What’s in a cooking repertoire? Is it basics, like how to make rice and a go-to method for roasting chicken? Is it your family’s classics, like a plum cake or the roast a cousin makes on Christmas Eve? Is it a collection of durable, flexible recipes that might be the last you ever need? I’ve been thinking about this since getting Jessica Battiliana’s first cookbook, Repertoire, this spring. I loved the concept immediately: the recipes she relies on most — not demanding but rewarding; not fancy, but special. There are recipes for parmesan chicken cutlets, meatballs, and a simplified eggplant parmesan; chicken tortilla soup, pretzel rolls, and corn fritters. There’s a recipe for the thing that most quickly went into my repertoire — a negroni (although I made it boulevardier-style) and potato chips (spoiler: they’re from a bag) — and birthday cakes too. But it was this candy pork that I couldn’t forget about, and I’m so glad I chose it, well, second.
[I wondered what my cooking repertoire would look like but realized with 1200 recipes in the archives and 105 in each of my cookbooks, it’s probably a little late for that, as I could never choose, although I did my best here.]
Battilana is a food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle but also works on cookbooks, such as the incredible Vietnamese Home Cooking book (we made the pho here) from Charles Phan. From Phan, she learned about Vietnamese-style caramel sauces laced with Thai chilies, ginger, garlic, and shallots. At his restaurant, The Slanted Door, it’s applied to clay-pot chicken but in Repertoire it’s used to braise chunks of pork shoulder and it’s one of the best things I’ve made this year. [Her kids call it candy pork because kids know: nobody can resist candy.]
There are so many things I like about it: a more salty-than-sweet sauce that’s glossy and dark, the short ingredient list that’s still wildly complex with flavor, the fact that it cooks so much faster than a full pork shoulder, and you can use the braising time to have fun with sides, like rice, and vegetables, or, I don’t know, snack on a negroni and potato chips, right? It was kid-friendly and the leftovers were perfect, which means it’s real life friendly too. And with a name like candy pork, how could you not want to make on the rainy, cold pre-Halloween weekend we have ahead?
Some news! Speaking of kid-friendly… This month I start as columnist for Bon Appetít, with a focus on cooking for kids without descending into a steady diet of halved grapes and chicken nuggets (although I, in fact, adore chicken nuggets). It’s called “Picky Eaters Club” and the first column is in the November issue, on newsstands now, and online right here. The recipe is for a hearty dinner strata with heaps of mushrooms, kale, and leeks bound with cubes of sourdough (I prefer whole wheat, if you can find it), eggs, and cheese, glorious cheese (which seals the deal) and I hope you love it as much as we do.
One year ago: Sausage and Potato Roast with Arugula and Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
Two years ago: Russian Honey Cake and Pumpkin Bread
Three years ago: Cannoli Pound Cake and The Broccoli Roast
Four years ago: Better Chocolate Babka and Fall-Toush Salad
Five years ago: Purple Plum Torte and Lazy Pizza Dough + Favorite Margherita Pizza
Six years ago: (Quick) Chicken Noodle Soup and Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies
Seven years ago: Pear, Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Eight years ago: Roasted Eggplant Soup and Apple and Cheddar Scones
Nine years ago: Breakfast Apple Granola Crisp and Jalapeno Cheddar Scones
Ten years ago: Beef, Leek and Barley Soup and My Family’s Noodle Kugel
Eleven years ago: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette and Pumpkin Bread Pudding
[New!] Twelve years ago: Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Crispy Tofu Pad Thai
1.5 Years Ago: Granola Bark
2.5 Years Ago: Carrot Tahini Muffins
3.5 Years Ago: Carrot Graham Layer Cake, Wild Mushroom Pate, and Why You Should Always Toast Your Nuts
4.5 Years Ago: Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms
- 8 ounces palm sugar, finely chopped, or 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons canola or another neutral oil
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch-by-3-inch chunks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 (2-inch-by-1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 to 3 Thai chilies (or 1 serrano), stemmed and thinly sliced
- 3 cups coconut water
Heat your oven to 300°F.
In a large Dutch oven over high heat — I use this pot for this, and most braises, although it exists at many lower price points — heat the canola oil. Season the pork pieces on all sides with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add some of the pieces of pork and sear until well browned on all sides, estimated at 8 minutes, but this part took me muh longer. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pork.
When all the pork has been browned, reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots. Cook, stirring, until the shallots are softened, about 2 minutes, then add the ginger, garlic, and chilies and cook 1 minute more.
Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot and add the caramel sauce and coconut water. The pieces of meat should poke up above the level of the liquid; if they’re completely submerged, transfer the meat and liquid to a different pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
After 15 minutes of cooking, peek under the lid to check that the liquid is simmering gently. If it’s bubbling very vigorously, reduce the oven temperature to 275°F for the remaining cooking time. Cook the pork with the lid back on for 70 minutes—the meat should be tender but not falling apart. Uncover the pot and continue cooking for 30 minutes more, until the exposed bits of pork are caramelized and the meat is tender that a chunk can easily be pulled back with a fork, as you hope it will on your plate. Remove from the oven and serve with rice.
[We also had some yellow wax beans (trimmed, cooked for 2 minutes, plunged in ice water, then drained), carrots (I cut them with a julienne peeler and doused them with a a couple glugs of rice vinegar, an equal amount of water, plus sugar and salt to taste and let them sit in the fridge and lightly pickle until the pork was done and up to two days, then drizzled it with a little toasted sesame oil before eating) and I put extra sliced scallions and chiles on the side so the adults who like them could add them to their plates to taste.]
324 comments on candy pork
This looks GREAT and I hate asking this, but: my husband insists he hates fish sauce and that he can taste microscopic quantities of it. Could it be replaced with soy sauce here?
I don’t know if this is the right recipe for him. Soy is different. Might still be good but I cannot say how much. This recipe, for example, uses soy sauce and not fish sauce. Totally different kind of braise but still could work here.
I don’t mean to steer away from this delicious looking recipe, which I intend to try, but you might seek out nom nom paleo’s “Spicy Pineapple Pork.” It has been revalation in our household and to my eye it is kin to this recipe in that it’s an easy pork braise with tons of umami.
Way, way, way too much fish sauce. Maybe a tbsp instead.
Can you use pork tenderloins instead?
Pork tenderloin is too lean to braise. You would not take a beef tenderloin and stew it nor should you treat a pork tenderloin so. If you’re worried about the fat rendered from a pork shoulder then simply let the braise cool in the fridge overnight and then removed the hardened fat.
This looks delicious, but my husband and I do not like coconut water. I’m guessing maybe the fish sauce may be a setting enough flavor to camouflage it? Or would this recipe work with chicken broth or water in place of the coconut water?
Disregard my question. The other comments wouldn’t load when I was on earlier, but I think I’ve gotten enough input from them now that I’ve been able to read them. ☺
You can use water instead. I don’t think you’ll taste the coconut water at all; the flavors are too strong and coconut water really doesn’t taste like coconut (unlike coconut milk or oil).
Ditto on the fish sauce. This is such a large quantity, and it’s such a strong and funky ingredient, I’m wondering if the finished dish has even a mildly fishy taste?
It doesn’t not taste like fish sauce. It’s definitely not a recipe for someone who doesn’t like it, even though there are many other flavors and it mellows as it cooks.
The fish sauce flavor/aroma is surprisingly mellow given the amount that’s in the dish, but one person I gave a bite to said it tasted a bit fishy and another walked into the house as I was braising it and asked if I was cooking fish. I’d say the fish flavor is there but mild, and the funkiness really does blend in with the caramel and other flavors. Not nearly as strong as I was expecting (the charred corn succotash in one of the SK cookbooks comes to mind) but I may steer clear of recipes with large amounts of fish sauce in the future all the same.
That was my first thought in reading this recipe. I use fish sauce in Thai recipes but when I do, it’s usually a teaspoon or so. 3/4 cup is a *lot* of fish sauce.
Worcestershire might do the trick? Or soy and a dab of anchovy paste?
I’ve made a ton of your recipes, Deb, always successfully over the years, but this was hands-down an absolute best! The ingredients somehow produce a delectable dish and we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Only halved it and used onions instead of shallots as I didn’t have any. Truly orgasmic ; )
Fish sauce is primarily about salt with a strong hit of umami, so I would replace with salt. (A home cook with Vietnamese American background here, for what that is or is not worth!)
Or salt plus some extra liquid, as I am realizing that you need that to stop the caramel cooking!
What about bonito flakes? Not to leave in, but to season the water. even when I use a lot, I do not taste fishy flavoring, but it has the salt/umami thing. It make also add a smoke flavor, and can be as strong as bacon in large amounts.
I’ve been making the chicken version of this for a while and it is totally addictive. I’m allergic to shrimp so no fish sauce for me. I use 1/4 cup light soy sauce (or 2-3 Tablespoons premium LeeKumKee soy sauce) and 1/2 cup Shaoxing rice wine instead of fish sauce. Any Chinese cooking wine will do, saltiness of the soy sauce or tamari sauce varies so you may need to play a bit. I’ve even made just the sauce to drizzle over veggies, baked butternut squash and …yes chicken nuggets. Bonus that the sauce candies the ginger and peppers.
Do you use dark meat or white meat? My husband doesn’t eat pork so I’d love to try this with chicken.
Fish sauce is made with anchovies, not shrimp–at least the two different bottles I have in my fridge are. I am also allergic to shrimp, but have not had any issues with fish sauce.
Please post outcome if you substitute fish sauce. We have a fish allergy in our house so I’d have to do the same. Thanks!
This looks amazing! Dumb question probably but what exactly is coconut water? Is it like vita coco or does this refer to coconut milk without the milk solids?
It’s like vita coco. I bought a container. (I used the last cup or so to cook the rice — highly recommended.) Check the ingredients. Some brands had added sugar; I looked for one that didn’t.
Oh man I wish I’d thought to cook the rice in the coconut water!! Too good!!
What suggestions do you have for repurposing the excess braising liquid, after all the pork is eaten and rice appropriately doused? It’s a bit too sweet to add to a soup. I’d hate to let it go to waste!
I have a similar question, except my husband is actually allergic to fish. Can I sub soy sauce? Wish there was such a thing as vegan fish sauce!
There is! See my response above re, fish sauce.
Why do you need vegan sauce for pork?
The allergy was to fish.
Can this be cooked in a stainless steel soup pot or deep skillet instead of Dutch oven? Thank you!!
