Thit kho is a dish served in almost every Vietnamese home that you won't find at your local Vietnamese restaurant. This is delicious cut of pork belly and pork shoulder is braised in a caramelized sauce along with hard boiled eggs and served with jasmine rice. It is comfort food that is often made to celebrate the Lunar New Year. I'm going to show you how to make this dish right at home!
Thit kho is the most humble Vietnamese dish that you won't see on any menu, but it is definitely a bowl of goodness that my grandkids absolutely love. These slow cooked, melt in your mouth tender pork pieces are melded into a savoury-sweet glaze that has a subtle undertone of nuoc mam. when served over a hot dish of jasmine rice, you'll be licking every pellet of rice that is drenched in the braised sauce because it is that delicious.
If you have pork belly, this is definitely a must-do recipe to use that cut of meat on. If you have pork shoulder that you are tired of making carnitas with, this is THE best way to try something new that will have your family raving for me. The best part about thit kho is that it is so incredibly easy to make (you can also make this in the Instant Pot).
Read on to learn more about this Vietnamese comfort food known as thit kho.
All About Thit Kho - Vietnamese Caramelized & Braised Pork and Eggs
What is thit kho?
Thit kho is a braised dark amber caramelized pork and eggs that is marinated and slow-cooked with sugar, caramel syrup, and coconut juice. It is often served with jasmine rice. The sauce is carefully caramelized, almost to nearly burnt sugar, that allows the dish to bring the flavor of umami.
What does Vietnamese caramelized pork and eggs (thit kho) taste like?
When served over jasmine rice, the Vietnamese caramelized pork pieces are sweet, tender and juicy. The caramelization of the sauce melded with the rice and the pork pieces provide a delectable bite with the sweetness of the sugar and the coconut juice provides a complex level of flavor that's added to the mix. There's a faint sweetness of this dark amber caramelized liquid accompanied with very subtle salty notes due to the fish sauce, as you bite into the soft and tender cuts of pork, you might have an answer to your rhetorical question of why boiled eggs were added.
What Country is it from?
Thit kho is well known as a dish that hails from Vietnam. However, the Indochina regions of Asia also have variations of this dish. For example, Laos has an adapted version of this, generally using quail eggs in making this dish, which is called tom khem.
In addition, this recipe is seen in very slightly adapted variations across other Asian cuisines, not just Vietnamese and Laos. I’ve seen a multitude of variations in Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and Taiwanese dishes as well.
In southern regions of Vietnam, larger cuts of meat are used for this dish. In northern regions, smaller strips of pork are used with a slightly thicker caramel sauce.
What are other variations of thit kho?
Thit kho traditionally is prepared using large chunks of pork belly or shoulder, eggs, caramelized sugar, and fish sauce. However, there are other preparations that you'll find as most families have their own versions.
Other variations of Thit Kho include adapting it in the following ways:
- Not using coconut juice for a lighter flavor
- Using pineapples instead of coconut juice
- Adding in shell-on shrimp
- Using quail eggs
- Using slices of pork, instead of pork chunks (known as thit khau tau)
- Using onion and garlic
- Using caramel sauce (this is the recipe I'm sharing)
- Using duck eggs instead of chicken eggs
- Some use Coca-Cola for to achieve the dark amber, caramelized color
Other Names for Thit Khau
As with any dish that is translated to English, this dish can be referenced in several different ways. While you may not commonly find this on the menu at most Vietnamese restaurants, you may find a wide variety of ways this dish is mentioned and referred to.
- Thịt Kho
- Thịt Kho Tàu
- Thịt Kho Nước Dừa
- Thit Kho
- Thit Kho Tau
- Thit Kho To
- Thit Kho Tom (with shrimp)
- Thit Kho hot vit (with boiled duck eggs)
- Thit Kho Trung
- Thit Heo Kho Trung
- Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
- Caramelized Pork Belly
- Vietnamese Caramelized Salty Pork Belly
- Braised Caramelized Pork with Eggs
- Vietnamese Coconut Braised Pork
- Pork Belly in Caramel Sauce
What does thit kho translate to?
Thit kho refers to caramelized pork and eggs. The term kho refers to a broad category of dishes in the Vietnamese repertoire of dishes that refer to anything that is braised, simmered or stewed.
The actual name and the various adaptations of thit kho can be translated as follows:
- Thit means meat in Vietnamese.
- Kho means to braise, stew, or simmer in Vietnamese.
- Tau means lightly and quickly in Vietnamese (in reference to light sauce for this dish with sliced pork).
- Trung means middle.
- Heo means pig.
- To means pot in Vietnamese in reference to this dish.
- Tom means shrimp in Vietnamese.
When is thit kho generally served?
