Thit Kho (Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Ribs with Eggs)

By: MeganPosted: 12/01/2022 Updated: 30/11/2023
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 2 hours
Total 2 hours 20 minutes
This thit kho trung recipe is my all time favorite Vietnamese comfort food. Just imagine: incredibly tender slides-off-the-bone pork ribs braised in a savory and sweet umami coconut caramel sauce with boiled eggs served with rice and leafy greens. YUM.
Thit Kho (Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Ribs with Eggs)

This thit kho recipe is my all-time favorite Vietnamese comfort food. Just imagine incredibly tender slides-off-the-bone pork ribs braised in a savory and sweet umami coconut caramel sauce with boiled eggs served with rice and leafy greens.

Looking down at a bowl of Vietnamese thit kho trung surrounded by table settings.
Simple, savory, and sweet, this dish is at the heart of classic Vietnamese family dinners.

If you are Vietnamese and grew up with Vietnamese cooking, chances are you’ve had/absolutely love thịt kho. Whenever my mom said we were having it for dinner, my eyes would light up with pure happiness. How can you resist the incredibly tender pork and boiled eggs swimming in a pool of sweet and savory slowly reduced coconut caramel sauce? I haven’t met a single person who’s had thịt kho and did not like it. If I ever met that person, I’d question their tastebuds immediately. Because it is that good.

I know every family has their own version of thit kho and swears by it. But it would be a DISSERVICE for me to have a food blog and not share my mom’s incredible thit kho recipe. Traditionally, thịt kho is made with fatty pork belly and eggs, but for this recipe, I used pork ribs for a leaner and less fatty dish. If you are looking for more traditional Vietnamese dishes, check out my Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork Noodles), Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon), and Mi Xao Don (Crispy Noodle Stir Fry).

A white clay bowl of Vietnamese caramelized braised pork ribs with table settings nearby.
Paired with rice and sauteed greens, this dish is perfect for easy weeknight meals or meal prepping.

What is Thịt Kho?

Thịt Kho is a popular Vietnamese dish that originated in South Vietnam. Thit Kho roughly translates to braised meat. It is most commonly served during the Lunar New year and is a staple dish in most households.

The pork is caramelized in a bath of coconut water and is infused with a balance of sweet, salty, and umami flavors from the fish sauce, sugar, and garlic. The eggs add a soft texture contrast. Serve thit kho trung with your favorite leafy green stir fry and you will have a balanced meal in every bite.

Kitchen Equipment

  • Small Saucepan: if you opt to make the caramel sauce from scratch, you will need a small 1 quart saucepan.
  • Rubber Spatula: the rubber spatula is used to mix the water and the caramelized sugar to thin out the caramel sauce.
  • Wide shallow heavy bottomed pot or braiser: the wide pot or cast-iron braiser allows all the meat to be evenly spread along the bottom of the pan and high enough for the coconut water to cover the meat and simmer off. The wide surface area also allows the coconut water to reduce quicker than a higher pot.
  • Fine Mesh Skimmer: you will need a fine mesh skimmer to skim the scum off the top of the dish while the meat is cooking.

Ingredients

All the ingredients for this thit kho trung recipe can be found at your local Asian grocery store. (The caramel sauce may be a little trickier to find. More about that below.)

  • Pork belly v. Pork Back Ribs: this decision is entirely up to preference you can use pork belly, pork shoulder, or pork back ribs. I grew up eating pork back ribs because my dad didn’t like all the fattiness in pork belly. You can ask your local butcher to cut the ribs in half for the perfect bite size.
  • Large Eggs: You can add more or less eggs in this dish based on your preference!
  • Yellow Onion: the onion also adds to a touch of sweetness to the dish without using too much added sugar.
  • Garlic: the garlic is used as an aromatic to the dish. It brings a rich garlic-y flavor that makes it so irresistible.
  • Chicken Bouillon Powder: this is a staple in my kitchen. It rounds out the flavors in my savory dishes so well. A simple touch of chicken bouillon powder changes the overall flavor profile of the dish. You can find chicken bouillon powder online or at your local Asian grocery store.
  • Fish Sauce: this would not be a traditional Vietnamese dish without fish sauce! My favorite brands are Red Boat Fish sauce and Three Crabs fish sauce.
  • Granulated Sugar: the sugar balances out the savoriness of the dish and adds a touch of sweetness for that perfect savory and sweet balance
  • Salt and Pepper: for added seasoning
  • Coconut water with pulp: I find having the pulp in the coconut water adds a layer of sweetness to the dish without using too much sugar. You can also substitute this with regular coconut water.
  • Nước Màu Caramel Sauce: the caramel sauce provides that deep rich browned caramel color on the pork and eggs. This is a key ingredient in the dish. You can either buy the Nước Màu online or at your local Vietnamese restaurant or you can make it from sugar and water yourself at home with the recipe I’ve provided.
Ingredients inside glass mixing bowls ready to prepare thit kho trung.
The various simple ingredients needed to make this satisfying Vietnamese comfort meal.

