This Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe makes thịt kho tàu, also called thịt kho hột vịt, a rich dish of sweet and salty, melt-in-the-mouth, caramelised pork belly simmered slowly with boiled eggs. While it’s eaten all year in Vietnam, it’s a traditional dish for Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
This Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe for thịt kho tàu has long been one of our favourite Vietnamese dishes and while we used to eat it whenever we had the opportunity when we lived in Vietnam – Lara tells me it was always a hit with her groups on the Vietnam culinary tours she ran before the pandemic – it’s an essential dish on family tables during Vietnam’s Lunar New Year holiday of Tết.
While this particular version of this caramelised pork belly and eggs dish has its provenance in Southern Vietnam, as the inclusion of fish sauce, coconut water and palm sugar give away, there is a similar dish that hails from Northern Vietnam, and you’ll also find similar braised pork and boiled eggs dishes all over Southeast Asia and China.
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Now let me tell you about this Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe for thịt kho tàu.
Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly and Eggs Recipe for Thit Kho Tau to Celebrate Lunar New Year
The Northern rendition of this Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe for thit kho tau which we used to eat in Hanoi and Northern Vietnam when we lived there tends to be more redolent of spices, more savoury and more aromatic, while the Southern Vietnamese pork and eggs dish is sweeter, a tad salter, and a little funkier due to the fish sauce.
In the north, they tend to use smaller pieces of pork belly and in the south the preference is for larger chunks. We love them both but the smaller pieces are more practical if you’re feeding more than a few people, and especially if you’re feeding a family over the coming Lunar New Year.
Our friends in Vietnam have long joked that one of the reasons that thịt kho tàu is an essential holiday dish is because it keeps well for days, and can therefore keep feeding the family and friends who drop by over the Lunar New Year holiday. Very true!
Plus, the longer the pork belly simmers, the deeper and richer the flavour of the pork belly and the more tender it becomes – so tender that you shouldn’t be surprised if it falls apart between your chopsticks.
Even if you haven’t cooked this particular Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe before, if you Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisines you’d be familiar with the genre of pork belly and boiled eggs dishes that you’ll come across, everywhere from Cambodia – like this pork belly recipe – to Malaysia. We’ll tell you more about those soon.
In the meantime, here are some tips for making this Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe.
Tips for making Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly and Eggs Recipe for Thit Kho Tau
We like to use pork belly, obviously, for this Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe, however, you can use pork leg (which is actually more traditional) or pork shoulder – as long as there is a decent amount of fat in the cut. I take the rind off the pork belly (and use it to make pork crackling!) as most people don’t like to have to chew through the skin or try and remove it.
While there’s no need to brine the pork, we find the extra time to marinate it is worthwhile. It really adds flavour that you can see and smell when you cook off the pork pieces. Note that it is important to get all the garlic and shallot pieces off the pork before searing as they will burn before the pork is coloured. This marinade can be added later in the cooking process.
Coconut water is typically used in this Southern Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe, and we are very lucky to get cheap fresh coconuts here in abundance in Cambodia, and also when we lived in Vietnam. They even come with a hole made in the top so the coconut juice is easy to pour out.
However, if you don’t have access to fresh coconut water, we recommend using coconut milk (not coconut cream) and diluting it to your taste. You can use canned coconut milk if you don’t have access to freshly pressed coconut milk. This results in the sauce having a milkier look about it, which we don’t mind at all. This option is much preferred to ‘coconut soda’, any soda, and even Coca Cola, which we’ve seen suggested in recipes.
Quail or duck eggs are generally used for this dish, but we find quail eggs get lost in this dish and are easily overcooked. We also can’t get great duck eggs consistently here in Siem Reap – which is a shame. Feel free to substitute quail or duck eggs for chicken eggs. We like our eggs boiled so the yolks are still soft but the whites are set and firm enough to handle being dunked into the dish.
The addition of daikon radish to this Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe comes from a different version of this dish that we like and it adds another contrasting texture that we enjoy.
If you’ve searched for Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipes online, you may have noticed that some often have a much brighter appearance with a deep red or orange-red hue. This is often due to the use of annatto oil, a natural food colouring made from annatto seeds used in Vietnamese cooking – or photo editing! Unfortunately the recipes don’t mention this – which is a bit sneaky!
Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly and Eggs Recipe for Thit Kho Tau
- 800 g pork belly rind off
- 80 ml fish sauce more to taste
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 shallots chopped
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 medium-boiled eggs
- 1 ½ tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 100 ml coconut water or diluted coconut milk
- 200 g daikon peeled and cut into rounds
- Steamed jasmine rice
- Spring onions green parts, sliced
- Dua Gia Pickled Bean Sprout Salad
- Birds-eye chilli to taste
- Lay the pork belly out into and slice the pork so that each piece of the pork has all layers of the belly, about a 2 cm strip. Place in a glass or ceramic bowl and marinate for at least 30 minutes with 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, garlic, shallots and pepper.
- After half an hour or so, scrape the marinade off the pork pieces and save in the bowl for later. Heat your wok or Dutch oven to medium-high, add the vegetable oil and add the pork pieces. You might need to do this in two batches. Brown the pork pieces all over and remove from the wok or Dutch oven.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the palm sugar and a tablespoon of water. Stir until the sugar and water form a loose sauce. Add the leftover marinade and stir for one minute. Add the pork pieces back into the pan. Add the coconut water or diluted coconut milk and enough water to cover all the pieces and bring to a low boil. Test the sauce. It should be sweet and a little salty. If it is not, add more fish sauce to taste. Turn the heat down to simmer.
- You will need to simmer this for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. The pork should be fall-apart tender. Add the daikon and cook for 30 minutes. The sauce should be thickened and changed to a dark brown colour. Add the eggs 10 minutes before serving.
Please do let us know if you make our Vietnamese braised pork belly and eggs recipe for thịt kho tàu in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.