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Andrea Nguyen

Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce (Sườn Kho/Suon Kho)

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Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce (Sườn Kho/Suon Kho)

Serves 4 as Main Dish.

This kho involves a little more work than the pork and eggs kho (see book, page 146). You must first marinate the meat and then sear it before it settles into its long simmer. The extra steps produce a rich, roasty undercurrent of flavor that permeates the dish.

These riblets have special meaning for my mom because her family prepared them for their month-long Tet festivities. An entire pig was slaughtered for the celebration, and the ribs were used in this kho. Since it reheats well, it is the perfect make-ahead dish for the Lunar New Year, a time when everyone is supposed to relax, rather than slave in the kitchen. When purchasing the ribs, remember to ask the butcher to cut them into strips for. For the best flavor, sear the riblets on a grill.

This recipe appears in my new cookbook In the Vietnamese Kitchen and an excerpt from this book appears in The Daily Gullet.

  • 3 lb meaty pork spareribs, cut crosswise through the bone into long strips 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 6 T fish sauce
  • 6 T Caramel Sauce
  • 2 scallions, green part only, chopped

1. Cut each rib strip between the bones or cartilage into individual riblets. In a large bowl, combine the onion, sugar, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce and mix well. Add the riblets and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before searing. Prepare a hot charcoal fire (you can hold your hand over the rack for only 2 to 3 seconds) or preheat a gas grill to high. Remove the riblets from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and sear on the grill, turning as needed, for about 10 minutes total.

Alternatively, broil the riblets on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 8 minutes on each side, or until lightly charred.

3. Transfer the seared riblets, the reserved marinade, and any cooking juices to a 5-quart Dutch oven and add the remaining 3 tablespoons fish sauce, the caramel sauce, and water almost to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. Uncover and adjust the heat so that the riblets simmer vigorously. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the riblets are tender when pierced with a knife. The sauce will have reduced, but there will still be plenty.

4. Remove from the heat and let stand for a few minutes so that the fat collects on the surface, then skim it off. Return to a simmer and taste the sauce. Add extra fish sauce to create a deeper savory flavor, or water to lighten it. Transfer the riblets and sauce to a bowl. Sprinkle the scallion on top and serve.

( RG1869 )

Andrea Q. Nguyen

Author, food writer, teacher

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, Oct. 2006)


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