Monday, January 9, 2012

Vietnamese braised pork belly and hard boiled eggs in coconut juice (Thit Heo Kho Trung). Momofuku inspired steamed pork buns


Thit Heo Kho Trung is one of my favourite home cooked dishes. What makes a dish a home cooked dish? When I eat out at Vietnamese restaurants with my parents, I would note that a lot of the dishes I love to eat and I always have at home are not on the menu. I ask my mum why [insert name of dish here] was not on the menu and she would tell me that everyone knows how to cook that dish at home, so it’s not something that people would order when they eat out. So this is how I define a home cooked dish – a dish that people often cook at home so you won’t find it in restaurants, otherwise restaurants would be competing with every mum’s recipe and you know who would win out of that right? 


Thit Heo Kho Trung is one of those home cooked dishes that you will rarely find on restaurant menus but every Vietnamese family cooks it and would have their own recipe for it. I can see why Thit Heo Kho Trung would be a popular home cooked dish. My mum comes from a family of nine children and this would be a perfect one pot meat for such a big family – a large amount of pork and eggs are simmered in coconut juice, soy sauce and fish sauce, and served with bowls of rice.  A really simple dish to cook that produces a delicious result with sweetness coming from the coconut juice, saltiness from the soy sauce and savouriness from the fish sauce. 

When I cook a dish I am always intrigued by how other people cook it, and I will scan cookbooks and the internet for recipes to see how the way my mum cooks it compares with others. I’ve seen other ingredients added to this dish such as shallots and garlic, and other spices such as star anise or five spice. Some recipes do not use any soy sauce and only use fish sauce. Some recipes prepare a caramelized sauce made up of water and sugar first to cook the pork and eggs in. My mum’s recipe is relatively simple and uses few ingredients.

When I came across the Ravenous Couples recipe for Thi Heo Kho Trung, I saw that they had turned Thi Heo Kho Trung into a David Chang/Momofuku inspired steamed pork bun dish. It was one of those ‘damn, I wish I’d thought of that first’ moments. Encapsulating the pork inside steamed buns is a perfect way of eating this dish as the sweetness of the steamed buns complements the coconut enriched pork which has been cooked until it’s melt in your mouth tender, plus you have a tasty sticky sweet savoury sauce to go over the top of the pork, and you can add a slice of egg if desired. I haven’t eaten ‘the’ Momofuku steamed pork buns before which contains brined and roasted pork belly but I think that this could possible be better?!

Here’s my mum’s Vietnamese braised pork and eggs (Thit Heo Kho Trung) that I have turned into my own take on Momofuku inspired steamed pork buns.

I used a pressure cooker to cook the pork and included the process for cooking with a pressure cooker and a pot over the stove.

Ingredients

•    1 kg pork belly, chopped into 2-3cm cubes
•    ~ 3 cups of coconut juice (from 2 young coconuts)
•    5 small red chillies, deseeded
•    6 whole hard boiled eggs, shelled
•    fish sauce (2 ½ tablespoons)
•    light soy sauce (1 ½ tablespoons)
•    dark soy sauce (2 tablespoons)
•    salt to taste

To make Momofuku style buns – buy steamed buns from Asian supermarket, cucumber and coriander.

 Young coconut


I do not shy away from the layers of fat in pork belly, fat is what makes food taste good!

Method

Par-boil the pork – put the pork pieces into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 1-2 minutes until partially cooked. Rinse pork under cold running water and drain well.

Add the coconut juice, chillies and 1 ½ tablespoon of fish sauce into a pot/pressure cooker and bring to a simmer. Then add in the pieces of pork. 



(1) Bring to a boil and then simmer on low heat for around an hour, stirring occassionally or pressure cook for 10 minutes.


(2) Then add in 1 ½ tablespoons of light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce and 1 tablespoon fish sauce. Simmer on low heat for another hour, stirring occassionally or pressure cook for 10 minutes.


(3) Test the flavour and adjust with fish sauce or sugar if required and add in a pinch of salt to balance. Add in the hard boiled eggs and simmer for another 30-45 minutes to flavour the eggs and for the sauce to reduce. 

Note: I pressure cooked this dish for a total of 20 minutes, divided into two 10 minute periods. The last step of cooking does not require pressure cooking.


I bought premade steam buns from Emma’s Seafood Asian grocery on the corner of Newcastle and William street in Northbridge. You can make them from scratch using this recipe.

To make Momofuku inspired buns – Steam buns according to packet instructions. Add in pieces of pork (slice the pork in half if too thick), a slice of egg, spoon over the egg and pork some sauce and then top with thin julienned pieces of cucumber and coriander.

You can also just eat the pork and egg with steamed rice.

 Slices of pork belly in bun
 Add a slice of egg on top
Add the braising sauce over the top
 Top with cucumber and coriander
Here are some of my other pork belly recipes:

12 comments:

  1. I would never have thought to put the two things together! I have some thit heo kho trung in the fridge right now, actually. I might try it....

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  2. These look really yummy!
    I completely agree with your point about certain dishes only being available in peoples homes.
    When i read this review one vietnamese dish in particular came to mind. Bahn Xeo! I have enjoyed bahn xeo many times in vietnamese families houses however i have never seen it on any restaurant in perth! Do you know if there are any?

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  3. @plaidbag I didn't think of putting the two together either until I saw the Ravenous Couples do it. It tastes really good. Gonna have a supply of steamed buns in the freezer to see what else I can put in it!

    @Simon Thanks :) Banh Xeo is another good example, I rarely see it or Banh Cuon on restaurant menus. You can buy Banh Cuon at many Asian supermarkets but I don't know of any places that serve Banh Xeo. You can try cooking it at home :) here's my recipe for it http://www.blueapocalypse.com/2011/06/banh-xeo-vietnamese-sizzling-crepe.html

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  4. Banh xeo restaurants definitely exist in California, and apparently in Cabramatta, too. Maybe it's just a matter of time until they show up in Perth?

    http://iheartcabramatta.com/tag/banh-xeo/

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  5. that looks delish! Quick Q - did you take the skin off the pork belly? I love Vietnamese food but other than the odd salad never make it - this looks sooo easy.

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    1. I leave the skin on, but I cut of the part that has the ink stamp on it, poeple here in Hcmc people say its ok to eat the ink part but as an american I really think that part of skin should come off, I have lived in HCMC for four years and this dish I have perfected and improved upon, I add star anise and garlick and shimp

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  6. Hi Mel, yes I did take the top later of skin off the pork belly but as you can see I've left quite a bit of the fat under the skin on. You can trim the cubes of pork to your liking. This is a very easy dish to make, hope you enjoy it :)

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  7. Cool! Love thit heo kho and the fact that you've momofuku-ified it :)

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    1. Thanks Phouc :) Momofuku-ified sounds like a good name for a hip hop song. Break it down...the beats!

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  8. Ohh my god that photo of the bowl.. *drooool*.

    My mum (and consequently me) usually makes it with fish sauce, garlic and black pepper.

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  9. yes yes! Years ago I did puff pastry with thit kho. They are delicious :))

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    1. Puff pastry with thit kho? Like some sort of pie? That's a great idea Anh, will have to try it one day.

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