There is! My extremely strict vegetarian sister uses it all the time. We get it pretty easily here, but then again we live in a major Canadian city with a massive Asian population, so your mileage may vary
I find vegan fish sauce at any Asian market. I do not live in a major city, but near one, and we have a large immigrant population, so ymmv, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you look closely at all the fish sauce on the shelf (daunting, I know, depending on the size of your market). Alternatively, the brand Fysh Sauce can be ordered online.
My husband was vegan for about 9 years and swears by Dr. Bragg Liquid Aminos for adding umami flavor in place of things like fish sauce. Might be worth a try for people with an allergy or strong aversion to fish sauce!
Bragg’s is more akin to soy sauce. If you have to, I would replace with salt, as a fellow Vietnamese-American mentioned above. But you’ll definitely be missing the depth of flavor. Are those shredded carrots in the photo? I was horrified to see them, then relieved to see they weren’t included in the ingredients list. ;)
I am allergic to fish but not to fish sauce… I steered away from thai food for years before trying! Something in the fermentation destroys the compound I am allergic to… might be worth testing?
I think this may be a very dangerous piece of advice as allergy strengths vary, and especially ones to do with seafood can lead to anaphylactic shock. I’m pretty sure you can also suddenly develop a much stronger allergy to something without warning.
Thank you for jumping in with your comment, MartyNKA. I have had different food allergies all my life, all with different reactions and degree of severity. I developed a two new allergies (NSAID pain relievers and jalapeño) at age 40, both life threatening. It’s alarming someone might suggest “testing” it out without consulting their doctor first.
Mmm I will be trying this immediately! I have never seen coconut water in a recipe and it seems like a great idea for liquid in this dish. I have a pork shoulder in the freezer. This will be the first time I use one for a non Instant Pot recipe in about a year.
Quick typo: “but this part took me muh longer.”
I hate to be that person, but I don’t eat pork – can I use chicken instead? Thanks!
Try Charles Phan’s famous clay pot chicken in his book. That was the recipe that inspired this.
Would the braising in the oven part work in a baking dish covered with foil if you didn’t own a Dutch oven or is there too much liquid for that to work?
Yes, absolutely. The most important thing is that the pieces of pork aren’t fully submerged in liquid, only partially.
Oooh, we LOVE fish sauce. I will definitely be trying this soon. I tried a different recipe that involved a Vietnamese caramel, but gave up after 3 failed attempts (even though I can make normal caramel!!). I’m glad to hear that this one works!
I don’t like spicy.Never understood why your food hurting you is considered a good thing. What’s the heat level of this? Can I leave the pepper out or substitute something else?
Just skip the chiles if you don’t like heat. It’s not going to be a set level per chile anyway, as they vary widely by size and even intensity within types.
We made it with three serrano chilies with the seeds removed, and it was very mildly tangy.
I made and my very-sensitive-to-spice 9 year old gobbled it up. Just add chilli to your taste is my recommendation
I am going to try this in my pressure cooker…
How did you adapt it for the pressure cooker? How was it?
Hi Deb, any suggestions for adapting this recipe for the Instant Pot? Thanks!
Hi Deb, sorry to be asking another substitution question, but I have to avoid both garlic and onions (as well as leeks, shallots etc). Yes, this is so sad. I have had some success replacing onion with sautéed fennel, but haven’t found a substitute for garlic. Any ideas for this dish? Difficult question sorry…
I know it’s frustrating, but I just don’t know of anything garlic-like that’s not garlic. But a well-flavored dish like this should be forgiving if you skip it.
If it’s a FODMAP thing you could try using garlic infused olive oil. The FOMDMAPs don’t pass through the oil so you get the garlic flavor without the bit that irritates your guts!
it won’t help you for this dish, but when my son was allergic to garlic, we looked for recipes that called for ginger. it’s not the same, but we found a lot of new recipes that are delicious and not at all bland.
Have you tried dried garlic, onions, shallots? Fresh ones can bother me but dried seems ok for some reason.
I’ve been cooking without garlic for years because my husband is allergic. Recently, his stomach rejects raw onions as well. Unless the predominant flavor base is garlic, you can just skip it and most recipes are still delicious. Since this recipe calls for so many shallots I’m not sure it would be as good without them, but is worth a try. We feel your pain!! I can live without garlic but no onions…that’s so rough.
It’s a plant here in the UK that grows by rivers and in woodland that we call wild garlic, It’s a thick leafy perennial thing, tastes exactly like garlic but you pick the leaves. It is an allium, so if the no-onion no-garlic thing is an allium sensitivity it might not be any good for you, but you can buy bulbs of it to grow. And it’s a wildflower so it grows like a weed. I don’t know if it might be worth planting up some if you have space? Allium Ursinum is the proper name for it if you’re looking for it.
Just want to second this comment! In the Netherlands its called ‘daslook’; it is in the allium family so depending on what your sensitivity is that may or may not work as a substitution, but it’s a tasty addition to sandwiches or salads for anyone.
So yeah- look online or at a nursery for Allium ursinum.
(for the nerds- this scientific name means garlic of bears! the dutch name, daslook, means garlic of the badger. anyway, kinda fun)
Look up asafoetida (also known as hing). It’s commonly used in Jain cuisine, which doesn’t use garlic, onions, and other members of that family. A generous pinch (1/8 to 1/4 tsp. I’d say) in a heated pan before you add the veggies to sauté should give you a very similar savory flavor! Kalustyan’s in NYC has it in several versions.
I shouldn’t be eating garlic either – a FODMAP approved substitute is Asafoetida, which is an Indian spice that has a strong garlic-like flavor. I ordered mine on Amazon, but I’m sure it’s also available at specialty stores that cater to Indian/Asian folks.
Off topic but I love the fennel tip, thank you!
For folks concerned by the fish sauce quantity, our family does a combination of fish sauce and soy sauce with our Vietnamese braised pork.The flavor will be somewhat different but it will still be delicious. Also, leftovers are fantastic tucked into some Chinese plain steamed buns with some pickled veggies.
Can I use a boneless pork sirloin roast instead of shoulder?
I’m not sure, don’t know the cut well, but if it’s fatty and braises well, you should be fine.
Excited to give this recipe a try…do you think it would work just as well with pork belly? I have so much of it and would love to start using it in recipes.
I haven’t cooked with it a whole lot so I’m not sure.
This looks great, a take on Chinese red braised pork (Hong Shao Rou)? I tried making that and screwed up the pork belly. Shoulder is less fussy so I’m hoping this works! I’ve tried a Chef John recipe that’s sort of an Americanized chicken take on this recipe (still with fish sauce) that I recommend to the people who wanted to sub chicken. You can leave out the spicy too, as I sometimes do.
I got so excited for a second when Sev said she was starting a picky eaters column. My house is full of them and I can’t make half the dishes on this site because of it. Then I saw the first recipe and was immediately disappointed. Baked eggs. Kale. Mushrooms. Leeks. In no sense is this a recipe for picky eaters. Anybody else as confused as I am? Candy pork on the other hand, that’s definitely a thing that will be devoured.
Haha, I would have touched neither as a kid! Keeping foods from touching other foods was a big issue for me when I was little.
I think the only item my Brother and I may have balked at when we were kids would’ve been the kale; it isn’t a common food item that we were accustomed to eating back in the 80s-90s. We both love vegetables and there’s very few veggies that we won’t eat. I’m more picky now as an adult; mainly because our parents didn’t allow us to be picky as children.
Canned spinach 🤢🤮
Creamed Corn 🤮🤢🤮
Green Lima Bean 🤢🤮🤢 (I imagine their taste is akin to that of green stink bugs. Bitter and gross)
Cilantro and Coriander 😵☠ (there’s a benefit to food allergies)
Papaya 🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮(Why would anyone want to eat anything that tastes like vomit?)
All kids are picky in different ways. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution and it would be impossible to find one. The column is about things that have worked well in my family. You can try other vegetables that work for your family in the place of ones they do not like.
I second that. My big girl eats everything, but my toddler is extremely picky and will subsist on only fruit and veg for days, but in those categories, everything is ok for her. So she is definitely a picky eater, and it can be stressful to just get some d… calories in her already, but other parents marvel at her knocking back a pile of cauliflower…
My kids don’t have to like everything, but they have to try everything, and I certainly don’t decide on the front end that they’re not going to eat something. I usually serve a “gateway” item on the plate and hope for the best — I love the idea of Deb’s column — the point is to get them to try new things, so if kale, leeks or mushrooms are new to your kids, then she’s done a great job.
I agree with the other poster about these comments. Go make another round of Negronis, Deb. Whew.
You have such limited notions of what picky eaters will eat! My experience is that every picky eater is different. Far better to simply put food in front of them without expressing any expectation, positive or negative.
I wish that restaurants would do away with “kids’ menus” loaded with fried, bland food which has surely helped to circumscribe what “picky kids” will eat. Sheesh.
I’ll just note that the ingredients called out in this comment–kale, mushrooms, leeks, and eggs–are the healthy ones in the recipe from the BA column. The other ingredients not called out, and thus apparently “good” for picky eaters, were cheese, cream, and bread (and, I guess, the pork from this recipe). Since when did being a picky eater become synonymous with only eating carbs, fat, and sodium? Surely not what one would call a healthy–or even balanced–diet? Seems like a straight path to heart disease-ville and other severe health problems? (Also, who is Sev?)
Since it looks like the sugar is just being melted (as opposed to being truely caramelized) is it really necessary to melt it first or could it simply be dissolved in the other liquids (since brown sugar is extra good at dissolving)?
It’s cooked for 10 minutes on the stove and transforms into a caramel — it gets darker and cooks.
I had the same question! I’m always looking for short cuts when cooking for my family. Did you try it without making the caramel separately?
No, I did not.
Sorry Deb, I was trying to ask if Milo if he had tried it without making the caramel first. It sounds as though it is ill advised, but if anyone dares to try it I’d be curious to see how it turns out.
I finally ended up making it that way because I couldn’t get the sugar to dissolve, let alone caramelize. The flavor was good–I’m guessing the main difference was that my liquid ended up really thin. My cut also was quite fatty and the finished product ended up with an obscene amount of fat.
At Asian grocery stores, there’s usually something in a jar called “coco caramel” or “Nuoc mao” (the Vietnamese term for it) that is literally used to make dishes like this. My Vietnamese mom uses it when she wants to make this but doesn’t have a lot of time. It’s darkened caramel and always makes the meat a really beautiful color. It also saves you a lot of time.
