For Nhut and his seven brothers and sisters, this braised pork dish with coconut and egg was looked forward to all year - his beloved mother used to prepare it for Vietnamese New Year. He says, "In the years when we were farmers and very poor in the Vietnamese countryside, meat was hard to get so this recipe was so good. And now I love watching the silence as people discover the rich flavours of this great regional Vietnamese dish in my restaurant".
Coconut juice is the clear water from the centre of the coconut (rather than the milk or cream, which is extracted from the flesh). It imparts a sweet, mellow coconut flavour to the dish and is available frozen from Asian supermarkets.
- 1 kg pork belly (not too fatty), cut into 5 cm cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 French shallots, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions (scallions), bruised and finely chopped (roots included)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
- 60 ml (¼ cup) light soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp grated palm sugar or dark brown sugar
- 4 star anise
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 750 ml (3 cups) young coconut juice
- 375 ml (1½ cups) water
- 8 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 3 hours or overnight
Combine the pork, garlic, shallots, spring onion, fish sauce, soy sauces, pepper, sugar and star anise in a bowl, stirring to coat the pork. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat and add the onion. Fry until golden then remove the pork from the marinade and add to the pan. Seal over high heat.
Add the marinade, coconut juice and water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Gently simmer for 1 hour, skimming occasionally.
Add the eggs and simmer for a further hour. Garnish with coriander and serve with jasmine rice.