Thit kho is a classic dish in any Vietnamese family's weekly meal, but it is often created to usher in the Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year as a tradition. The tradition is that there should not be any cooking or hard labor done during the first day of the Lunar New Year because the first day of the year sets the tone of how your entire year will look. Therefore, a large pot of thit kho, a delicious braised and caramelized pork medley is created to last a few days into the new year. It's also a sign of good luck! It's the ultimate Vietnamese comfort food that is served year round, but especially during Tet.
Is thit kho healthy?
Depending on the cut of meat, you can reduce the fat content by using a leaner cut like the pork shoulder. You can also skip the pork all together and substitute with chicken meat. In addition, you can opt to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe as well.
How many calories are in one serving of Thit Kho?
One 4 ounce serving of thit kho has about 250 calories.
Ingredients to Get at Your Local Asian Grocery Store
As always, in this post I share with you the items I would pick up in order for you to make this meal right at home. Here are the items that you'll want to pick up.
Asian grocery stores always have a ready supply of pork belly. If you can't find pork belly, that's okay because you can substitute pork shoulder or pork butt. My family likes the meats with lots of fat because it has lots of flavor. While it is not the healthiest, it provides a juicy and tender delicious cut of meat when you bite into it! When choosing the cut of pork, make sure to find one with some marbling of fat because it will bring out the flavor in this braised dish.
Coco Rico Coconut Soda
This dish is a MUST for making thit kho. Coconut soda is carbonated and imparts a little bit of sweetness and a mellow coconut flavor to the dish.
Coco Caramel Syrup
This is the brand I recommend for coco caramel syrup, also known as "nuoc mau" in Vietnamese. Nuoc mau translates to colored water. In the most traditional recipe, an important and hard preparation step is getting the sugar and the water to dissolve right before it gets burnt for that amber color. Using this syrup allows you to get the color that thit kho is known for, but be able to achieve that sweetness easily without having to fumble with the step of dissolving the water and sugar to the point of no return. I would call this the "cheater method" for that step.
Frequently Asked Questions About Thit Kho
The comfort food of pork slowly cooked in a deliciously sweet caramel until the soft meat falls off on your spoon is a rich and flavorful dish that makes all Vietnamese people salivate when they've strayed too far away from Vietnamese cuisine.
Can this recipe be adapted for a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot?
Yes, the cooking time just needs to be reduced from 90 minutes to only 15 minutes, leaving the hard boiled eggs out. After natural release, transfer to a pot and bring to a boil with the hardboiled eggs so that the eggs get a chance to simmer in the braised liquid.
Can this recipe be made with chicken?
Yes, if you wanted to opt for a leaner meat, chicken can be substituted for this dish (albeit not as authentic).
What if I don't have coco rico soda available?
I've seen recipes that substitute it with Coca-Cola as well as pineapple juice (I've never tried it).
About this Authentic Vietnamese Thit Kho Recipe
The ingredients to this simple and ordinary dish to the Vietnamese is quite simple. However, the secret to making this dish is ensuring that the pork is marinated with the right sauces and ensuring that the meat gets tender enough to break apart when you are eating it. In addition, getting the gorgeous caramelized amber color is hugely important to this dish.
My recipe uses Coco caramel syrup, and for a beginner at this recipe, it is THE PERFECT thit kho recipe for someone who wants to make this dish for the first time at home. I'll explain why below.
Choosing the Cut of Pork
Pork belly is extremely fatty. I would recommend using half pork belly and half pork shoulder. If you are traditionalist, I would go pork belly all the way. Your cut of meat should have some sort of marbling to it in order to bring out all the flavors.
This dish in the traditional sense yields a lot of fat. This dish is often made in a large batch to last a few days. So if you refrigerate this dish, the pork fat will solidify to the top of the container. To make a healthier version of this, scoop out some of the fat for a leaner version (just don't scoop out all of it or you'll lose the flavor).
You'll also want to wash the pork thoroughly to remove the impurities before adding the marinade.
Don't rush the cooking time. The more tender the meat, the better the flavor - as with all dishes. If you want to make it right, ensure that you have at least 2 hours to make this dish properly. Putting everything in the pot takes less than 20 minutes, the rest of the time is just spent checking on it to make sure that the water doesn't boil off.
If you are using a leaner cut like pork loin, you'll want to lessen the cooking time because leaner meat tends to dry out faster.
If you decide you want to use the Instant Pot, I find that the meat for whatever reason dries out faster once it is taken out of the Instant Pot. It might be perception, but that's my take on it.
The secret to having the meat and the fat melt in your mouth is a longer cooking time. Note that I said, "at least 2 hours". I would recommend 3-4 hours if possible, that way, the pork has time to tenderize and braise for as long as it needs to become absolutely spectacular.