Gorgeous. Another food substitution question … sorry. Thoughts on trying this with salmon? The flavors are right, but the braise might go wrong …
I honestly don’t know. I don’t think you’d ever want to cook salmon very long, right?
Katie, the NYT has a recipe by Melissa Clark for Vietnamese caramel salmon in the instant pot.
The Vietnamese Caramel Salmon in Melissa Clarks IP cookbook is fantastic!! Highly recommend making it.
Think this would work in the Instant Pot?
I do. I’ve read 40 minutes on high pressure for pork in 2-inch chunks but haven’t tested it so cannot verify. But for this, I’d think you’d want to make the caramel (it would be easier on a stove), brown the pork in chunks (might be easier on stove with a pan with a larger diameter, but will work either place) saute the shallots etc. in your IP, cook the pork with the other ingredients but open it up when it’s a little underdone (“tender but not falling apart”) — 5 minutes less, not sure — so you can simmer for 30 minutes with the lid off.
Non-recipe related question for you. When will you be doing another book tour? Santa bought me both of your books last year for Winter Solstice and sadly, I wasn’t able to schedule time off from my former employer to make the drive from San Antonio to Dallas (5+ hr drive) to get chance to meet you & get both books signed. I know you’re exceedingly busy, but it’d be a real treat for your fans to meet & greet you and also help boost your blog, your article, and of course your cookbooks.
Thank you so much! I love book touring. I’m not book touring this year, though, although I’ve done a few assorted events — none in Texas. I’d most likely book tour again when I write another book, which is not in the works right now.
Hi! I don’t eat pork. Think recipe would work with beef stew meat? Thanks!
It’s possible but I might try it with chicken first — check Charles Phan’s Caramelized Claypot Chicken that inspired this dish.
This looks delicious!! Any suggestions for other veg to serve on the side? I’m not sure I can be bothered to use another pan to cook the beans but love the idea of having something crunchy and fresh to go with this
Try the carrot and maybe a vinegar-y slaw or marinated cucumbers? Here are the ones I used with Korean Braised Short Ribs: “a quick cabbage salad (thinly sliced napa cabbage, grated carrots, and thinly sliced scallions dressed with rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, red pepper flakes and salt to taste), and a quick cucumber salad (thinly sliced small cucumbers lightly marinated in rice vinegar, salt, a pinch of sugar, and pepper)”
That sounds fantastic! Thanks for the suggestions :)
Jicama was great too!
Hi Deb, I have just read your piece in Bon Appetit… congratulations on this fabulous endeavor!!!
I wish you well going forward… you are amazing.
Ok. So I made this for dinner last night. It was delicious! Like, seriously yummy. Complex flavours and a melt in your mouth texture.
But! But. BUUUUUUUT. What did you do about the fish sauce smell?!?!?!?!? Was that just me? Did your entire apartment not smell of fish sauce afterward?
I’ll still make this again, but maybe when I can have my windows open after. Haha.
Does it taste like coconut? I really want to try this but am averse to coconut in savory dishes.
Have you had coconut water? It doesn’t taste like coconut. It’s just an interesting, very slightly salty, liquid to use here.
The apartment smelled for a couple days, actually!
Hi Deb – if I want to make this with just 1 lb of pork, can I reduce the other ingredients by the same quantity (divided by 4)? Thanks!
I’d think it will work fine.
For pretty much all kitchen smells, I burn a candle! It can be unscented, or use a light scent like lemon or herbs. (I actually have one called “Sea Shanty” which is meant for burning after cooking seafood!)
These are the only things I’ve found that instantly return your kitchen to smelling normal after cooking something like fish. They are amazing! https://www.amazon.com/Papier-dArmenie-Set-3-Booklets/dp/B000FPYXZS/ref=asc_df_B000FPYXZS/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=191967931333&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16522611882159943462&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033316&hvtargid=pla-303462386075&psc=1
Absolutely delicious- I made for friends last night (I am terrible for trying out recipes for the first time at dinner parties!). I forgot to remove the lid so will do that next time – hopefully it will mean that the sauce thickens a little. I had seizing problems with the caramel though able to rescue it. Would advise adding the fish sauce in very small amounts initially to avoid this. And my house didn’t stink at all, but I did have the doors open as midsummer.
So, I am dying to know, although it probably is none of my business…does Bon Appetit just look you up in the yellow pages and make you an offer, or do they private message you somehow? How did this big break come about…of course they can see for themselves at Smitten Kitchen how cool you really are? Many congratulations on this further step to success! I hope they are paying you plenty!
Thanks! I don’t think SK is … anonymous or anything! It’s been around for 12 years and I think a few of their editors came up reading it. (Yay.) So, an email to gauge interest, a meeting to discuss possibilities, and we went from there.
Deb- this looks incredible and I will be trying it this week! I also can’t believe you respond to so many readers. I have to say- every recipe I have tried from you is a winner and so many are part of my repertoire! (Lentil sausage soup, Almond horns, Strawberry & cream biscuits, One pot farro with tomatoes, Double chocolate banana bread, Strawberry Cake, Peach cobbler, Rice Crispy Treats just to name a few)
Thank you for testing and sharing your incredible recipes and making all our lives better and more delicious!
I feel you on the picky eater thing! Got a little one on the way and I’m eating everything spicy and flavorful in sight. Hoping that she’ll come out liking all kinds of foods that way, but who knows. (Did that actually work for anyone?) For now I just make almost everything with sauce on the side so everybody can eat it, but yes, grrrrrrrr, it’s a pain.
Perfect for the nor’easter today! Have it cooking in the oven right now and smells delicious.
Deb! I was so excited when I opened this month’s Bon Appetit and saw your column!!! Congratulations and I’m excited to try the strata recipe. If my veg-averse kid actually even tries it – that will be a victory. FYI – last time I was in NYC I went to Via Carota after reading about it in your cookbook – so good. If you have an recommendations in that area for my next visit – do share :).
Thanks — I keep a list here, it’s not updated often enough, but I still love everything on it. I also consult Eater’s heatmaps and lists of essential restaurants when looking for someplace new to eat.
It’s a great recipe – I like all the ingredients, I enjoy all the flavors, it worked out perfectly.
To all of you who who don’t want to use the ingredients listed in this recipe and ask for permission if to replace it with this or that – just don’t make it. Find another recipe. Or better yet, make your own substitutions and see if it works out for you, then let everyone else know instead of fretting about allergies, preferences, sensitive palates, and your husbands dislikes. It’s boring. Does Deb have time to sort out your special requests? Probably not. Take this opportunity to explore, experiment, and develop your own taste buds.
Seriously! I feel like today was an especially cranky day in the comments section.
Ditto! I thought Deb was actually very patient in answering all the substitution questions as well as the cranky picky eater questions/comments! Most recipes are not one size fits all and we all have our own idiosyncrasies.
Congrats on the new column!!
Thank you I agree!
Well said. Thank you.
oh THANK YOU for saying this. Some of the questions were even already directly answered in Deb’s carefully-written recipe.
Yes! Jeeze Louise. So much pickiness everywhere. Poor Deb ;-) “My husband doesn’t like…blah blah”…..makes my teeth hurt – I want to bite someone.
No kidding. If you don’t care for a main ingredient, make one of the thousand other recipes on this site. C’mon!
I’ve never agreed with a comment more.
Gosh, my thought exactly. Thanks for this comment and all the above replies.
I think it’s the first time I see that much of boring comments and requests on SK — I even believe that in some ways, the usual lack of it makes me appreciate this website more!
Anyway Deb, this recipe is awesome. We did it yesterday and it was worth the cooking time and the fish sauce smell… Delicious! We are looking forward to eat the leftovers and to make it again.
(I apologize in advance for my English as it is not my first language.)
Did anyone thicken the sauce? Seems a bit oily.
Kudos. I also get serious eye roll syndrome for all the people who don’t even TRY to make the recipe but all send in “this looks good, great…” Blah blah blah. I am Sooo glad there is a tab for people who made it. I don’t think you’re crabby, just exasperated.
I came here to ask a question about substituting for the coconut water, as I have a lot of food allergies and have found the comments section really helpful in navigating those issues. If anyone has advice and experience with coconut water it would be appreciated. It seems like the recipe would be tasty enough with just water instead, but I didn’t know if it adds a specific note. Thank you.
I think you’ll be fine with water here. The coconut water is nice, but the flavor is very mild.
So glad to see someone else ask this! I just realized I forgot to buy coconut water, and I really don’t want to make an extra trip to the store.
All your recipes have been amazing, but my husband and I both agree this was one of the best dinners we’ve ever had and will be making again very soon. Thank you so much!!
Does it matter which kind of fish sauce? I have Thai fish sauce on hand, but I wonder if a Vietnamese fish sauce would be the way to go. I’m always stumped when fish sauce or soy sauce is listed as an ingredient as fish sauce and soy sauce can vary greatly by country and brand.
Yes and no. Everyone has a favorite and they’re all a little different. I’m definitely not an expert, so I turn to guides like this to pick one. (I often have Red Boat or Masterchef brand around, sometimes Squid)
Thanks! I’ll see if I can pick up Red Boat, Flying Lion Fish or Three Crabs for the first time. For the second time I’ll might use my Thai fish sauce and see how two fish sauces compare in this recipe.
I had this same question! My husband is Thai and does a lot of Thai cooking with Thai fish sauce, but you only use tablespoons compared to the vast quantities served at Vietnamese restaurants. I just assumed that we should find a Vietnamese fish sauce for this recipe, but I’m interested to know how it works out if you ever try Thai…please comment again if you try it!
Made this the other night for dinner–definitely not too fishy once it was cooked. Used jaggery instead of brown sugar, but will try brown sugar next time. Served it with a peanut slaw. Would make again and again.
Dealing with a broken oven at the moment but positivity drooling at the thought of making this this week. Hate to have to ask about a method change but how do you think this would do as a stovetop braise, provided it was covered and the heat was low enough to maintain a very gentle simmer?
imho, it will totally work – i haven’t made this recipe but the cooking method is quite similar to diane kennedy’s method for making carnitas (also here on SK via the always awesome homesick texan, if you want to check it out & see what i mean) which i have made countless times. the pork cubes braise slowly in liquid, then the heat gets turned up at the end so the liquid boils away and the pork caramelizes and browns in the remaining fat and sugar. it’s amazing.
I think it would work just fine, actually. Gentle heat, lid on. Report back if you can!
It will be fine. Vietnamese braised dishes are typically cooked on the stove.
