Thịt Kho Trứng (Braised Pork Belly and Eggs)
Pork belly and eggs are braised in a brothy sweet and savory broth until the pork belly is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Serve it over sticky rice to celebrate a special occasion or a for a meal shared with friends and family.
Thịt Kho Trứng, pork belly and eggs braised in a sweet and savory broth made with coconut water, chilies, fish sauce, and aromatics, is a traditional dish we enjoy and share during Tết, Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
After a slow braise in a clay pot the pork belly just melts in your mouth. The braising liquid is thickened and flavored with palm sugar, coconut syrup, fish sauce, and lots of shallots and garlic. Although the pork belly and eggs are the stars, the broth is welcomed and delicious over rice. You can reduce it down further for a stickier affair.
Thịt Kho Trứng is served all year round. It’s one of the many dishes families share at rice time (a beautiful reference to families sharing a dish eaten with rice) with plenty of vegetables, a hot soup, and pickled vegetables. This dish is meant to be shared with people, not to be eaten alone. To me it’s comforting—it always gives me a feeling of being home no matter which table it is served on, which is why I serve it during Tết.
My Tips & Tricks
In Vietnam, many dishes are braised or stewed using a technique called kho, which translates to braise, stew, or poach. Meat, fish, tofu, or vegetables are slowly cooked in a clay pot (although any pot can be used). It creates the most unctuous and delicious pork belly and eggs. Here are some tips to help you along:
- I try to get free-range pork belly from a good local farm with sustainability in mind. I find that the quality of the meat is more beautiful and there is less scum to skim off as it cooks. Look for skin-on pork belly with generous layers of meat and fat. It should look firm, clean, and smell fresh.
- Use a very sharp knife to slice the pork belly into 1-inch chunks; otherwise, the skin might be a struggle to cut through.
- Watch over the palm sugar and oil carefully. Don’t let it burn. Once it looks golden, even if not all of it has fully melted, add the pork belly right away. All the sugar will eventually melt as the pork belly browns.
- It is a common misconception that hard-boiled eggs will become tough and rubbery if cooked for too long. Please don’t be afraid—they will get softer the longer they braise. They will be seeped with flavor and will turn brown from the broth.
- Don’t cut the chilies as this will make the dish super spicy. Leave them whole for the flavors to disperse without the heat.
- Low and slow. That’s the only way to braise the pork belly and eggs. Set the pot over the lowest heat with the lid on.
- Don’t have time for a slow braise? Use a slow cooker, pressure cooker or the Instant Pot. You’ll have to adjust the cook times.
Here are ingredient (and clay pot, if you don’t have one) substitutions:
- Instead of coconut water, you can use water plus more sugar. The braising liquid should taste savory, sweet, and umami with a little heat and bitterness from the chilies. You can also use apple or pear cider, lemonade, or cola—just adjust the amount of added sugar.
- You don’t have to use a clay pot but if you have one, it is worth using for added flavor. Clay pots are great for braising or stewing because the heat distributes evenly and helps the flavors develop deeply. If you don’t have one, use a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot.
- Instead of palm sugar, coconut syrup, or coconut sugar, use rock sugar, granulated sugar, or brown sugar—anything sweet and sugary will do the job.
Variations: One-Pot Braising
Kho, the one-pot braising technique, is forgiving and can be used to cook chicken, beef, and even fish. Use lean or fatty cuts. It is up to you. Adding other aromatics such as lemongrass, ginger, and spices like star anise or coriander seeds, results in an entirely different recipe that is still delicious.
Cooking times will vary depending on the cut of meat and how big your batch is. The trick is to let it braise for at least 30 minutes before you check for doneness. For chicken and fish, it won’t need to braise for longer than 40 minutes.
How to Serve Thịt Kho Trứng
This dish is meant to be shared with others with plenty of fluffy steamed rice. During Tết, it is served with steamed sticky rice with split mung beans and lots of vegetable sides and pickles.
- Sticky rice: Soak glutinous rice and split mung beans (or split lentils) for about an hour, season with a pinch of salt, and steam on low for 30 to 40 minutes until soft, sticky, and fluffy.
- Pickled vegetables: I love serving store-bought kimchi, pickled mustard greens, pickled shallots, and lotus stems with this dish. You can make your own pickles too. Use a crinkle cutter or a sharp knife to slice carrots, daikon, kohlrabi, cauliflower, or any crunchy vegetable. In a bowl, add the vegetables, pickled or fresh chilis, a good sprinkle of sugar and enough apple cider vinegar to cover a third of the vegetables. Allow it sit for half a day or so to pickle.
You can braise this up to five days ahead of time. Refrigerate it in an airtight glass container. You could also make it earlier in the day, keep covered in the clay pot on the stove for up to two hours and reheat it right before serving.
Thịt Kho Trứng is made with the idea that you’ll have leftovers to enjoy during the busy week ahead. It keeps well and tastes even better after several days. Keep leftovers tightly covered in the fridge for up to five days. Reheat thoroughly in a pot on the stove top over medium heat and enjoy it again with steamed rice.
Looking For More Yummy Braises?
- Slow Cooker Bourbon Short Ribs with Cheesy Grits
- Braised Lamb Shanks
- Braised Stuffed Pork Shoulder
- Osso Buco
- Pot Roast with North African Spices
Cook the eggs:
Bring a medium pot of water to boil over high heat. Gently add the chicken eggs with a slotted spoon and set the timer for five minutes. When the timer goes off, gently add the quail eggs. Set the timer for another four minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, and gently drain the water out. Run cold tap water over the eggs to help them cool. When they no longer feel warm to the touch, gently peel them, and set them aside in a bowl.
Cook the pork belly:
In a large Dutch oven or clay pot (preferably one with a non-black surface so you can see when the palm sugar darkens) set over medium heat, add the oil and palm sugar.
Resist the urge to stir it. Watch over the pot as the sugar caramelizes. Don’t walk away or it will burn. It should take 2 to 3 minutes turn golden. As soon as it slightly darkens (golden brown), quickly add the pork belly in a single layer (it’s okay if they are touching). You may need to brown them in batches.
Sear the pork belly on all sides until it takes on some color and is golden brown, this should take about one minute per side. Use tongs or chopsticks to flip each piece over. Once each side is seared, transfer the pork to medium bowl. If doing in batches, repeat with the remaining pork belly.
The bottom of the pot will darken (but not a black char) quite a bit. That’s okay! This adds both flavor and the color to the broth.
Cook the aromatics:
In the same pot, add the shallots and sauté until they start to turn golden. Then, add the garlic. Sauté for a 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown. Return the browned pork belly into the pot.
Add coconut water:
Pour the coconut water over the pork, bring to a gentle simmer on low heat with the lid on for 10 minutes. Occasionally, use a large spoon to skim off any scum that surfaces to the top.
Simmer pork belly and eggs:
Add the peeled eggs, whole chilies, and black pepper. Simmer over low gentle heat for at least 1 hour and 30 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally
Stir in the fish sauce, coconut syrup or coconut sugar, and more black pepper to taste. Increase the heat to medium heat, and simmer for 15 more minutes with the lid off. The eggs and pork belly should stay intact but tender. They will have taken on the brown color from the broth.
Serve with plenty of sticky rice and pickled vegetables on the side.