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Vietnamese Kho Dishes


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18 replies to this topic

#1 Sqwertz

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 02:12 PM

Ever since I discovered the coveted nuoc mau, AKA "caramel sauce", or what I call burnt sugar sauce, I've been on a nuoc mau binge. Today was Thit Kho - pork belly ribs cooked in caramel sauce with spices.

The making of nuoc mau is simple once you get the hang of it, the making of which is is beyond the scope of this particular post. It's simply burnt sugar cooked until it starts smoking and looks like this:

Posted Image

It's really nasty tasting stuff on it's own. It bears no relation to what we normally consider "caramel".

I used pork short ribs for this dish, trimmed of skin and the top layer of fat. These are also known as pork "karubi ribs", I believe. Traditional thit kho would still have skin on and be boneless. This was a good compromise between fat, lean, and flavor.

Posted Image

These are browned over high heat, then I add 3-4 cups of weak chicken or beef broth for those 5lbs of ribs (in this case, reconstituted Minor's soup base), 3 tablespoons the nuoc mau above, 2 star anise, 2 tablespoons nouc mam (bottled fish sauce), 2 tablespoons kecap manis (or soy sauce + palm sugar), one onion, a few cloves of garlic, and about 2 inches of smashed ginger. Lemongrass can be used as well. This then simmered for about 2 hours until pork is fork-tender.

Posted Image

6 hard-boiled eggs were added after that shot.

Skim off most of the fat (make sure to leave some) and then serve in bowls with lots of broth, cilantro, chiles, bean sprouts, mint, chopped peanuts, whatever floats your boat. I was out of most of that so I just served it over jasmine rice with chiles and green onions. And I spooned a bunch of sauce/broth over this after the picture was taken.

Posted Image

Kho is a super rich dish full of flavor. These were no exception. The pork is done perfectly and they don't taste fatty at all. I can't get enough of it. It gets even better after it sits in the fridge for 2 days. I've never had it in the restaurants, but I can't imagine it can get any better than this.

Next up - Bo Kho (beef short ribs) from last week.

-------------------------------------------------------------
Steve Wertz - Austin, Texas but who owes his love of
Vietnamese food to San Jose, CA. And I don't do Pho.

Edited by Sqwertz, 03 January 2009 - 02:48 PM.


#2 Chris Amirault

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 03:18 PM

Welcome to posting, Steve! Tell me why you use both nuoc mau and kecap manis, which seem to have somewhat similar flavors (though the kecap manis is sweeter).
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#3 Sqwertz

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 03:38 PM

Welcome to posting, Steve! Tell me why you use both nuoc mau and kecap manis, which seem to have somewhat similar flavors (though the kecap manis is sweeter).

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If you think they have similar flavors, then you're not burning your nuoc mau long enough. They're totally different., IMO. You would never get the flavor of kho without nuoc mau and with only KM. NM is bitter more than sweet, and KM is just sweet.

I would have used just regular soy with some palm sugar but I needed to get rid of this bottle of KM.

I had been searching for that flavoring that is used in pork banh mi fillings and grilled pork chops for years, and just kepcap manis didn't even come close. Nuoc mau to the rescue. I don't know it eluded me for so long. Until I read about kho.

Edited by Sqwertz, 03 January 2009 - 03:38 PM.


#4 dockhl

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 03:48 PM

Steve~
welcome. Maybe we DO need to hear how you make your caramel sauce (nuoc mau)?

#5 Sqwertz

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 07:30 PM

Steve~
welcome. Maybe we DO need to hear how you make your caramel sauce (nuoc mau)?

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In a nutshell, take a cup of sugar and a half cup of water and heat over medium/medium high heat until it smokes. Then take it off the heat and let it cook further using the heat of the pan another 45-60 seconds until it smells like a meth lab (don't worry if you don't know what a meth lab smells like. I don't either, but you'll see what I mean). Then add another 1/2cup cold water to the mixture and heat it again to dissolve the caramel into a usable syrup. That picture I posted is probably on the light side. It should be slightly darker. That's probably my 8th batch of the stuff.

Or you can read the LA Times article: The Taste of Tet, here.

Once you taste that resulting liquid, you'll see why nuoc mau and kecap manis are not interchangeable.

-sw

#6 dockhl

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 09:14 PM

Thank you !