Is this the kind of braise that will be great warmed up the next day? Or even better? I was hoping to make it ahead of time for a meal. This is my #1 go-to blog; I’m a long-time fan! I’m also a subscriber of Bon Appetit and am excited about your column!
Thank you. And yes, the leftovers are amazing. We got three days out of this.
How would you suggest warming up the leftovers?
I think I warmed it up at 350, lid off.
I was impatient so I warmed it to bubbling on the stove and then did 30 minutes at 350 in the oven, uncovered.
We then the next day shredded the pork, reheated it on the stove, and used it for banh mi sandwiches with pickled carrots, fresh cilantro, and siracha mayonnaise. I highly recommend trying that with the leftovers (if you have any).
Do you think leftovers would freeze/thaw well?
Not so easy. I am experienced in the kitchen and the sugar/fish sauce part failed. Twice.
Despite melting it slowly, both times the fish sauce was added the entire mixture clumped up hard as a rock.
Won’t be making this again
If it clumps up — this happens, it’s not a failure — you rewarm it until the clumps liquefy again. That’s what’s meant in the directions for if it seizes.
HI Deb, I was thinking if the fish sauce is heated slightly before adding to the sugar, it might have less of a tendency to clump/seize. I am a baker and I won’t make a caramel without first heating the cream before adding to the sugar. Just a thought, not sure if it would make any real difference in this situation. Thanks!
Thank you for that suggestion–when I made the recipe (which I enjoyed quite a bit) the caramel seized up dreadfully and i had to very patiently warm it until I managed to get it all mixed in. I thought maybe next time I made it that heating the fish sauce would solve the issue. I think it will help. But I went from rocks to liquid eventually!
That happened to me and no matter how long I had it on the stove it never liquified. I tossed the first batch and tried again in a smaller pot and it worked like a charm.
Made this for dinner last night, using big chunks of fresh ham (what I had in the freezer) and brown sugar. Whole family liked it- fast prep, perfect for a cold day when you want the oven on. It’s sweet/salty- not overly fishy. If anything, the braising liquid reminded me slightly of the mirin-based glaze for the SK scallion turkey meatballs. I didn’t notice a huge fish sauce odor at any point- may vary by brand- I used Red Boat. I took advantage of having a low oven on to bake off some sweet potatos per the recent low & slow, then broil, recipe. A twofer. Thanks for the great recipes!
This is AMAZING. Follow the directions exactly. Trust Deb. She doesn’t fail.
Heads up, though, this amount of fish sauce does permeate the kitchen. Both my husband and son would never eat this if they knew fish sauce was in the dish, and both of them commented multiple times in the aroma and asked what it was as I was cooking. I just told them it was “all the spices” and they’d eventually blend. They trusted me and both loved the pork; however, I didn’t tell them it’s fish sauce! ;) Both asked me to make it again, and we aren’t even done with dinner. Deb, I love you.
My husband commented the next day “boy, that fish sauce smell sticks around, doesn’t it?” Honestly, I’m the person with the bionic nose in the house and it didn’t bother me! And the flavors did blend, I agree. We both liked it–it was juuuusst on this side of too salty. But I think the saltiness came from a deeper flavor, so in the end it was very good.
I made this dish today for our Sunday dinner. What a lovely recipe. Will be making again and again. Thank you for all you do.
I made this tonight. Followed the directions exactly and it was wonderful. My caramel did seize but I was able to salvage it. No harm done! My 18 month old twins loved it just as much at the adults. This recipe is a keeper!
This looks right up my alley, am definitely going to try this. With trepidation, mind – am not the greatest cook and strongly suspect that I will experience a seized sauce and get The Rage haha. I tried making Fettuccine Alfredo the proper way a while back and greatly enhanced the vocabulary of all my children in the process (in a bad way). Talk about clumps. Stupid pasta. Anyway, my question is what alchemy it is that allows you to cook itty bitty bits of pork for 70 minutes and not have them dry out? I see it’s not a typo as several people have made it already and loved it, presumably with that cooking time ;). How does it become melt-in-your-mouth when cooked a long time? Is it because of the masses of fish sauce? I’d have thought it would’ve been completely dry after 70 minutes, so without the evidence of the commenters I might have assumed it was a typo and cooked it for not as long (no offence meant at all, just based on my experience).
The cut of pork is important. If you use a lean cut such as a tenderloin you may very well get dried out shoe leather. The cut called for here, pork shoulder sometimes called the butt, is a fatty and tough cut. It actually benefits from the long braise as that allows the fat and collagen to melt and the meat to relax so that you get lusciously tender and flavorful pork. Hope this helped!
Thank you very much for replying! My experience was that all pork easily goes dry, but I will admit, now that I think about it, that I very seldom have cooked pork shoulder. So that’s the only trick then – nothing stopping me now! :D
Coconut aminos make a nice substitute for fish sauce for vegetarian.vegans. Maybe even fish sauce haters will be appeased by this option,
I have a question regarding the palm sugar. The only thing I can find locally is described as coconut palm sugar. I don’t think that’s the same thing? I have read, I think David Lebovitz, that true palm sugar is sold in discs? Is that what they’re calling for here or would coconut palm sugar work just fine? Thank you! I’m excited to try it and congrats on the Bon Appetit column. I’ve been thinking of giving up my subscription but this convinced me to stick around.
I doubt coconut palm sugar would work. It doesn’t caramelize the way that cane/beet sugar does. Deb listed dark brown sugar as a substitute if you cant find palm sugar
Hi, how fishy does this taste with all of that fish sauce? Please let me know I want to make this asap but fish sauce flavor is sometimes just too strong for me.
I think if you don’t like fish sauce, this isn’t the right dish for you because there’s so much of it. That said, I didn’t find it fishy in the end.
Honestly this recipe is just not worth the effort. It was just ok, would not make again.
Congrats on your new outlet for eating advice.
I made this last night. It was met with happiness from those who ate it. I did have problems with the caramel. It took a long time for the sugar to melt. I had the temp on the low side than medium low which which likely was the problem. I was so nervous about ending up with fish sauce hard candy that I over compensated. ;-) The fish sauce smell was pretty powerful and drove my husband out of the kitchen. I’m enjoying the leftovers now and would definitely make again.
Did you cook the fish sauce in the brown sugar? I use fish sauce all the time and never have a problem with the smell so I’m wondering if people added it while melting the sugar instead of later, off the heat.
Deb, your Bon Appetit column was delightful – thank you for sharing! I had to laugh…last night I fed my daughter halved grapes, chunky peanut butter on Ritz, and boxed shells and cheese. Oh me? I ate the balance of the shells and cheese (insert appropriately shocked emoji here). Your strata shall now be on our list of weeknight meals to try.
When my nieces and nephew were growing up, they also liked ‘candy pork or chicken’. The recipe is much simpler than this and you use soy sauce and/or fish sauce. I still make it for my husband. I place chicken thighs in a cold pan, add a dash of vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, pepper and salt to taste (garlic is optional). Cook at medium heat with the lid until the chicken releases its juices. Keep an eye on it and keep cooking until the chicken is tender. Remove the lid and let the liquids evaporate. Keep stirring to keep from sticking. The fat from the chicken will caramelize the sugar. Transfer to a plate when all the liquid has evaporated and you have a sticky slick on the chicken. Enjoy!
You’re breaking my heart, Deb! This recipe sounds wonderful, and those who have made it mostly adore it, but here I am with a diabetic husband who couldn’t begin to tolerate all the sugar. (Why am I even reading a recipe with the word “caramel” in it?) Sniffle.
Yes, exactly! Everything isn’t for everyone. Yipes.
We have a coconut allergy in our family. What would be a recommended substitution for coconut water?
Do believe Deb (or someone) mentioned plain water.
I could swear that the photo of the shallots, garlic, etc. sauteeing included a half dozen cloves of garlic. And they don’t look crushed. Deb, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do! Or I just don’t know what I’m seeing. (Actually, I often use twice the garlic and more onion that a recipe calls for.)
I had three tiny ones, and smashed them — looks like they split vertically.
made this yesterday for dinner tonight
the house smells very fish sauce-y but the dish didn’t taste it.
It was really flavorful and balanced. Looking forward to leftovers.
What brand of fish sauce did you use? I plan on making this but it just seems like a *staggering* amount of fish sauce. I usually cook with one or two tablespoons at most.
My husband, 5 year old daughter and I loved this. I burned the sugar the first time, so I tried again only melting it halfway (enough to give it a caramel taste). I made it with a combo of rice vinegar/soy sauce/splash of coconut aminos, as I don’t like fish sauce. I also made it in an instapot (35 mins cook time with 10 mins natural release). The meat didn’t caramelize, but it was still delicious, and it made a tasty broth. I will make it again.
Could I use a slow cooker for the last part of the recipe instead of the oven?
This looks absolutely perfect to me. I’m a big fan of fish sauce so it will probably make it to my “Repertoire”.
I would like to suggest..that you start by browning the meat.
If you start with the brown sugar mixture that adds a bit of time.
We all need to get on with other things and I was on the “ stir pot” for an hour.
Oh, good lord, seizing is an understatement for what happened to my caramel. There was no saving it. I’m trying again, but I have to say, in my opinion there is NO SUCH THING as a cinch caramel. :(
I love Smitten Kitchen, but this was weird. Tastes overwhelmingly of fish sauce and made my house smell fishy for days.
I have never seen a recipe that called for 3/4 of a cup of fish sauce!! And now I know why.
Yes to the smell……my pot is in the oven now. Hey read and pay heed to “When the sugar is smooth and completely melted, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stir in the fish sauce.” I dumped it in all at once and had a seize that I could fix on the stovetop…..put the lumpy mixture in my bullet and pulsed it smooth so all appears well. Looking forward to dinner tonight!
That should say could not fix on the stovetop
I had the same problem but was behind on prepping all the other ingredients so just let it sit on low and slowly, slowly the rock hard sugar melted and in the end all was well. It is in the oven now and can’t wait to eat it later!
Mine seized into a hard candy.
I put it in the oven anyway and it melted while cooking.
Love the new column and can’t wait for the next one! I’m absolutely going to be making your delicious-looking strata, and the kids can at least give it a try.
Oh, and your daughter is gorgeous, thanks for the links each week!
