Vietnamese Caramel Pork

Deeply caramelized tender pork, in a sauce of ginger, garlic, Thai chilies, fish sauce and brown sugar! A lovely dish in a heavenly sauce. Perfection!

Serve the braised pork with white rice or noodles. You could also include some lettuce leaves and make “wraps.”  

Adapted from Jessica Battilana as seen on Epicurious. The only change I made was to add some cinnamon to further deepen the flavors. 

Nutrition Information includes all the ingredients for what would be a fairly large portion, including all of the sauce ingredients.

  • Author: Laura
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 120 min (mostly inactive)
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8-10 servings 1x
  • Category: Pork
  • Method: Braising
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese


  • 8 oz. (240g) Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 c (180ml) Fish Sauce
  • 3 T Canola Oil
  • 4 lb (1.9kg) Boneless Pork shoulder, cut into 2”x3” chunks
  • 1 c (about 3) thinly sliced shallots
  • 1  2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 23 Thai chilies (I used 3 green for milder flavor), stemmed and crushed
  • 23 cups coconut water


Make the Sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a large saucepan over Medium-low heat, melt the brown sugar. Stir frequently until sugar is fully melted, smooth, thick, liquid-ish. This takes 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and s-l-o-w-l-y add the fish sauce, stirring constantly. It will bubble up quite a bit with each addition, but keep stirring, and make additions until it is completely added and mixture is smooth. If it seizes up, return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth.  Then sprinkle and stir in the cinnamon.

Braise the Pork in the Sauce

  1. In a Dutch Oven or other heavy, lidded vessel you can put on the stove and into the oven, heat the canola oil over high heat. Season the pork on all sides with just a little salt and pepper, as the sauce is quite salty. Brown the pork, in 2-3 batches, until they are seared nicely on all sides. This will take about 6-8 minutes per batch. Place seared pieces on a rimmed board, dish, or pan, as you take them out of the oil.
  2. After all the pork has been seared, reduce heat to Medium. Place the shallots in the pan and stir while cooking for 2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies. Cook 1 minute more, stirring regularly. Add the pork pieces back to the pan. Pour the caramel sauce over the pork. Add the coconut water, making sure the pork pieces are sticking out of the water and sauce. You may need more or less than the recipe says. In my pan, I added just over 2 cups of coconut water. You may need as much as 3 cups, depending on your pan’s size and shape.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  4. Uncover the pot after 15 minutes to ensure the liquid is simmering gently. If it’s boiling or bubbling more than a gentle simmer, reduce oven temperature to 275F. Cover the pot again and continue cooking an additional 55 minutes, for a total of 70 minutes. Then uncover pot and cook 30 minutes more. This will allow the exposed parts of the meat to caramelize. Meat should be quite tender but not falling apart. Remove from oven and serve with rice, noodles. Lettuce leaves make a delicious wrapper for the rice and meat, if desired.


Keywords: Candy Pork, Vietnamese, Caramel Pork, Braised

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