Total: 3 hr 20 min(includes chilling and steeping times)
Active: 45 min
Yield:6 to 8 servings
1 of 8 servings
While a kho is often a weeknight dish that can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes, for the Tết season, you don’t want any old braise. You want a kho that’s worthy of the Lunar New Year table. That means springing for top-quality skin-on, center-cut pork belly, palm sugar and fresh young coconut. Skin-on pork contains plenty of collagen, which will break down during the gentle cooking process to add lusciousness to the caramelized savory gravy, making it perfect for ladling over copious amounts of fluffy new-crop white jasmine rice.
Fill a 7-quart heavy-bottomed braising pot (like a Dutch oven) with 4 quarts of water. Add 3 tablespoons salt and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath.
Add the pork to the pot and bring the water back up to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, skimming the foam that floats to the surface.
Transfer the pork to the ice bath and let it soak until completely chilled, about 20 minutes. Remove the pork and wipe away any impurities using a paper towel. Drain the pork in a colander and set aside.
Clean the pot used for the pork and return it to the stove. Add the garlic, oil and minced red onion to the cold pot, turn the heat to medium high and cook until aromatic, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the palm sugar and cook until it starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking until the sugar turns a chestnut amber, another 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the fish sauce and raise the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a bubble and cook for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the fish sauce slightly. Add the blanched pork, black pepper and chiles and toss to coat every piece of pork in the sauce.
Add the coconut water, halved red onion and 2 cups of water. Bring the pot back to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. To achieve a braise with tender pork that doesn’t fall apart, cook the pork at a gentle simmer, where the surface of the braising liquid is trembling and only a few air bubbles break through. Simmer, uncovered, until the pork is tender and the braising liquid reduces and forms a stock that slightly clings to your spoon, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Gently transfer the pork to a bowl. Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve to create a flawless, silky-smooth stock. Discard the solids.
Wash the pot and return it to the stove. Return the pork and braising liquid to the pot. Bring the braise to a boil, then turn off the heat. Nestle the Boiled Eggs in the braising liquid. Cover the pot and steep the eggs in the braising liquid off heat for 20 minutes.
As this is a dish for Lunar New Year, I’m specifying water from fresh young coconuts, but pre-packaged coconut water is a fine substitute. The palm sugar specified in this recipe is the Southeast Asian variety; the main producers are Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.
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