OK. So I am definitely making this meal at some point, but I also just adored your column. Like other readers, we have a the 6 year old who puts up a mighty protestation at anything resembling greens, but…. too bad for her! Tonight’s dinner was a minestrone that was pronounced “really good if you don’t put in the kale.” But I just love knowing that other families are not, in fact, consigning themselves to a life of meh food because of early-in-the-game tastebuds. Like you, we try to have not too many objectionable foods in one meal, but also like you, we’re not short order cooks. Carry on!
My kitchen smells sooooo good!! I can’t wait to taste this treat!! Thank you!
This was heavenly! I am always looking for new and creative meals that are also kid friendly and my 11 mo old LOVED this. I live in a very rural area with little access to good groceries so I had to get creative at my local super center. They for some reason did not have any pork shoulder so I found ‘country style pork ribs’ which are just a boneless long cut of the pork shoulder with probably more fat. I was lucky to find Serrano chilies at the store, but mine was not very hot (rookie mistake), I should have tasted the pepper before adding to my dish so that I could have added an extra to it. My child is cool with some spice. This dish was the ultimate Umami and I will definitely be making over and over again. I would not change a thing about the recipe and would judge anyone that did not follow the recipe as is.
My wonderfully helpful husband tried really hard to reduce a cup of the sauce for extra yum with the coconut rice, but he over did it. We did not miss it at all when we were enjoying the dish.
This would likely freeze really well but it wouldn’t make it that far in my house!
I also want to add that my ‘siezed’ initially and following the instructions but returning to low heat it loosened back up. Don’t give up if this happens to you! It was very very scary but with some patience and a good strong forearm it worked out. I feel that my problem was that I didn’t stir the sugar constantly but I feel it deserved more attention than I gave it and it acted up.
Do you think this would work with beef or chicken thighs? Any adjustments you’d make? Thanks…it looks delicious!
I’d make it with chicken and seek out the recipe that inspired this, Charles Phan’s famous claypot chicken from Slanted Door, also in his cookbook, Vietnamese Home Cooking.
Made this for dinner last night, and it was amazing. My family said this was a definite keeper. They also loved the slaw you recommended with napa cabbage – I’ll have to use 2 heads of cabbage next time! I will have to say my caramel did seize up, but I was able to rescue it. Do you think next week would be too soon to make it again!
Just made this last night! First, I loved LOVED the flavor. I actually struggled a bit with the fish sauce caramel. Not sure if it was because I was a little cocky the first time doing the caramel piece, as I make Deb’s salted caramel brownies a ton, but I found it harder than expected given the dark brown sugar and it took two tries to get a batch that I was confident wasn’t at all burned. Even then, getting it smooth when adding the fish sauce was a bit challenging. All worked out in the end, but that piece was harder than I thought.
In terms of other parts of the recipe: recommend really listening to Deb’s notes on the size of the pork pieces (mine were a little small and think it would have been easier to brown if they were bigger) and also having an appropriately shallow pan. My favorite cast iron I think wasn’t quite wide enough and even though most of the tops of the pork was peeking up, I think I could have gotten more carmelization with the wider pan (and the bigger pieces of pork I mentioned above).
Definitely want to make again, think I want to more thoroughly salt/pepper the pork pre-browning, as well as maybe up the ginger just a touch and use the higher amount of peppers. I ended up buying the full cookbook as I liked this recipe so much.
Also, I bought a huge thing of coconut water and had quite a bit left, so I ended up using the remaining to make my jasmine rice. Highly recommend as the light coconut flavor in the rice tasted great with the pork.
Delicious! The pork was so tender and the sauce was perfection. I used brown sugar instead of palm sugar for the caramel sauce and when I added the fish sauce it completely seized up and didn’t fully unseize. There was a lot of hardened sugar/fish sauce going up the sides of my pan. I think I nearly burnt the sauce trying to unseize it on the stove but added what I could of it to the pork. I didn’t notice anything off in the final dish, completely tasty.
I think maybe warming up the fish sauce (I poured it straight from my refrigerated bottle) or adding it more slowly could have prevented the seizing. Or maybe palm sugar wouldn’t have hardened on the sides of the pan as much as brown sugar. Either way, it worked out!
Love your site and books, but I have a question about the directions. Do you braise the pork in the oven 70 minutes more after you check how it’s simmering, or is the total cooking time in the oven 70 minutes including the original 15 minutes? Thank you again for your fabulous recipes!
I made this as-directed, including the lightly pickled julienned carrots. It’s a winner! However, certainly not a recipe for the fish sauce-adverse. Heats up really nicely as leftovers.
This was excellent and simple to put together. It will go into our regular rotation. I will try it with beef too.
A few notes: trim your pork shoulder of excess fat. I only trimmed a little and found it to be a little too greasy. I also wanted a little more spice from the peppers. The pickled carrots were a great compliment.
I found there was a good half inch of fat floating on top of the braising liquid, so I let the pot cool down and then put the entire thing in the freezer for about 45 minutes. The fat had then hardened so it was super easy to take it all off with a spoon. After reheating it was fantastic.
I made this last night and my 9 year old skeptical eater loved it…I thought I was doomed when I made the caramel with the fish sauce, because omg the smell! 😂 But he cowboyed up and tried it anyway and it was a hit!
OH MY DEAR—I have come to use your recipes just like Julie did with Julia Child’s cookbook!!!
Gee. You are making me look good because the food tastes great!
YES— ALL THANKS GO TO YOU —
humbly grateful and fuLL,
I’m making it now! I smells really good and all the individual elements are delicious!
I want to make this the day before it’s eaten. What point would you advise breaking up the process? I was thinking after the 70 minutes braise and use the 30 mins with the lid off as the reheat?
I made this! It was delicious. I loved the frangrance that the pepper added to the meat and the punch to the sweetness that the fish sauce added. Thanks for the recipe!!!!
Hi Deb, after having read half an hour of comments on this dish I finally felt prepared for making it. There is no disgruntled, picky husband keeping me from trying something new, nor am I allergic to one of the five ingredients, that is why I did not ask you for permission to substitute any of them. I even dared to experimentalize with conoconut blossom sugar and varied the recipe with real Thai fish sauce. Ooh, risky! The first worked. Coconut blossom sugar caramelizes at over medium heat and seizes, but a mix of flattening the lumps with the spoon an stirring gives a good result. The latter did not work so well. Presumably Thai fish sauce has a stronger umami taste than other fish sauces, or I have just exagerated with the quantity…and considering the salt which I added to season the meat chunks, maybe too much. In Germany we rather cook with indications in grams, thus I am less experienced with cups…. :-) I think it was about 100 ml of fish sauce in relation with 3 pounds of meat. My sauce looks great, the meat is perfect, but unfortunately the umami taste is a bit too predominant. :-( I suppose I have to water the sauce down or mix with more rice, which means that my leftovers will last for the whole week…. Any suggestions for achieving a milder taste a posteriori are welcome. Nice Sunday to all of you!
I think some commenters above said that Vietnamese fish sauce and Thai fish sauce are indeed very different – you can cook with large quantities of the former and only use quantities such as tablespoons of the latter. I imagine combining a tablespoon or two +some water would be the equivalent. Apologies if this is too vague – you might have been looking for very specific substitute tips.
P.S. The smell didn’t bother me at all, I just got worried because of the steam when searing the meat, wondering if my fire alarm might be triggered at midnight. 😬😂😂😂
Hi there – I made this using soy sauce and some white wine per one user’s suggestion as I didn’t have fish sauce on hand. It was lovely! However, I could not, for the LIFE of me, get the brown sugar to melt and then caramelize – at all! The first attempt – I assume I had the heat too high – I scorched the bejesus out of it. Dumped it & tried again 2 more times. Damn stuff would just sit there in the pan drying out, but not melting. Finally, I just dumped all my liquid in and heated until the sugar melted in the sauce and continued on my merry cooking way. I’ve made caramel with regular sugar dozens of times, and this has never happened. Would love to get feedback – just so I know for next time. Thanks!
I thought my sugar would never melt either but I kept it on med/ low heat and kept stirring, and FINALLY after about 20 minutes it began to melt properly. Took much longer than the recipe states. I think keeping the heat low and having a lot of patience is what makes the difference. And having fresh dark brown sugar with a high molasses content, of course.
It also took me much longer than the recipe says for my sugar to melt.
I don’t have coconut water. What can I use instead?
Regular water is probably fine; coconut water just adds a subtle flavor.
Made this–it was excellent. The caramel seized but about ten minutes of whisking over heat finally fixed it. I used water instead of coconut water and it worked out just fine. Thanks for a great recipe!
We made this recipe the other night and it was fantastic in spite of the first round of caramel sauce irreparabley seizing. Tonight we repurposed the leftovers and made tacos with it. We whipped up an easy Asian slaw, mixed up some Ssam sauce, made some corn tortillas and boom! Dinner! SO good!
This was unbelievably amazing. I have to admit I was concerned at first as I used raw cane sugar and it seemed like it took forever to melt… then it took forever to re-melt after it seized up in the fish sauce but eventually it smoothed out. And it was just heavenly! My partner just said it was the best thing I’ve ever made. So thanks for that :)
I made this and it was delicious. I couldn’t find fish sauce at my market, so I substituted an equal amount of Worcestershire sauce. My brown sugar mixture seized as well. Next time, I will try adding the fish sauce to the brown sugar while it is still on the stove. I love the fact that I can do the prep work well ahead of dinner, so I look forward to serving this to guests. I will definitely make this recipe again. Another winner from Deb!
I made this yesterday and it was delicious! Loved it, and I’m SO EXCITED for leftovers, haha.
I will say- I forgot the chilies and had some chipotle peppers that I substituted. Obviously not traditional for this type of dish but they added a nice mellow, smoky heat and were really delicious.
Also, I think the pickled carrots were a wonderful touch. The crisp bite cut through the savory-ness of the pork, and I added cilantro on top instead of scallions.
Highly recommend- as long as you don’t mind large quantities of fish sauce. And yes, my house smells of pork & fish sauce today.
here is how it went down in my house. 1st batch of sugar burned. Chucked it and made a rule that no one could talk to me until the carmel was done. Second batch good, add fish sauce and it froze up in a nice hard chunk. Put back on burner melted back down with a few pea size lumps that were hanging on for dear life. Logic told me this was cooking for another couple of hours in oven and I have people to feed! Skip the part about smooth beautiful and add rest of ingredients. End result was awesome and no lumps. Only advice go for 3 chilis
I just got married, and have been trying to figure out how to cook like an adult for another adult. I made this and found it super-easy and delicious, as well as inspirational. My husband decided that he will now eat this sauce on everything, forever, and keeps cooking things to have with the leftovers. (Pork chops! Hamburgers! More rice!)