How to Make Nước Màu or Caramel Sauce

There are two types of people in the world: 1) People who buy the nước màu caramel sauce and 2) People who make it from scratch. Honestly, there is no shame in buying the Nước Màu caramel sauce if you are in a crunch. You can find it at your local Vietnamese grocery market. On the other hand, the caramel sauce only requires two ingredients and it is really easy to make at home too. Whichever method you prefer the result will be just as delicious!

  1. Caramelize the sugar. In a small saucepan, mix together sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook on medium low heat without stirring for for about 10-12 minutes. Do not stir. Instead every 3 minutes pick up the saucepan and swirl it around to prevent from burning. Cook until it darkens to a deep amber/black.
  2. Add the water. Immediately when it turns black, remove the pan off of the heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of water until dissolved and thins out the caramel. Be careful the water will splatter. The caramel should be thickened yet runny. Set aside in a jar to cool.
Cooked down caramel sauce for the base of thit kho trung.
This two-ingredient homemade caramel sauce is a flavor game-changer.

How To Make Thit Kho Recipe

This thịt kho trung recipe is so incredibly simple yet so comforting and delicious. All you need to do is boil the eggs, mix all the ingredients together, and simmer until reduced. It is that easy. Let’s get started!

Boil the Eggs

  1. Boil and peel the eggs. In a small pot, boil the water. Once the water boils, gently place the eggs in to boil for 8-10 minutes. Then strain the water and immediately place the eggs an ice bath to cool. Then peel the eggs and set aside.

Braise the Ribs and Eggs

  1. Prepare the meat. Chop pork back ribs into 1.5- 2-inch pieces.
A pork short rib sliced into single ribs.
Slice halfway between each rib to ensure each piece has a decent portion of meat.
  1. Stir fry the onions and garlic. On high heat, in a braiser or shallow pot, heat olive oil, onions and garlic mix until fragrant, and browned.
Caramelizing onions and garlic in a large cast iron braiser.
Onions and garlic should be browned with a savory fragrant smell.
  1. Add the remaining ingredients. Add the chicken bouillon powder, fish sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of caramel until thoroughly mix. Then add the ribs and toss to coat the ribs for about 30 seconds-1 minute. Lastly, add the coconut water and boiled eggs.
  1. Braise the ribs. Leave on high heat until it boils. Skim the scum that rises to the top. When the pot begins to boil, turn down heat to medium-low, cover the pot and let the meat simmer for 90 min-2 hours or until sauce is reduced about 1/4. Flip the eggs periodically so the eggs can evenly soak in the sauce.
  1. Serve with rice and stir-fried greens!
A plate of rice topped with Vietnamese caramelized braised pork ribs.
Pair with rice and sauteed greens for a delicious yet simple weeknight meal.

Tips For the Best Thit Kho

  • Don’t stir the sugar until it is dark brown. The sugar will crystallize and harden too soon. To cook the caramel evenly, simply lift the pan and slowly swirl it around every few minutes.
  • Stir fry the garlic and onion until browned. This step is so important in releasing the flavors of the garlic and onion which blends beautifully into this dish.
  • Substitute pork ribs for pork belly. This dish is also traditionally made with pork belly instead of pork ribs. You can substitute the pork ribs for pork belly or you can use a mixture of the two!
  • Adjust the seasoning at the end to taste. When it comes to cooking, taste everything. Tinker with the measurements of fish sauce, sugar, and salt at the end to get your desired taste.
  • Be patient! To achieve that melt-off-the-bone effect for these ribs, you will need to simmer the meat until the coconut water reduces to about 1/4 of its original volume.

