Recipes

candy pork

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.


shallotsshallots, ginger, garlic, hot pepperbrown sugar to meltthe caramel

[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.]

browned pork chunks
shallots, garlic, ginger, yess
ready to braise
what we ate with it

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?

candy pork

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.

Previously

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

Candy Pork

Don’t be intimidated by the word caramel — Battilana’s instructions are perfect, and it’s a cinch.

  • 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

Put the palm or brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the sugar melts, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the sugar doesn’t scorch. When the sugar is smooth and completely melted, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stir in the fish sauce. The mixture may seize; if it does, return it to low heat and continue stirring until smooth.

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.]

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232 comments on candy pork

    1. deb

      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.

        1. Stephanie

          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.

    2. Françoise

      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?

      1. deb

        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.

      2. Liam

        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.

    3. jg

      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.

    4. Kate W

      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.

      1. Kristin

        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.

  1. Meg

    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?

    1. deb

      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.

  2. Ann in NJ

    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!

    1. Sarah in Vancouver, BC

      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

    2. Nicole R

      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.

    3. Kris

      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!

      1. Lisa

        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. ;)

    4. Julie Pelletier

      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?

  3. Sarah in Vancouver, BC

    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.”

  4. Nadia

    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?

  5. Kristin

    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!

  6. jwgmom

    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?

    1. deb

      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.

  7. 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…

    1. deb

      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.

      1. Rebecca

        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!

    2. Leah

      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.

    3. Christina Leatha

      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.

    4. Newt

      Ramsons!

      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.

      1. etielens

        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)

    5. Happy to help

      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.

    6. 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.

  8. Van

    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.

      1. Catherine Tran

        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.

  9. PThomas

    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.
    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/244813/spicy-caramel-chicken/

  10. Liz

    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.

    1. Jacqueline D Burke

      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?)

    2. deb

      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.

      1. Jane Doe

        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…

    3. kate

      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.

    4. 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.

    5. K8

      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?)

  11. Milo

    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)?

    1. Jane

      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?

        1. JBF

          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.

          1. Crystal Cargill

            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.

      1. Carly Nguyen

        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.

  12. Katie

    Gorgeous. Another food substitution question … sorry. Thoughts on trying this with salmon? The flavors are right, but the braise might go wrong …

    1. deb

      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.

  13. Jacqueline D Burke

    Deb,
    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.
    😉😋🤗

    1. deb

      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.

  14. Chandana

    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

    1. deb

      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)”

  15. phyllis

    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.
    Phyllis Bienstock

  16. Lindsey

    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.

    1. Carla G

      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!)

  17. JP

    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!

    1. deb

      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.

  18. Eva

    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!

  19. Anita

    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.

  20. 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 :).

  21. Martin

    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.

      1. Francoise

        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!!

    1. sharonhildahanna

      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.

  22. Celine

    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.

    1. lauriewendy

      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.

  23. Kelly

    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!!

  24. Mel

    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.

      1. Mel

        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.

        1. Jennifer Kozak

          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!

  25. Mariel

    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.

  26. 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?

    1. jerk nugget

      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.

  27. Audrey McClune

    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!

          1. Zoë

            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).

  28. Abbey

    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

    1. deb

      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.

      1. 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!

        1. 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!

  29. Rebecca

    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!

  30. Josie

    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.

    1. 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.

  31. Alicia

    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!

  32. 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).

    1. Francoise

      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!

      1. 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

  33. Janine Catalano

    Coconut aminos make a nice substitute for fish sauce for vegetarian.vegans. Maybe even fish sauce haters will be appeased by this option,

  34. Mom24

    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.

    1. Tone

      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

    1. deb

      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.

  35. Mary

    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.

  36. ashley

    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.

  37. Leah

    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!

  38. Janyll

    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.

  39. TriciaPDX

    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.)

  40. made this yesterday for dinner tonight
    delicious!!
    the house smells very fish sauce-y but the dish didn’t taste it.
    It was really flavorful and balanced. Looking forward to leftovers.

  41. Pamela

    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.

  42. Rocky Mountain Woman

    This looks absolutely perfect to me. I’m a big fan of fish sauce so it will probably make it to my “Repertoire”.

  43. Nancy

    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.

  44. ezachos

    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. :(

  45. 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.

  46. Dee Dixon

    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!

      1. Deborah Quinn-Chen

        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!

  47. Rachel

    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!

  48. 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!

  49. Starling

    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!

    1. Starling

      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.

    1. deb

      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.

  50. Candy

    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!

  51. KateB

    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.

  52. Sara

    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!

  53. Tony

    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!

  54. Andrea

    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.

  55. Mary Kate

    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.

    1. Chandana

      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.

  56. Hilary

    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!

  57. 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,
    Teri

  58. Fiona Morrow

    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?

  59. Ashley l

    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!!!!

  60. Anna

    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!

  61. Anna

    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. 😬😂😂😂

  62. Elizabeth Mathern

    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!

    1. amycjes82

      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.

  63. Erin

    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!

  64. 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!

  65. 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 :)

  66. Nancy T. H.

    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!

  67. amycjes82

    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.

  68. Sherrybabe

    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

  69. megancastellan

    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.

    1. Anna

      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!” 🤔

  70. Megan

    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!

  71. Lisa O

    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!!

  72. Emily

    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.

  73. CMT

    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.

  74. Stephanie

    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.

  75. lmagnuss

    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.

    1. Anna

      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.

  76. Agnieszka

    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.

  77. Lauren McDowell

    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!

  78. 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

  79. Carol

    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?

    1. beer0051

      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.

  80. beer0051

    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!

  81. Chandana

    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.

  82. jenfarley2016

    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.

  83. Holly Keyes

    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.

  84. 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.

  85. BethF

    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.

  86. Jill

    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.
    Thanks, Deb!

  87. Caitlin Moses

    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?

  88. Lisa S

    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.

  89. 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?