Thank you so much.
Congratulations! The honeymoon phase is easy going… you could also make him eat candy squid along with algae, he would not even notice, believe me 😍 ;-), but there might come a time of moaning: “Why did you buy yogurt? It’s cold outside! I never use to eat yogurt in winter!” 🤔
My whole family loved this and we don’t eat much pork typically. I over did the salting of the meat before browning and next time will not season like I normally would. I had forgotten how salty fish sauce is. Will definitely make this again!
So, I’m vegetarian, but my boyfriend eats meat. I made this for him and was NOT grossed out by the smell (albeit I may have used less fish sauce since I shook it from the bottle directly into the palm sugar). As Richie ate this, he kept saying “tasty” and “so flavorful!” I used three serranos and he said it could have been hotter…
Having the butcher chop the pork into cubes (free!) made this a cinch to prepare. Thank you!!
Thanks for the push to try a recipe that I (surprisingly) hadn’t yet bookmarked in Repetoire. Made it last night and tasted it this morning – lovely. I did not account for how long it would take to sear all that meat to a dark brown though, geez – did that take forever for anyone else? Worth it, but next time I will make it on a weekend so I’m not pulling it out of the oven at midnight.
Yes! It took a while. I should have warned.
I loved this! And I normally really don’t like cooking meat of any kind. It was a bit salty for my taste, though. I think next time I might use a little bit less fish sauce.
Thank you for your information
It was useful to me
Oooh man. I made this, err attempted to make this and my caramel seized so badly that I couldn’t recover it, and I am so intent on making this again but my family refuses to let me. My house smells so bad that I am contemplating moving.
I’m still going to try it again maybe after I send my family on vacation though, because if Deb Perelman tells me to make something, I listen.
I’m so confused! I made this exactly as written & thought it was inedible. It was WAY too rich, too sweet & too salty. The fish sauce smelled terrible (I used Red Boat), and didn’t improve after cooking. I added some vinegar to the finished sauce & that helped to freshen up the taste a bit. I also had to add some cornstarch at the end to thicken up the sauce. I would not make it again, but might try something with sugar/vinegar & just a few drops of the fish sauce. Just too overbearing as written. I wish I could try someone else’s attempt to see if I just didn’t do a great job of it, or I just don’t like the flavors.
I had the same feeling when I ate the first bites of my creation, beside the smell which, as said above, didn’t bother me at all. Every kitchen is different, mine is tiny but has a window to let in some fresh air and the thing was done. Besides, there are air fresheners and other gadgets….Honestly I do not comprehend why so many people who made this complain as if they were wishing for pest control in order to solve the problem of the smell. I saved my 3 pounds of good pork by neutralizing the extremely salty flavour with coconut milk and by freshening it up with lime juice. Naturally it was a totally different dish in the end, yet edible and yummy. I think the next time I would renounce at seasoning the meat at all with salt. As I have read, Thai people use fish sauce as a replacement of salt. They never add any extra salt to their traditional dishes, which they season with fish sauce as a condiment. Less would have been more in my case.
This looks amazing. I was wondering if you think that this could be made with less sugar?
I made this yesterday. The caramel scorched, so I had to put it back on the heat and it took me a while to melt all the sugar, but it was ok. The overall meal was very good. Both me and my husband liked it a lot (my 7 year old son did not, but he’s not a big fan of meat and the sweetness of meat was off-putting to him).
However, everything smelled horribly. My clothing which I had to change cause I couldn’t stand the smell and the apartment smelled the whole day even with windows open the whole time. If anyone had better luck in getting ride of the smell please share.
Oh my goodness, I’m not officially hungry! This looks absolutely marvellous, and I need to make this as soon as I can!
Made this tonight with fysh (vegan) fish sauce since my son has a fish allergy, but I was hesitant to use the full amount – thought my kids might not go for it. I used 1/2 cup fysh sauce and 1/4 cup chicken broth, with brown sugar. My sauce seized but reheating and stirring for about 10 minutes brought it back. I did not get a horrendous smell in my kitchen like others commented and everything turned out perfectly, really delicious. Will make again!
Pardon my lack of cooking knowledge, but would it be okay to use the jarred garlic? I know it obviously isn’t as fresh, but it’s all I have lol 😂 This really looks amazing and my husband is a sucker for pork dishes. Lol
I haven’t used it a whole lot, but if you use it other places where fresh garlic is called for, I think it would be fine here.
I made this a few weeks back and just skimmed through the comments to see if anyone had the problem I had. First let me say that this pork is delicious and was a huge hit with my whole family. My problem was that the almost 4 cups of liquid never reduced in the oven to that awesome glaze pictured here and described in the cookbook. I took it out of the oven when the pork was tender and it had cooked for the length of time specified here. It took almost an additional hour of reducing on the stovetop to achieve a glaze-like consistency, by which time the pork was overcooked and dry. I use the same pot as pictured – wide and shallow. Suggestions?
I had the same result, but after slurping down a bowl of rice (made with coconut water) with a drizzle of coconut milk, topped with a big scoop of the liquid, I’m convinced it’s perfect as is! An alternative: pour off some liquid and thicken it up like a stir fry sauce with corn starch or tapioca flour? I tend to overheat reductions so they end up bitter, oops.
Short ingredient lists are my love language, and this recipe is amazing. After reading through the comments, I consulted Google and Mom for solutions. These were winners:
1) To prevent seizing, add 1/2 T acid for every cup of sugar as it begins to melt. I used that cheap concentrate lemon juice that looks like a lemon, didn’t seize and I couldn’t taste it later.
2) Seizing is caused by evaporation, ie once sugar caramelizes at 320 degrees, as it gets hotter, the liquid cooks off = trouble = crystallized. In case item 1 about acid was fake news, I started added fish sauce 1-2 T at a time before sugar was a clear liquid to maintain enough moisture.
3) I used all the fish sauce and didn’t salt my pork, only peppered it. Resulting saltiness was perfect for me.
4) Use your vent hood and open a window or two unless you have 2 spare hour to sear meat at a lower temp!
I made this last night and it was ridiculously good. One comment, I used 4lb of meat and it barely fed 8 so I think the recipe really only feeds six and you’d need at least 5.5lb to happily feed 8. I say happily because everyone wants seconds of this.
Oh it sounds yummy. Would it work with tofu do you think? Or quorn?
I can’t get the brown sugar to melt. Help!
This is a great recipe! I’ve made it twice in 2 weeks. Here’s what I learned… If you warm up the fish sauce prior to mixing into the melted brown sugar, it is much easier to mix. We didn’t end up with a huge glob that we had to warm up again. The pork is great on coconut rice with pickled carrots and radishes on the side.
Made this tonight and it was very good but we struggled with the palm sugar. Next time we will use brown sugar as the palm sugar was difficult to keep in a liquid state. There was a lot of fish sauce and next time we will use half or less than what was called for. The dish was very good over rice and we served it with a tomato and cucumber riata salad to cut the richness.
This was so delicious. Yes, it gets a bit smelly while cooking but it’s oh so worth it! This dish is somehow so incredibly comforting and somehow light-feeling. The ginger, chilis and coconut water add a really nice brightness. It’s *very* umami but not super rich (it should be noted that we did skim fat off the top after the dish had cooked and rested a bit). Made exactly as written, with the recommended sides (green beans and pickled carrots, as well as some quick pickled cabbage). So colourful! We loved it and can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow.
Like others, I couldn’t get the brown sugar to melt. In most recipes using brown sugar, it is packed, so that is what I did. Wonder if that was the problem? Eventually, (after 35+ minutes), I added the fish sauce and boiled until the seized particles melted. It’s in the oven now, smells delish, so I think it’s going to be tasty regardless.
This was delicious but it took a lot of effort to get the caramel to work (luckily I was prepared for that based on the other comments). The first try I used a medium stainless steel pot and a wooden spoon and when I added the fish sauce and stirred half the sugar just stuck to the side of the pan and could not be melted off with any amount of effort, so the “caramel” was just liquid. I started over with a small non-stick pot and a whisk and just reused the liquid from the failed caramel. I had much better luck keeping it over a really low heat and adding basically a tablespoon of liquid at a time and whisking like crazy until it came together.
I had Thai fish sauce and was afraid it would be too fishy so I used that for about half the liquid and then added soy sauce and water to make a full 3/4 cup. Next time I think it would be fine with all fish sauce, since there was no real fishy taste to the final dish. I left the pork in the oven uncovered for an extra 45 min or so out of necessity and it was perfectly tender and caramelized, although even after the extra time in the oven it was really watery so I removed about half the sauce and reduced it and added it back to the pork. A bit of lime juice helped to brighten it up a bit; I served it with a couple kinds of pickled vegetables and we all loved it.
As far as the smell, my kids all left to go outside during the caramel making b/c they thought it smelled horrible. However once the dish was together in the oven it smelled amazing and opening some windows and lighting a candle cleared the fish smell away.
i found this way too sweet. next time, i’ll cut back on the sugar. hopefully the rice i’m making will cut the sweetness.
I have made this twice now, and have loved it both times! This is definitely going in my Sunday dinner rotation.
One question – every time I add the fish sauce to the melted brown sugar it seizes (as you suggest it might!) and it takes a long time to get it heated and smoothed again. Would it be possible to mix the fish sauce and sugar together and cook until the sugar is dissolved instead?
That’s a powerful lot of fish sauce. My husband walked in the door and asked what died in here. But it was yummy, the kids are it up, and we finished up with Even Better Apple Pie.
Hi. So I tried to make the “easy” caramel twice. Tossing each batch. I used one cup dark brown sugar and stirred on med low heat…the brown sugar, never got smooth or melted and just kinda dried out…ended up grilling chicken that I happened to buy. Quite frustrating. Doesn’t brown sugar need something butterlike to actually melt? Sincerely, people have made this exact recipe and the brown sugar just melted perfectly?
Oh man! This is definitely going into the regular rotation. I did/am going to make a few changes:
1.melting the brown sugar in a saucepan is a pain. I ended up with some stuff on the bottom that wouldn’t budge even after adding the fish sauce, so I cooked the rice in that pan and it melted then. Next time I’ll use a non-stick skillet.
2. I didn’t have shallots on hand not Thai chilies, so I used onions and jalapenos, including the seeds and ribs.
3. I used coconut milk instead of coconut water, against b/c that’s what I had.
4. I forgot the garlic! And it was still fantastic! So I need to make it again very soon and see how much more fabulous it will be with that!
