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Vietnamese Caramel Pork

4 Servings

50 minutes

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The Vietnamese technique of braising meat or fish in dark, smoky caramel combined with a few aromatics and fish sauce yields intensely savory-sweet, umami-rich flavors. It traditionally is cooked in a clay pot, but we use a skillet. Pork belly is the typical cut, but it’s extremely fatty and not always easy to find in grocery stores. Instead, we use shoulder, which is leaner but still well-marbled and rich in pork flavor. The meat, however, must be thinly sliced to achieve the correct tender-chewy texture with just 10 to 14 minutes of cooking. For easiest slicing, after cutting the pork into planks, freeze the pieces uncovered on a plate until partially frozen, about 20 minutes, then use a sharp knife to slice them on the diagonal no thicker than ¼ inch. To round out the meal, serve the pork with jasmine rice and a simple steamed or stir-fried vegetable.




Don’t stir the caramel in its early stages. This can cause the sugar to recrystallize rather than melt, making the caramel lumpy. If this does happen in the first stage, it’s best to start over with a fresh caramel.

50 minutes


  • ¼

    cup white sugar

  • 4

    tablespoons coconut water or water, divided


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Erin B.
September 20, 2022
Will make again!
This is a tasty dish and the caramel is fun to make! The pork came out a bit dry for me after cooking for only 11 minutes, but I may have had the temp too high. The market did not have scallions(!), so I topped the meat with chopped cilantro. The fresh lime squeeze is a great addition, too.
Christopher B E.

The use of 12” steel or cast iron is common here. Can I use a wok in many of these higher heat preperations?

Lynn C.

Hi Christopher -


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