My death-row meal would be a bowl of thit kho with a side of steamed rice.
Thit kho is my winter warm-my-soul-up dish. It brings me such love and comfort, and brings back memories of when I was young and my mum would cook a large pot for the family during Têt Festival.
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) pork belly, cut into 3 cm (1¼ in) cubes
- 2 spring onions (scallions), white part only, lightly bruised
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) fish sauce, plus extra if needed
- 60 g (2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra if needed
- vegetable oil for frying and deep-frying
- juice of 2 young coconuts
- 4 eggs
- steamed jasmine rice, to serve
- spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- pinch of ground white pepper
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: 4 hours
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the pork belly and blanch for 10–15 minutes. Drain the pork and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.
2. Combine the spring onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a large bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pork and set aside in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.
3. Place 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 4–6 minutes until the sugar caramelises and turns golden brown. Add the pork belly with its marinade and quickly stir through the caramel.
4. Add the remaining fish sauce and give everything a good stir. Add the coconut water and pour in enough cold water to just cover the pork. Simmer for 1–1½ hours until the meat is completely tender. Season to taste with more fish sauce and sugar, if necessary.
5. Meanwhile, to cook the eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and gently lower in the eggs. Cook for 6½ minutes, so that the centres are still soft. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the pan and plunge into iced water. Peel and set aside.
6. Heat 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) of vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium–high heat to 180°C (350°F) on a kitchen thermometer. Carefully lower the eggs into the oil and deep-fry for 2–3 minutes until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.
7. To serve, divide the pork belly and cooking liquid among serving bowls. Cut the eggs in half and add to the bowls, and garnish with the spring onion and a pinch of white pepper. Serve with steamed rice.
Recipe from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99