Great, great, great. So rich and complex tasting!
I made this last night for dinner & it really was delicious. I didn’t have any problems with the caramel (I did use palm sugar, so maybe that helped) and didn’t find the smell at all overpowering. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that I’m in a house with a large(r) kitchen than an apartment or maybe my husband and I just aren’t sensitive to it. I did have a lot of liquid leftover in the pan- but I used a dutch oven. I don’t have a more shallow pan that is oven safe that I thought to use. I’ll probably change my vessel next time and see how it goes. Thanks for a great recipe!
This was a great dinner tonight and a big hit with my husband too. I didn’t have the patience to wait for the sugar to melt so I heated it low with the coconut water and fish sauce until dissolved. I don’t think it impacted negatively on the finished result. A zingy/pickled veg salad and jasmine rice were the perfect accompaniments. Looking forward to leftovers for a couple of days!
I made this last week. I asked my (fish sauce loving) son what the house smelled like when he came in. He said dog food but in a good way, how much fish sauce did you use? I had made hearty sides in case my hubby didn’t care for it. We all absolutely loved it. Very funky, but very good. We made tacos with the leftovers.
do you need to check for vigorous bubbling later in the cooking process if it isn’t doing so after 15 minutes?
No, I think it’s more of a check-in to gauge if the oven is going to cook it too fast.
There is now way to actually get the sugar to melt. I decreased it to half cup and after the 3rd try gave up and put it all in the oven with the un-melted sugar crystals. We have a very large house but our whole first floor reeked of fish sauce. It did look nice and candied after it was in the oven. However — after the cooking time elapsed, me and my youngest could not eat it. All we smelled was fish sauce. Any suggestions for a do over?
Maybe try a different brand fish sauce? You can probably Google and see which ones people find less strong. But this is definitely a fish sauce centric dish, so it may not change much. What kind of sugar did you use? Mine took 10 minutes, but it melted, as written.
My husband just made this concoction yesterday – I was blown away!
Looks on point, I will have to give this a try!
Can you do this in a crock pot?
Give yourself AT LEAST an hour to brown the meat. I did it in three different batches and each took about 20 minutes and I was even rushing it a tiny bit. There is a lot of fish sauce in the recipe but the caramel, shallots etc & meat cooking juices really temper the flavor (but I admit, I like fish sauce). I am literally cooking this dish as I write this & having tasted the liquid it’s definitely more of a Korean bbq flavor than anything fishy. It’s gonna be so good. I’m excited to use the last cup of coconut water in the container to cook the rice, as was suggested by Deb herself below. I really recommend this recipe!
I made this and my husband and I are now addicted. It’s already become a staple in our weekday repertoire and we feast on the leftovers all week. Sooo good! Thank you for the perfect recipe
Great as always. I will offer that low temps and mindfulness with the caramel sauce are a must. In some ways it’s easier to prep the caramel sauce after the shallots are finished. Super fun project!
Ok this is an addendum to my previous review. Although delicious, I happen to agree with my Vietnamese wife and in-laws that the fish sauce balance is quite off. We suggest half of the suggested amount listed. With this much fish sauce, the balance becomes significantly off. We similarly adored the cookbook recipe of the corn salad w. crispy shallots, but again the fish sauce was approximately double what I would suggest. I used Thai Kitchen Premium for the pork and Lucky Brand for the corn salad. I feel bad for leaving any sort of negative comment, but rest assured I cook from and adore so so many of these recipes. In fact, sometimes I feel my wall of cookbooks becomes neglected. We home cooks are beyond lucky to enjoy Deb’s incredibly delicious tutelage and inspiration!
I agree with you. Also, the only palm sugar I could find was very finely ground, dust-like really. It would not melt. After stirring it for 40 minutes it turned to glue and then to concrete. It took another 20 minutes to fully incorporate the fish sauce (Red Boat). The final dish was edible, but nothing I would make again even if it was easy.
I have Deb’s cookbook and this is the first time I’ve had a fail with one of her recipes. The next day I made the oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies, subbing toasted walnuts for the pecans. They are beyond delicious!!!
So I’m making this today for our Christmas Eve party tomorrow. Cooking for about 20 so I tripled the amount of meat and doubled the sauce. I have a large roasting pan where it will all fit properly with meat sticking out of sauce. I had to assemble shallot mixture, caramel sauce, meat, etc off the stove for ease, but figured the oven would bring it back up to simmer temp fairly quick. Used coconut palm sugar which melted well but did seize with the fish sauce. Medium heat and patience brought it all back together.
It’s been in the oven 2 hours now – it’s taking much longer than original recipe to properly cook and become tender with that much meat, so be forewarned to allow extra time if making a double batch! My husband walked in and said the house stinks, but then my son walked in and declared that the house smelled delicious. Planning to reheat in crockpot since we’ll eat buffet style.
I know, I’m brave to try a recipe for the first time on that many guests, but it’s sort of become our Christmas Eve tradition to always make something new.
The people who are contemplating substitutions for the fish sauce should skip this recipe. I’m not a fish person.. I can’t bear salmon and I won’t touch a slice of pizza if it’s been near an anchovy. But the complex umami flavors that develop from this marriage of smoky caramelized sugar and fish sauce are magical. For the faint-hearted I suggest using less than the full amount of fish sauce at first. Taste and adjust until you find the right balance of salty and sweet for your palate. Go ahead try it, just once. You’ll be hooked.
I was really excited to make this, as I adore this flavor profile, and followed the recipe to a T. I had no problems..the caramel didn’t seize, my house didn’t smell like fish sauce, it wasn’t too salty, etc. My kids loved it, and my husband scarfed it down. Sadly, I did not. For me, It reminded me of beef short ribs (which reminds me of pot roast, which I have NEVER liked). So this was more of a texture thing, as the flavor of the sauce was good, but rather thin.
What brand fish sauce do you use?
Are there different types of palm sugar, because mine doesn’t melt. I tried a couple of times, at different heat levels, and mine just kind of dries out and sticks to the pan. I ended up dissolving it with some of the coconut water and the end result tasted pretty good to me…
I made this last night. It was really good. I had to do the caramel twice. The first time, I dumped all the fish sauce at once and it completely seized and wouldn’t melt again. Started again and slowly mixed in the fish sauce. Also did not have fresh ginger so used powder. Was still good but did not have that ginger kick. My whole house smelled like fish sauce after. Be warned.
This turned out nice but lordy it was a PROJECT. The searing was the most time-consuming step; I’d advise other cooks to fire up a second pan (a 12″ skillet) to sear more meat in the same amount of time. Deglaze the second pan with some of the coconut water so you don’t lose the fond.
I tried heating my fish sauce and adding it very gradually, but still ended up with a couple big rocks of seized sugar. I added some of the coconut water to help wash the sides of the saucepan, and ten minutes on low heat re-melted the seized portion.
Okay, I am making this now! I found coconut palm sugar at the store and measured out 8 oz, but it looks like a lot more than a cup. Should I use less?
Go by weight
made this last night and could NOT STOP eating it! so amazing! the finished dish was very soupy so i was worried that the sauce might not be reduced enough, but it was incredibly delicious. cannot wait for leftovers tonight!
also, my caramel seized as forewarned, so next time, i will try to drizzle the fish sauce in more slowly. i tried my best to rewarm it to loosen the caramel and got it to about 85%.
This was super delicious, but like some others, we had way more liquid left than we had expected. Deb – It’s a little hard to tell from the photos – I assumed it was more sauce-y than broth-y – is that correct?
We made it in our 7.25 qt Le Creuset, which is a lot deeper than the braiser Deb used, which might be the issue, but we don’t really own anything shallower except a 12″ skillet which I think would have been too small. I’d probably remove the lid 20-30 minutes earlier next time, but otherwise this was really awesome.
I’ve spent weeks reading comments and preparing to make this recipe. I invited dear friends with adventures palates for dinner. You know the ones daring enough to try a savory caramel pork recipe that calls for 3/4 cup of fish sauce…gasp! The recipe was a breeze, the meal was a HUGE hit and as others have stated my kids LOVED it and my house didn’t smell like fish sauce for days. I used Red Boat 40N. I made green beans as you suggested and your delicious Mango Slaw with Cashews and Mint (added the perfect amount of tang). Here is where I must confess, I’ve been obsessed with your recipes this month, I’ve always turned to Smitten Kitchen for suggestions but this month alone I’ve made…Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Seed Crema, Red Bean Chili, Slow Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Confetti Party Cake (so good I made it twice in one weekend! It was a good birthday!), Kale Salads with Pecorino and Walnuts, Mushrooms and Greens with Toast and Cozy Cabbage Farro Soup. You may have turned my winter blues into lbs! My family has been happy and full this January and I wouldn’t want it any other way. THANK YOU!
I’m probably the only person unhinged enough to see this and decide I needed to make it veg*n, but in case I’m not, here I am to share my results and what I will do differently next time.
I used two pounds of king oyster mushrooms cut into about the same size chunks and they were delicious and succulent, not rubbery at all. I browned them in a generous amount of refined coconut oil (regular would probably be fine) to help bring back some of the fattiness that’s missing when you use mushrooms instead of meat.
I used the full amount of fish sauce, using a vegetarian one I picked up at random at the Asian market and always have in my fridge.
My shallots were huge and I think I ended up using more than called for, which is fine by me because I love shallots. I used four Thai chilis and found the heat level very restrained, definitely a background note.
Other than that I followed the recipe exactly. My caramel did seize but after a while on the stove and some vigorous whisking it became smooth; it took a long time to brown my mushrooms and next time I will use my larger skillet instead of trying to save dishes; the apartment smelled delicious, not fishy, and I have a very sensitive nose; leftovers were even better than the day of.
Next time I will skip the coconut water just because of cost/benefit, and if I can bring myself to pay for them I may try maitake mushrooms and see if their meatier flavor works even better. It’s hard to tell how much liquid there should be, but I failed to account for the mushrooms releasing liquid so I will reduce it a bit next time.
I was ready for this ridiculous experiment to fail spectacularly so I was very pleasantly surprised to end up with a delicious meal and even more delicious leftovers.
I think your version sounds delicious! I’m glad you posted your comment as I had not thought to use mushrooms instead of meat. So thanks!!