Caramelizing the Sugar
This is the hardest part of the dish. As a traditionalist, you don't use the coco caramel syrup. However, my recipe calls for coco caramel syrup because I think it just allows me some wiggle room if I don't get caramelizing the sugar just right.
When you make it the traditional way, here's what you'll need to do: When the water and the sugar start caramelizing, you need to make sure you can adapt and move quickly because once the sugar melts and turns the brown amber color, you'll want to immediately add the pork. There is only just a few seconds between the brown amber color and the sugar burning. With coco caramel, you don't have to worry about waiting for this small window. Just melt the sugar and be on your way because coco caramel syrup will close this window for you and provide that amber color you need.
In my recipe, you skip this step all together. GASP. I know guys, I know. This step is way to hard to master, and I find that my method brings out the same flavors.
This savory dish includes 4 tablespoons of fish sauce. I prefer using the squid brand fish sauce because it is milder and has a less intense flavor to it. I know there are a lot of people that are smell averse to fish sauce, so you can adjust this to your preference.
Eggs should be added in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
How to Make Thit Kho - Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork and Eggs
Ingredients for Vietnamese Thit Kho
- 3 pounds of pork belly or pork shoulder, cut into 1.5" cubes
- 12 hard boiled eggs
- 1 6-ounce can of coconut soda Rico brand
- 1 tablespoon of Coco caramel syrup (nuoc mau)
- 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
- 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 ½ cups of water
- green onions, garnish
- jasmine rice, accompaniment
Instructions for How to Make Thit Kho
- Boil eggs and remove the shell. Set aside.
- Cut the pork into small chunks at 1.5" cubes so that they consistently cook.
- Clean and rinse the pork under running water to remove impurities. Drain and rinse until the water is clear.
- Place the pork in the pot. Add the shallots, Coco caramel syrup, brown sugar, MSG (optional), salt, and fish sauce. Use your hands to ensure everything gets mixed together.
- Add water enough to submerge the pork. Add in the coconut soda. Turn the heat to high.
- Once it starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium so that it the pork is simmering. Simmer uncovered for 90 minutes. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. Check occasionally while the pork is simmering so that the liquid doesn't evaporate too much. If it does, add a small amount of water if the sauce seems to be drying out.
- In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the hard boiled eggs.
- Garnish with chopped green onions.
- Serve with jasmine rice.
Serving Thit Kho
Thit ko is commonly served fresh, steamed jasmine rice. It is accompanied with a side of pickled mustard greens which provides a crunch, yet fresh balance. You can also serve other pickles, fresh herbs, and cucumber slices. These sides will balance the rich, flavorful braised pork and eggs with their contrast and texture.
Preserving Thit Kho
This dish is made in large quantities so that it can last several days. It can store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
When this dish is refrigerated, there will be a congealed layer of fat that makes it way to the top of the container. You can choose to discard this layer, careful not to remove all of it in order to keep the flavor.
Since this is truly a homestyle dish, everyone has their own recipe. I’ve heard that some people have used Coca-Cola as their secret weapon for a dark caramelized color. There are also other tweaks like adding chunks of daikon radish, which become soft and soak up lots of flavor, or frying the exterior of the hard-boiled eggs for a different type of texture.
This authentic Vietnamese homestyle dish is flavorful and delicious. If you have not tried this Vietnamese braised and caramelized pork with its tender meat, savory coconut broth, and infusion of fish sauce and hard boiled eggs, you might be missing out. This unique recipe has a depth of flavor that isn't typically found in a lot of savory, Asian dishes. It is a humble dish that is offered up when ringing in Tet, the Lunar New Year, but isn't served in most restaurants seemingly because it's an "everyday" dish that most Vietnamese get to enjoy.
This dish delights my kids and my grandkids whenever they come and visit. The best part of this dish is that I know they think of our home little abode whenever they take the leftovers home from my house. Thit kho is not only a delicious dish, but it's a memory maker in its own right.
More Easy Vietnamese Recipes You’ll Love
- Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue
- Vietnamese Banh Uot Recipe
- Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon)
- Vietnamese Thit Nuong Recipe
- Vietnamese Nuoc Mau Caramel Sauce Recipe
If you love this Vietnamese caramelized and braised pork with eggs (thit kho) as much as our family does, please write a five star review and help me share on Facebook and Pinterest!
While the pork is simmering in the pot, occasionally check to ensure that the liquid doesn't evaporate too much. You can add water if the sauce seems to be dissipating. As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 500Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 269mgSodium: 810mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 33g
While the pork is simmering in the pot, occasionally check to ensure that the liquid doesn't evaporate too much. You can add water if the sauce seems to be dissipating.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.