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Pork braised in caramel sauce (Thit kho)

Pork braised in caramel sauce (Thit kho)

2 hard-boiled eggs

1/2 pound pork shoulder, with fat and rind (or slab bacon)

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1/3 cup fish sauce

1 1/2 cups fresh coconut juice or coconut soda such as Coco Rico

1 scallion, chopped into rings

1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper

Makes 4 servings

Peel the eggs, and set them aside. Cut the pork into large, 2-inch cubes, cutting against the grain, so that each piece includes the lean meat, fat and rind. Pat dry.

Sprinkle the sugar over the pork cubes to lightly coat each piece. Set them aside in a shallow dish for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes, allowing the sugar to coat and penetrate the meat.

In a clay pot or saucepan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the sugared pork; cook, tossing occasionally, for about 10 minutes, allowing the sugar to caramelize on all sides.

Add the fish sauce, and stir the cubes to evenly cover them. Then add 1/3 cup of the coconut juice or soda, and bring the pot to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Cover the pot, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Then add the hard-boiled eggs, and simmer for an hour, or until the meat is tender. Keep checking the pot and, as the liquid reduces, add more coconut juice or soda in 1/3-cup increments until it is all used. The sauce should reduce, but you do not want the meat and eggs to dry out and burn.

The dish is ready once the liquid has been reduced to a thick caramel sauce. The pork and eggs should be a light brown color, and the pork should be extremely tender.

Garnish with the scallions and ground black pepper, and serve with hot rice.