Storage Instructions

You can store leftover thit kho in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Once you refrigerate this dish, the fat will solidify at the top. You can microwave it and the fat will dissolve. You can also freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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An overhead view of Vietnamese caramelized braised pork ribs with eggs.

Thit Kho (Vietnamese Caramelized Braised Pork Ribs with Eggs)

5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
This thit kho trung recipe is my all time favorite Vietnamese comfort food. Just imagine: incredibly tender slides-off-the-bone pork ribs braised in a savory and sweet umami coconut caramel sauce with boiled eggs served with rice and leafy greens. YUM.
Servings: 4 People
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs pork back ribs
  • 6 large eggs
  • ½ large yellow onion sliced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cans (17.6 oz) coconut water with pulp
  • 2 tablespoon caramel sauce Nước Màu (recipe below)

Nước Màu Caramel Sauce

Instructions

Make the Nước Màu Caramel Sauce

  • Caramelize the sugar. In a small saucepan, mix together sugar and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook on medium low heat without stirring for for about 10-12 minutes. Do not stir. Instead every 3 minutes pick up the saucepan and swirl it around to prevent from burning. Cook until it darkens to a deep amber/black.
  • Add the water. Immediately when it turns deep amber/black, remove the pan off of the heat and stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of water until dissolved and thins out the caramel. Be careful the water will splatter. The caramel should be thickened yet runny. Set aside in a jar to cool.

Boil the Eggs

  • Boil and peel the eggs. Boil a small pot of water. Once the water boils, gently place the eggs in to boil for 8-10 minutes. Then strain the water and immediately place the eggs an ice bath to cool. Then peel the eggs and set aside.

Braise the Ribs and Eggs

  • Prepare the meat. Chop pork back ribs into 1.5- 2-inch pieces.
  • Stir fry the onions and garlic. On high heat, in a braiser or shallow pot, heat olive oil, onions and garlic mix until fragrant, and browned.
  • Add the remaining ingredients. Add the chicken bouillon powder, fish sauce, sugar, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of caramel until thoroughly mix. Then add the ribs and toss to coat the ribs for about 30 seconds-1 minute. Lastly, add the coconut water and boiled eggs.
  • Braise the ribs. Leave on high heat until it boils. Skim the scum that rises to the top. When the pot begins to boil, turn down heat to medium-low, cover the pot and let the meat simmer for 90 min-2 hours or until sauce is reduced about 1/4. Flip the eggs periodically so the eggs can evenly soak in the sauce.
  • Serve. Serve with rice and stir-fried leafy greens and enjoy!

Notes

  • Don’t stir the sugar until it is dark brown. The sugar will crystallize and harden too soon. To cook the caramel evenly, simply lift the pan and slowly swirl it around every few minutes.
  • Stir fry the garlic and onion until browned. This step is so important in releasing the flavors of the garlic and onion which blends beautifully into this dish.
  • Substitute pork ribs for pork belly. This dish is also traditionally made with pork belly instead of pork ribs. You can substitute the pork ribs out for pork belly or you can use a mixture of the two!
  • Adjust the seasoning at the end to taste. When it comes to cooking, taste everything. Tinker with the measurements of fish sauce, sugar, and salt at the end to get your desired taste.
  • Be patient! To achieve that melt-off-of-the-bone effect for these ribs, you will need to simmer the meat until the coconut water reduces to about 1/4 of its original volume.
  • Storage Instructions: You can store leftover thit kho in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Once you refrigerate this dish, the fat will solidify at the top. You can microwave it and the fat will dissolve. You can also freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition:

Serving: 4g | Calories: 580kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 344mg | Sodium: 1685mg | Potassium: 539mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 402IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 3mg

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe three times now… in the same week. Once with tofu and mushrooms for my partner who is vegetarian.

    It is so so good and reminds me of home as this was my favorite dish growing up. And she also made it with rib tips as opposed to pork belly. Even now as an adult, I ask my mother to make it when I visit.

    With the pandemic and traveling being unpredictable, I’m happy to have this recipe when I’m homesick.

    Thank you for sharing.