Thit kho (Vietnamese caramel pork in claypot) 13.11.2008

This is a really simple southern Vietnamese dish that is available in every cafe and street-side buffet. It doesn’t take long to prepare and you can substitute proteins to make it pork or fish or vegetarian.


  • 100-150g boneless pork, sliced (or tofu or mushrooms or hearty & oily fish cutlet – eg salmon)
  • 2 finely chopped shallot (or a quarter of an onion)
  • 1 tsp of finely sliced spring onion
  • 1 tblsp fish sauce
  • ½ tsp of powdered stock cube
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tblsp of caramel sauce (see recipe below)
  • ½ tsp of ground pepper
  • ½-1 cup of water
  • a chilli – leave it whole
  • ½ tblsp veg oil
  • 1 tblsp of finely sliced spring onion for garnish


For the caramel syrup:

This caramel syrup is (surprisingly) used in quite a few different Vietnamese dishes. If you make up a batch, it will keep indefinitely in a jar in the fridge.

This site has an excellent decription (which I have pinched) and pictures of the kind of caramel you're aiming for:

1 cup of sugar 1/4 cup water + 1/2 cup of water.

  • Place sugar and 1/4 cup of water in saucepan and stir gently over med-low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved STOP STIRRING. If you keep stirring, you're in danger of re-srystalising the sugar and you end up right back where you began.
  • After about 15 minutes, the sugar will begin to caramelize and turn in color. You'll see a progression from cham pagne yellow to light tea to dark tea.
  • When smoke starts rising, remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly swirl it around. Watch the sugar closely as it will turn darker by the second; a reddish cast will set in (think the color of a big and bold red wine) as the bubbles become a lovely burnt orange. Pay attention to the color of the caramel underneath the bubbles. When the caramel color is that of black coffee or molasses, place the pan in cold water the sink to stop the cooking process.
  • Add the 1/2 cup of water and place the caramel back on the stove. Stir until the caramel is dissolved in the water.
  • Pour the caramel into a jar. Store for later use.

Marinate the protein (pork/fish/tofu)

In a deep-sided fry pan (or claypot if you've got one), marinate the sliced pork with the fish sauce, pepper, oil, sugar, caramel, stock powder, spring onion, shallot, chilli.

No need to leave this for any particular length of time... I usually prep this and leave it to marinate while I get veg & rice ready.

To cook

  • Put the pan on the stove on high heat and leave it 'til the sauce is boiling. Give it a stir and leave it for another minute or so - the pork is near cooked.
  • Pour in the water and cook until its boiling again. Reduce the heat and leave it to simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens (less water = less reduction time).
  • Garnish with a little more black pepper and spring onions.

Serve with steamed rice.

File under vietnamese

Download a print-friendly PDF

Ingrid is slowly and conscientiously sampling her way through the food of Southern Vietnam.

Sorry, comments are not available on this post.


Noms Elsewhere