video: Vietnamese Caramel Pork Banh Mi

I make an effort to be a good daughter and relieve her for a few hours from the bonds of the nail salon so that she can visit her vendors and suppliers. I enjoy the time that I’m in the salon because I get to visit all the ladies that work there and participate in their daily chat, gossip and most importantly, food talk. When you get 12 Vietnamese women talking passionately about food, recipes and family food stories, it’s a Ph.D lesson in Vietnamese culture and cuisine. Everytime I walk out of there, I feel so much smarter and unfortunately, 10 pounds heavier from all the food talk.

Mom’s Braised Pork Belly

On one lucky occasion, my mother had a huge tupperware of her beloved braised pork belly waiting at the salon. Before I arrived, she rang me on my phone and screamed (she always thinks we’re deaf on the other side of the cell phone) “Con ghé vaò tiệm bánh mì mua cho mẹ 8 ổ bánh mì baguette!!!” When Mother calls me to pick up 8 loaves of fresh, crusty vietnamese baguettes, I know of only one salivating vision—Mom’s braised pork belly banh mi sandwiches.

I hooked a quick u-turn and headed to one of our local Vietnamese bakeries for the 8 loaves of baguettes that she requested. It must still be warm and super fresh, pretty please.

When I arrived at the salon, it was like a scene from the “stone soup” story. Mom brought the braised pork belly, Chi Yen had a bag of fresh cilantro, Vicky (real name is Phuong) donated the tub of pate and the others completed the community meal with their donations of pickled carrots/daikon, fresh chiles and soy sauce. My arrival of the baguettes was met with roaring applause and the always anti-climatic critique, “What took you so long? We’re hungry!”

vietnamese pork banh mi held by hand

Vietnamese Pork Banh Mi Recipe

I dived head first in to the best banh mi of the day. Juicy, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly sandwiched between cool and tangy banh mi pickles is just pure Viet food genius. Add a light and crusty Vietnamese baguette to hold all the flavors and textures in. What you have is one of the best friggin’ sandwiches on the face of the earth. That’s right, Vietnamese banh mi is one of the worlds best sandwiches. Anyone who wants to argue with me will have my mother and her staff to contend with!

So there you have it. A Vietnamese braised pork belly banh mi that will leave you overwhelmed, satisfied and in awe on the power of a good mom-wich. Also, don’t forget drizzle some of the braised sauce/liquid in the sandwich. That makes it super amazing.

Thank you Mom,


Photo Tips: How To Make Vietnamese Caramel Pork Banh Mi

How to marinate the meat step by step

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 |

Add marinated pork to the caramel sauce and stir. Add water or coconut water (not coconut milk) and fish sauce.

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Recipe |

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. 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.

How to Make Vietnamese Caramel Pork Banh mi

assembling the pork banh mi

Assemble your banh mi with your favorite condiments and enjoy! Drizzle some of  the sauce over the meat in the sandwich. All recipe details are below in the recipe box.

assembling the banh mi recipe

Vietnamese Braised Caramel Pork Belly Banh Mi Sandwich

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!
4.94 from 15 votes


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

Caramel Ingredients

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

Banh Mi Assembly (not all required, choose your preferences):


Marinate the Pork:

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

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!
    Sugar and Water in a Pot
  • Once the sugar begins to caramelize, it will turn color very quickly. The caramel should have have consistency and color like light maple syrup.
    Caramel cooking in a pot
  • 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.
    Marinated pork added to caramel in pot
  • 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.
    Fish Sauce being added to pot
  • 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.
    Skimming excess fat from pot

For the Banh Mi assembly:

  • Slice baguettes lengthwise. Spread some some mayo, pate, and/or soy sauce if using on the interior of the baguette.
    Spreading pate on sliced baguette
  • Add some pork on the bread. Drizzle some of the yummy caramel sauce over the pork. Add the rest of the ingredients that you want (or like) to the banh mi. Enjoy!
    Adding caramel pork and pickled daikon to baguette sandwich


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


Nutrition Information per Serving

Calories: 322kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 46mg, Sodium: 934mg, Potassium: 317mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin C: 0.8mg, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 2.7mg

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