Kathy (who doesn't know what a meth lab smells like but will improvise...........)

#7 franktex

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 10:53 AM

Steve,
Glad to see you decided to get over here to eGullet.
My Italian aunt made some cookies that used caramel, and it was made the exact same way, but I don't remember it tasting nasty-is it just the degree of burnt-ness that makes smell/taste bad?
FM
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#8 John DePaula

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 03:32 PM

Steve,
Glad to see you decided to get over here to eGullet.
My Italian aunt made some cookies that used caramel, and it was made the exact same way, but I don't remember it tasting nasty-is it just the degree of burnt-ness that makes smell/taste bad?
FM

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Hey, do you by chance remember the name of those cookies? a recipe, perhaps?
John DePaula
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#9 dockhl

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:23 PM

OK, rice is cooking and the pork has been on for 1 1/2 hours. I just tasted a little.............wow, that is exactly the taste I have been missing ! So good.

It did smell a little like a meth lab..............how do I know that? You are right, you just know. Andrea Nguyen suggests that it be the color of black coffee. That is what I shot for.

Now I have a lovely jar of this , to use as needed. Steve, thank you so much for introducing this topic !

#10 John DePaula

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 07:53 PM

Just so happens that last night, I was making the recipe that Kerry Beal posted for Vietnamese Chicken Thighs. Very tasty but I didn't let the sugar caramelize enough and it was definitely lacking depth. Nice to know I can make the 'nuoc mau' ahead of time, though.
John DePaula
DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
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When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

#11 dockhl

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 09:07 PM

I had pork this way (3 lbs of shoulder) browned and plopped in a pot with the broth et al. Cooked for 2 hours until very tender, serve over rice with cucumber, mint, cilantro, green onions. Broth poured over............

OMG, so VERY good that after I ate the entire bowl I got more rice and broth.............

I may eat this every day for a week !

Kathy

#12 nakji

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 12:52 AM

I usually use hunks of pork shoulder when I cook thit kho too, I've never tried it with galbi ribs. Hmm. I feel a kitchen experiment coming on. I made thit kho once a week for a couple of months last winter, but my husband got sick of eating it and begged me to stop. I think he's ready to try it again.

#13 markemorse

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:58 AM

I love this with catfish, it's an amazing complement...

#14 jmolinari

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:54 AM

Kho is one of my favorite Viet dishes. I'm with Sqwertz, NM and Kecap Manis taste very different.
I also like using chicken thighs, with lemongrass and chilis in my khos.

#15 Sqwertz

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 10:42 PM

Now I have a lovely jar of this , to use as needed. Steve, thank you so much for introducing this topic !

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Now You're making me all giddy and fuzzy :-) Thanks for trying it and reporting back.

Brush it on thin pork chops with nuoc mam just before you grill them.

-sw

#16 Sqwertz

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 10:51 PM

Very tasty but I didn't let the sugar caramelize enough and it was definitely lacking depth.  Nice to know I can make the 'nuoc mau' ahead of time, though.

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You really do need to let it burn for a few seconds. I've never considered bitter a flavor because I always thought butter was better. This bitter doesn't taste like butter but is better.

-sw

#17 Sqwertz

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 11:12 PM

I had pork this way (3 lbs of shoulder) browned and plopped in a pot with the broth et al. Cooked for 2 hours until very tender, serve over rice with cucumber, mint, cilantro, green onions. Broth poured over............

OMG, so VERY good that after I ate the entire bowl I got more rice and broth.............

I may eat this every day for a week !

Kathy

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I used to hate semi-sweet stewed meats, and ESPECIALLY licorice, but if you can hack it the importance of star anise in this dish is, I think, sublime.

-sw

#18 Chris Amirault

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 02:03 PM

Once you taste that resulting liquid, you'll see why nuoc mau and kecap manis are not interchangeable.

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Didn't mean to suggest that they were interchangeable, but it's clear I'm not cooking off entirely all of the sweetness. Next time for sure. Thanks!
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#19 Franci

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 09:05 AM

Hi. I have a question. Searching for pork in caramel sauce, I found two ways of doing it: browing the meat and adding the caramel sauce, plus fish sauce, like in this recipe, or I see no browining, no caramel and using coconut water, plus fish sauce, and there caramelization comes from boiling down the coconut water, like here . So, I'm curious to find out more. Anybody?