Deb, not one of your recipes, whether original or fine-tuned, has ever disappointed me, and this was no exception. The caramel was a bit of a pain because my sugar did indeed seize up, but that was partly my fault. Regardless, I would make it again in a heartbeat. After 13 years of marriage, my husband declared it to be “in the top four best meals you’ve ever made.” I was thinking about your work the other day and finally landed on what I love so much: you’re the one cook I can trust to lead me down a path of unfamiliar ingredients or methods. I know that regardless of how much I have to learn in the process, it’s going to be delicious, and I’m going to come out shining and probably make it again. And again. I can’t say that for anyone else; thanks— as always.
As a fan of pork this recipe looks amazing. I am going to make sure I have the ingredients and make this over the weekend. I think this would go well with a side of seasoned asparagus.
How sweet is this final dish? This sounds intriguing to me, but my family does not like savory dishes that are “too sweet” (a la sweet and sour pork). Personally, I can’t understand why, but there it is anyway.
Umm to say that this caramel was easy to make is disengenous at best. My caramel seized up after adding the fish sauce and I could never get it to return to caramel after cooking (it seemed to burn actually). Since the fish sauce seemed like way too much on the second try I made a wet caramel with two tablespoons fish sauce instead of the ungodly anount the recipe called for. It was delicious but the sauce never thickened like it seemed like it should. I would recommend having enough ingredients on hand to make the caramel twice.
Made this last night as directed. My husband and 8 year old declared this one of the best recipes I have ever cooked. The 4 year old is always iffy and she loved the rice and ate one piece of pork but was unimpressed. I loved it as well but also love fish sauce. Had trouble with the caramel + fish sauce but used the entire amount and with a little time got everything reincorporated and think it would be easier with a little practice. Would maybe add a little more ginger next time since I love it, also glad I added the pickled carrots. Served with rice and a simple asian slaw with peanuts which hubs put on top of it all and it was indeed a delicious combination with the sweet pork and rice and then the crunchiness of the cabbage and peanuts. Will definitely make again.
This recipe, as do all of yours, sounds delicious and I plan to make it but, before I do, I have one question:
Why transfer the pork to “a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pork?” It doesn’t sound like the rimmed baking sheet is used again in this recipe.
What I would do is just transfer the browned pork pieces to any receptacle…dish, bowl, casserole.
Am I missing something?
Hi – We just got this in the oven. We hope it is delicious as it took four tries to get the caramel sauce to work. And we followed the directions exactly as written. We finally did it in the microwave. I don’t see this comment from others. We are not novice cooks, either. If you could add more tips for this that would be good.
My caramel sauce seized pretty bad. Eventually I felt like I was more dissolving the once-melted-now-solid palm sugar back into the fish sauce. I wonder if both of these couldn’t be added together in the beginning and cooked together?
Made this tonight!! Straight from the recipe except halved since almost 2kg of pork (I used stew because my butcher cuts it fresh) was daunting when I was at the store. It was delicious!! I burnt my nose and fingers on my chilies so I was nervous it would be too spicy for my 9 year old but he loved it!! I made the carrots and added julienned cuke, peppers, and some blanched sugar snap peas and fresh mint with green onion garnish. Amazingly good. Will make again.
OMG. What a wonderful Sunday dinner this made. I had the seizing problem, but put it back on low to un-seize while browning the pork. I took the suggestion to use the remaining coconut water to cook the rice, and added cilantro to the rice at the end. I may have trouble cleaning the pan used to make the fish sauce caramel, but it was worth it! Will definitely make — and savor — again.
I made this in the Instant Pot and it worked great! Here’s what I did:
–halved the recipe.
–Melted the palm sugar in the microwave, per David Lebovitz: https://bit.ly/2BOwoPl. My palm sugar was rock hard, took a LOT longer than 30 seconds to melt, and scorched a bit, so I added some extra brown sugar to compensate.
–Used the Serious Eats trick of cutting the meat into steaks and searing those, then cutting the steaks into chunks. SUCH a time-saver. https://bit.ly/2Pr0FvR
–Put everything in the Instant Pot and set to Manual for 40 minutes. Did a quick-release at 38 minutes; because there’s no evaporation in the IP, there was still a lot of liquid, so I ladled out quite a lot. Set the meat and remaining sauce to sauté-low in the IP for 18 minutes, then turned off and allowed to cool for 2 minutes. The pork was perfectly tender and very tasty.
What I’d do differently next time: Even though I like fish sauce, I found the flavor a bit overpowering, so I might replace a third of the fish sauce with soy sauce. (My husband liked it just fine, though!) I would double the shallots, because you can’t have too many shallots, and I’d probably increase the ginger as well. And, if cooking in the Instant Pot again, I’d decrease the coconut water by a third. I’d also start earlier in the evening — I miscalculated my prep time and we ate kind of late! But I did really like this and look forward to playing around with the recipe in the future.
Hello Deb! This was so delicious! I have quite a lot of leftovers…are they freezeable??
I’ve never had trouble making any of your recipes, which was why I was so surprised when I made the caramel sauce for this dish. I made it two times, both with the same results of totally hard candy. The fish sauce wouldn’t absorb into the sugar so it all separated.
I just tried it for the third time and added the fish sauce to the sugar while its still warming and turning into a liquid. Hope it works & is still tasty! <3
Hello from quarantine 2020! This dish was already a favorite and now that I’m housebound and seriously dependent on leftovers I am so thankful for it. What a treat to eat, even several days in a row.
I have made this with brown sugar as well as grated piloncillo. With the brown sugar, I made something more like a caramel and with the piloncillo it was more of a liquid. Worked both ways and I think if you’re in the brown sugar camp and the caramel just isn’t working – no fear, just get it in the pot with the meat and the coconut water. It’ll be fine.
I’ve also made this with *very* pungent red boat fish sauce and a more common large bottle….. i forget which but a less pungent one. It also works with both. The recipe is so forgiving and so good.
My only comment is that it’s fairly salty so when I’m browning I go easy on the salt. The fish sauce takes care of the balance in the end. Ok! Off to go make it for the second time in 2 weeks :)
The food is absolutely wonderful, from preparation to presenting. I will make this for my wife, we are newlyweds and i hope she would like this.
I love her a lot and this would be best gift for her.
I made this yesterday and it was SO GOOD. I also was nervous about the fish sauce quantity and Food52 recommended a substitute of equal parts rice vinegar and soy sauce, so I did 1/4 c fish sauce 1/4 c soy sauce and 1/4 c rice vinegar. I feel like I probably should have trusted Deb and done all fish sauce but wanted to share in case someone else was nervous about that quantity. This combo worked well and we loved the dish!
This has become a favorite recipe at our house but I have so much trouble with the Carmel sauce! Takes an hour to melt and then seizes every time…
I’ve tried bringing fish sauce to room temp or warm before mixing- not helping…
Are you using brown sugar or palm sugar? I’m surprised it’s taking so long, but I’ve mostly made it with brown sugar (which does take longer than white sugar to melt, but never more than 10 minutes for me). Is the pan wide? Would more heat help?
Thanks for the reply!
I use brown sugar, usually light, in a 4 cup steel all clad saucepan over low heat. I read through all of the comments. I’m wondering if I should try it in a nonstick skillet? It sounds like it does matter to melt and caramelize the sugar before adding the fish sauce for final flavor profile. Heating the fish sauce helped some people, what do you do? Room temp? Hot? Straight from fridge? Do you think you could just melt them both together?
I have made this with brown sugar as well as grated piloncillo. With the brown sugar, I made something more like a caramel and with the piloncillo it was more of a liquid. Worked both ways and I think if you’re in the brown sugar camp and the caramel just isn’t working – no fear, just get it in the pot with the meat and the coconut water. It’ll be fine.
I’ve made many of Deb’s delights over the years and I had been eying this recipe for some time. Of course I read the “I’ve made this” comments as usual and I was a little apprehensive as so many had issues and concerns, but I knew that Deb would not let me down and I was so right! Don’t get me wrong — my caramel seized and never looked like a caramel again (definitely not like what Deb’s photo looked like but a thin brown liquid in the end), but I just lightly heated the mixture until the sugar dissolved again and just continued on with my liquid caramel. Don’t be discouraged and just keep going!! The end results are delicious and a complete flavor bomb! Thanks for another great recipe, Deb! xx
This recipe cooked as directed was simply delicious and one to enjoy again + again.
I don’t understand so many comments about the amount of fish sauce as it turned out perfectly, just the right amount of umami.
I had been eying this recipe for some time. Of course I read the “I’ve made this” comments as usual and I was a little apprehensive as so many had issues and concerns
I’ve never had trouble making any of your recipes, which was why I was so surprised when I made the caramel sauce for this dish. I made it two times, both with the same results of totally hard candy. The fish sauce wouldn’t absorb into the sugar so it all separated.
I love Smitten Kitchen but I could not melt the brown sugar appropriately following these directions. I think it must have entirely totally scorched as it melted into a lighter color without me knowing it. I added the fish sauce and it tasted scorched and horrible (and had huge hard lumps of sugar) and so I threw it out and started all over. But I got so nervous as I watched the brown sugar not melt and not melt and get a weird, almost “alive” movement but still not melt, that I just added the fish sauce and melted it that way. I didn’t want it to scorch again. I realized I’ve never melted brown sugar before. White sugar is easy to see if it’s getting too hot due to the color. Brown sugar, no. Advice?
Wondering about amounts. Made as directed with the exception of onion rather than shallots (life’s too short). 3/4 c of fish sauce? Super salty. Put sweet potatoes in at the end to soak that up. 3c of coconut water? Lots of liquid despite being in the oven uncovered for several hours. Really interesting flavour but wondered how to tweak it.
this recipe is a go-to for my family; we love it so much! the caramel is a little fussy sometimes (seizing up) but it worth the trouble for such an amazing meal. if there ever is leftover meat, i use it for bahn mi and thicken the sauce. to die for!!
I love this recipe and have made it multiple times! My sugar/fish sauce seized the first time I made it and when I couldn’t fix it I ended up subbing maple syrup, which was fantastic. If you’re struggling to caramelize the sugar and fish sauce or looking to shorten the prep time I recommend this!
Made this last night. It was not as pretty as what I see in the top photo, but it was damn good. Looking forward to leftovers tonight.
Jumping on the bandwagon here- I recommend less fish sauce. I love fish sauce and it doesn’t taste like it, but it smells like it. The leftovers have been a little tough to eat.
I made this yesterday and it is delicious. Although very salty. I question the fish sauce as it is very salty. When I make this again I will decrease the fish sauce and not season the pork with as much salt.
Very good recipe otherwise.