Mystery House

Vietnamese Caramel Pork Chops

This recipe only works if you don’t follow it.  At least, that’s how it went when I — we — made it.  Fact is, I never would have gotten through this one without the prodigious meat-cooking talents of my charming husband, the Master Engineer.  I’d still be in the kitchen flapping my arms and hollering.  It turned out to be delicious in the end, though, so follow along and I’ll save you the drama we went through.

I snagged the recipe from the Serious Eats blog.  Sounded great.  Terrific list of ingredients.  Quick.  Promised a complex flavor.  All good, right?

Well, yes.  Until you get to making it.  The method doesn’t work, unless perhaps you’re Vietnamese and know some trick that I don’t know.  I started by following along exactly, since this technique was terra incognita.  I like to outsource meat cutting and pounding, so the M.E. kindly sliced thick boneless pork chops into thinner pork chops, trimmed the fat and pounded them until they were 1/8th of an inch thick.  Really.  He did.  I watched.  It was a lot of pounding.

MRC Caramel Pork 1

That’s two regular-sized chops, transformed into eight flat little cutlets.

I had some chopped shallot (or red onion, if the grocery store is fresh out of shallots), fish sauce, lime juice and salt standing by.  Then I melted sugar in a hot pan until it turned to caramel.

MRC Caramel Pork 3

Threw in the other ingredients, stirred, and it turned into a hard wad.  Kept stirring and it melted again, as promised.  Tossed it immediately with the pork as you’re supposed to do, and guess what?  Hot caramel hit cold pork.  Hot caramel turned to hard wad.

MRC Caramel Pork 4

This resulted in two tries, a boatload of dishes coated with hard wads of caramel, and visions of a really unpleasant time washing pots.

MRC Caramel Pork 5

Not good.

Fortunately, the M.E. stepped in right before I had a chance to get hysterical, mixed sugar, lime, salt and fish sauce together, and coated the pork with it.  Then he sauteed it until the pork was a lovely, caramelized brown.

MRC Caramel Pork 6

It worked!  It was scrumptious, every bit as complex and strangely wonderful as I’d hoped.

I wouldn’t have thought of this method.  I’m sure glad my sweetie did, because we wound up really liking the dish.  It made a lovely dinner with some green beans stir-fried with garlic and ginger, dressed with a mixture of lime, fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce and brown sugar and garnished with roasted peanuts.  (That’s a bonus recipe, if you’re paying attention!)  I mean, yum.   My kind of dinner.  We’ll definitely make this again.

Just don’t use that recipe for anything other than a shopping list, and make sure to cook the pork long enough so that the sugar melts completely!

MRC Caramel Pork 7


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  1. * cursingmama says:

    looks delish!

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  2. * deb says:

    Is he available for in-home service (cooking that is!)?

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  3. Good Lord, NOW I’m hungry!

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  4. * bezzie says:

    Ooo…very classy. The only time I’ve ever pounded meat is for chicken cordon bleu. I wonder if pork is harder to pound?

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  5. * kitkatknit says:

    Your recipe looks wonderful!! I’ll be trying it soon. In trade here’s link for a recipe for Grilled Pork Burgers Indochine. It’s one of my favorites.,1977,FOOD_9936_33841,00.html

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  6. * Annie says:

    I just took some pork chops out of the freezer after reading this!

    Posted 9 years, 9 months ago

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