This Thit Kho Tiêu recipe is a classic dish in a Vietnamese family meal. It boasts tender caramelized pork infused with the bold flavors of warm and fiery black pepper.
Trust me, you will need a plenty of steamed rice with this dish! In this post as I guide you through a seamless and efficient method to prepare thịt kho tiêu, requiring just 30 minutes of your time.
🙋♀️ Thịt Kho Tiêu vs. Thịt Kho Tàu
Many people find themselves confused between these two dishes, as both translate to “Vietnamese caramelized pork” in English. However, there are distinct differences between them.
Thịt Kho Tiêu, as the name suggests, refers to “black pepper caramelized pork,” while Thịt Kho Tàu refers to “Chinese-style caramelized pork” (which may draw inspiration from the Chinese dish Dong Po Rou, though there are ongoing debates about this in Vietnam).
Here are some key contrasts between the two dishes:
- Sweetness: Thịt kho tiêu tends to be less sweet compared to Thịt kho tàu, which is often braised in coconut water.
- Meat Size: Thịt kho tiêu involves dicing the meat into smaller pieces compared to Thịt kho tàu. This difference in size means that thịt kho tiêu requires less cooking time.
- Meat Cuts: Since Thịt kho tàu requires longer cooking times, it typically uses fattier cuts of meat, such as pork belly. In contrast, thịt kho tiêu allows for the use of both fatty and lean cuts, including pork belly, pork shoulder, pork butt, or even pork loin.
- Additionally, Thịt kho tàu is sometimes referred to as Thịt kho trứng, indicating that eggs are cooked together with the pork in this particular dish.
Thịt Kho Tiêu only calls for a handful of essential ingredients which are staples in Asian, particularly Vietnamese, kitchens:
- Pork: You could choose from pork belly, pork shoulder, pork butt, or even pork loin. Personally, for my Thịt Kho Tiêu recipe I find that pork shoulder, with its balanced fat content, works best.
- Black Peppercorns: This ingredient is an absolute must-have for this recipe. Opt for high-quality black peppercorns. You could use black pepper powder also if you prefer a milder black pepper flavor.
- Fish sauce: no salt, no soy sauce, no chicken powder, fish sauce is the star savory seasoning in this dish.
- Sugar: A touch of sugar is added to achieve a delicate balance of flavors.
- Scallions, Garlic, and Red Chili: These aromatic ingredients help enhance both the flavor and visual appeal of the dish.
- Vietnamese Caramel Sauce (Nước Màu) or Molasses: To achieve the appealing caramelized color of Thịt Kho Tiêu, you can use traditional Vietnamese caramel sauce. However, I recently discovered that molasses makes an excellent substitute.
- Separate the white and green parts of the scallions, then chop them.
- Mince the garlic and slice the red chili.
- If using whole black peppercorns, crush them with a mortar and pestle to enhance the flavor (skip this step if using black pepper powder).
- Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces or 3 cm (1.2 in.) wide strips.
- In a pan, sauté the minced garlic and chopped white part of the scallions in cooking oil until fragrant. Add the pork to the pan and stir-fry over medium-high heat until there is no raw meat color left.
- Add sugar, fish sauce, and molasses (or Vietnamese caramel sauce) to the pork. Stir-fry for another minute to incorporate the seasonings.
- Add the crushed black pepper (or black pepper powder) and sliced red chili. Pour enough water into the pan to cover the meat, then close the lid. Allow the pork to simmer on medium heat until the sauce reduces.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning of the thịt kho tiêu according to your preference.
- Garnish with the chopped green part of the scallions. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!
🌟 Helpful tips:
- My recipe has a bit of spiciness and heat due to the generous amount of pepper used. Feel free to adjust the spice level according to your taste, especially if you’re cooking for kids or prefer a milder flavor.
- If you visit Vietnam, don’t forget to bring back Phú Quốc peppercorns, renowned for its exceptional flavor and quality (Phú Quốc island is famous for black peppercorns and fish sauce).
- Thịt Kho Tiêu pairs wonderfully with steamed rice, congee, or steamed sticky rice. In Vietnamese, this type of dish is referred to as “món tốn cơm,” which means it will make you consume a significant amount of rice. Some “món tốn cơm“:
- Interestingly, it shares a similarity with the Korean concept of “밥도둑” (bapdoduk , or “rice thief”), the dish could make you crave an extra serving of rice. Some bapdoduk like:
Or more recipes with Jasmine rice:
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Thịt Kho Tiêu (Vietnamese Black Pepper Caramelized Pork)
- 1 Saucepan
- 560 g (1.2 lbs) pork (pork belly, pork shoulder, pork butt, pork loin)
- 4 tbsp fish sauce (adjust to your taste)
- 3 tbsp sugar (adjust to your taste)
- 2 tbsp black peppercorns (or black pepper powder, adjust to your taste)
- 1 red chili (goat horn pepper, jalapenos)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 sprigs scallions
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- ½ tsp Vietnamese caramel sauce (nước màu) or Molasses
- Chop the white and green parts of scallions separately.
- Slice the red chili and mince the garlic.
- If using whole black peppercorns, crush them with a mortar and pestle to intensify the flavor. Skip this step if using black pepper powder.
- Dice the pork into bite-sized pieces or 3 cm (1.2 in.) wide strips.
- In a pan, sauté the minced garlic and chopped white part of the scallions in cooking oil until they become fragrant. Then, add the pork to the pan and stir-fry over medium-high heat until the meat loses its raw color.
- Season the pork with sugar, fish sauce, and molasses (or Vietnamese caramel sauce). Stir-fry for an additional minute.
- Add the crushed black pepper (or black pepper powder) and sliced red chili to the pan. Pour enough water into the pan to cover the meat, then close the lid. Let the pork simmer on medium heat until the sauce reduces to your desired consistency.
- Taste thịt kho tiêu and adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
- Finally, garnish the dish with the chopped green part of the scallions. Serve it alongside steamed rice!