Authentic Thit Kho Thieu (Caramelized Black Pepper Pork)

This dish is precious. As I read online comments and articles in my recipe creation process, I discovered that it was a favourite among many Vietnamese, a madeleine de Proust of sorts.

It’s like the national equivalent of a Carbonara. Some of Thaïland’s most prized ingredients -pork, fish sauce, garlic and rice- are gathered in a simple recipe, with a result that is far superior to the sum of its parts.

Forget about your classic caramelized pork recipe, overly sugary and lacking depth. Here, the flavours are neat and delicate, and you can’t stop getting back at it. The balance between sugary and savoury is on point, with just enough sugar to offset the strong Nuoc Mam flavour; brighten it up with some minced shallots and scallions, a bit of fresh thaï pepper if you like, and get ready to enjoy !

For the record, this recipe is not the better-known Thit Kho Trung (Caramelized pork with eggs), a fellow Vietnamese recipe that is even more comforting (hello, fatty pork belly) but takes longer to cook. I shall make a recipe for it someday !

Authentic Thit Kho Thieu (Caramelized Black Pepper Pork) – Recipe

Ingredients – Where to find them

Some ingredients for this dish might require you to visit an Asian store, but you shall find them easily as they remain quite basic Asian pantry items (soy sauce, fish sauce (Nuoc Mam), scallions, Thaï pepper).

  • You might have a tad more trouble finding coconut water, but you can definitely skip it – I did once or twice and it didn’t alter the final result.
  • Similarly, you might not find Phu Quôc black pepper  ; you can simply replace it with your usual black pepper.

Recipe – Advice & key points

  • It’s ok if the sauce is quite runny ; it’s not supposed to thicken much.
  • I advise you to serve it over rice so as to pour your sauce all over it. The addition of sliced cucumber adds a nice touch of freshness ! You can also add some pickles if you have some.
  • I recommend using pork shoulder (échine de porc, for my French friends) for this recipe, as it has a nice muscle to fat ratio resulting in a satisfying tenderness. You can use pork belly instead if you wish !

Off to the kitchen now !

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 15 min Cook Time 45 min Total Time 1 hr
Servings: 4
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


Soft, tender pork in a one-of-a-kind nuoc mam sauce. It only takes a bit of fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar to bring out the best of your pork shoulder !

Add some shallots, scallions and Thaï peper, and you're in Vietnamese heaven. 


Main ingredients

For the Marinade


  1. Prep your ingredients !

    Mince your garlic, shallots, scallions (green part) and Thaï pepper. 

    Cut your pork into strips (around 2cmx5cm). Don't make them too thin ; they won't be as tender as larger pieces.

    Mix your meat with your marinade ingredients. 

  2. Heat it up

    Bring a pot to medium heat. Pour your oil and sugar and let the mixture caramelize.

    When it turns brown-ish, add your pork. Let it cook until no longer pink, around 4 minutes. 

    Add your shallots and soy sauce. Let it cook 4 more minutes. 

    Pour your coconut water ; your meat should be fully submerged, or almost.

    Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

    Let it cook 30 minutes, uncovered. 

    Turn off the heat. Add your pepper ; mix. Garnish with scallions and Thaï pepper, if using.

    I recommend to serve in on top of rice, with cucumber on the side.  

    Et voilà !! You're done ! 

Keywords: home made, Thit Kho Thieu, caramelized pork, rice, Vietnamese, comforting

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