Continuing my theme of easy suppers entitled ‘Chris’s Dishes‘, this is one of my favourite weeknight meals, and because hubby doesn’t love his pork in quite the same way I do, it’s the one I treat myself to most often when he’s away. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I can eat this whole quantity by myself in one sitting – it’s that good. Caramel and pork may not seem to be automatic partners in the kitchen, but its classic Vietnamese, and although this South-East Asian cuisine can appear scary and/or complicated to the uninitiated, this is actually a super-simple tasty dinner. Vietnamese food is characterised by the use of three key things: fresh herbs, fish sauce and sugar. Although this recipe is missing the first as it’s one of my ‘storecupboard staple’ recipes made from what I always have in the kitchen, it’s got plenty of the other two ingredients, and is my version of a classic dish.
To balance the sweetness of the caramel, the pork is also flavoured with lots of spicy chilli, sour lime and vinegar, and punchy fish sauce. Don’t be scared of the fish sauce – it makes the dish taste deliciously savoury, not fishy! Crispy, crunchy meat full of mouth-popping flavours, and thrown together in just 15 minutes: heaven. This needs nothing more than a heap of basmati rice*, which can be cooked in the same amount of time as the pork.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork
Serves 2, with leftovers
500g minced pork (not the kind sold as ‘lean’ – you need some fat!)
75g caster sugar
2 limes, juice only
1-2 hot red chillis, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
Put all the ingredients apart from the pork and the spring onions into a medium saucepan along with 2 tbsp water and bring gently to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and boil for a couple of minutes until it has reduced and gone slightly syrupy.
Meanwhile fry the mince in a big splash of oil in a large frying pan. Keep the heat high and don’t move the meat about too much, so that it has a chance to brown thoroughly. It will go from quite soft to super-crisp very suddenly when the excess moisture in the meat cooks off: at this point stir in the caramel, cook for one minute more and taste for seasoning – careful, it’ll be hot!
Serve with white rice*, and a scattering of spring onion.
*P.S. I always follow Delia Smith’s recipe for cooking rice, and have never had anything other than a perfect result. You can find the method here