Kitchen Time Machine

Last time I saw piggies and eggs together, I was playing Angry Birds!

A lot of what I cook is inspired by the places I’ve traveled or restaurants I’ve been to.  Other times I just get some wild idea that sounds fun and I go with it.  Puff pastry squares with maple infused whip cream topped with bacon and honey was one of such ideas that came to mind for a potluck.  But for the most part, I just kind of try to find inspiration wherever it leads me.  Since my in-laws live in Hawai’i and we visit a lot, I tend to fall in love with the food over there.  Places like My Café, Cream Pot, Leonard’s Malasadas are always on my go-to list.  Plus they are always cooking great stuff around the house.  When is the last time you saw grilled lobster and chicken adobo on the same plate?  I also lived in Mexico for a bit so I found lots of dishes I like to cook at home.  Usually I don’t really even look up a recipe unless it seems complicated or has a lot of layered flavors I can’t sort out.  I just kind of figure out the cooking technique and try to replicate the flavors.  It tends to work for the most part.  That, or people are really nice and just be like “oh….wow….this is great!” before spitting into their napkins.  I’m sure that happens from time to time.  But I am my own worst critic so I can kind of tell when something isn’t quite right.  Unless I’ve been drinking, then all bets are off….”more, I said more hot sauce!”

With all that being said, this time I did the exact opposite and returned to something that I hadn’t had in over 15 years and only recently started making again.  I actually forgot about it because so much time had passed.  First, a little background…my teenage years were spent mostly at my friends’ house who happened to be Vietnamese.  Not like I didn’t have a home or parents who tolerated me, I just spent my summers and free weekends over there.  So that means I ate a lot of Vietnamese food.  I also saw a lot of Paris by Night, sang a lot of Vietnamese karaoke, and watched a bunch of Chinese dramas with Vietnamese subtitles that I never understood.  In between all that, I picked up words here and there but mostly I just learned to love the food…and Heineken.  One dish in particular that stood out was Thit Kho.  Pork and hard boiled egg braised in coconut juice, fish sauce and sugar with some annatto seed for color.  I would eat that once or twice a week for years.  I got the idea to make it on my own when I was sitting around one night thinking about the good old days and all the stuff we used to do.  I hadn’t eaten Thit Kho since I was about 19 or 20….CRAP!! It was over 20 years before I thought of it again!!??? 

ASdfasdffjgw7tgyhwr3845ijasdgjadsfasdfaer4tereg#$$%%$^!!!

Sorry, I just did the math and fell out of my chair, hitting my head on the keyboard on the way down…I’m good now, I’m back.  Ok so, 20 years (tear, tear I’m getting old) later I decide to make this.  I’ve been making it ever since and I have to say, my memory served me pretty well because it tastes like I remember.  I even took some to my former coworker (who happens to be Viet) and she is as picky as me when it comes to food and she didn’t spit it out so I think it passed. 

This is some good Thit…..kho yeah!

  • 4lbs pork butt cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup Fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons Sugar
  • Handful of Annatto seed
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 6 boiled eggs, peeled
  • 4 Star anise flowers (are they flowers? Don’t know but they look like dried up flowers)
  • 1 can of coconut juice or coconut soda (I prefer juice since it has the coconut bits)

Now before we start, a couple things!

This is an easy one to make…but!!! Be warned, this is one of those cultural soul food deals and I have found people who make thit kho take it very personal…what I mean is that everyone I talk to has a tried and true method that works for them and they don’t stray from that method.  Either their mom taught them or they learned it a particular way so that is how they make it.  And they will tell you too.  For example, unlike me, most everyone I talk to uses coconut soda because they say it softens the meat better.  I only use the juice because I can’t find the soda.  But also I’ve found the juice comes in bigger cans so I can use more and also it has little bits of coconut in there which I like.  I also throw in star anise because I find it adds an extra layer of aromatics and flavor that emboldens flavor in the liquid of the dish. That leads me to another point which is the amount of juice that should be left over when this is all said and done.  Some like very little so they reduce it longer.  I prefer the taste of it over my rice so I add a bit more coconut juice and don’t reduce it as much.  Also, the color should be dark, like maroon to almost brown, which is where the annatto seed comes in.  It just adds color not flavor.  So many times I have left it out or put it in too late and I’ve heard “Oh it’s really good, but it’s not dark like I’m used to.” That’s just the way it goes.  So before you venture into making this one, remember, you may hear some opinions into your style. That’s just the nature of the delicious beast.   

Got that? OK, now back to it!

I prefer to cook mines in a pot so the flavors all blend together and the pork and eggs soak up all the juice.  Some people use a medium to large saute pan, but I like the pot better.  First, take the annatto seed and put it in the hot water.  Set it aside.  Next, rinse the pork under warm water then place in the pot on high heat.  Stirring constantly, cook until browned, like 4 minutes.  Add in the coconut juice, star anise, water from the annatto seed (not the seeds just the water), fish sauce, and sugar.  I only put measurements above for a guide, truth be told I don’t measure, I just add and taste as I go.  Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, add peeled boiled eggs and cover.  Stirring occasionally, cook until the pork is fork tender, between an hour and a half to two hours.  One thing I like to do is about half way through I taste the liquid.  People like their kho with varying ratios of sweet to salty.  I prefer mines to be salty first then, finish sweet whereas others prefer sweet then salty.  This is where you get to be creative and kind of play around.  Just remember you will lose some liquid due to steam so tasting halfway through will give you a sense of how concentrated your liquid has become.  It helps to keep an extra can of coconut soda or juice handy so you can add it in to compensate if it gets too salty or sweet.  You can always drink the leftover can, coconut juice/soda is fantastic.  Serve over jasmine rice.

Ok well thanks for taking that trip down memory lane with me.  You want to know something funny?  As good as this one is, nobody, I mean NOBODY in my house will eat it.  Not the kids, not the wife, not my in-laws, nobody.  I guess they don’t like the smell of fish sauce cooking.  Haha.  But they are Filipino so they like the smell of vinegar and fried bangus, I guess that’s different…so what do I do?   Sh*t, I still makes it because I like good food!!  I just have to invite over friends to eat with me.  Or I give it to friends I see the next day.  The thing is you can’t make just a little bit so I always end up with a lot left over.  I keep some to myself for sure but the rest is like a gift.  I mean unless you want to come over, let me know, I usually have plenty. 

All right y’all, thanks for hanging in there with this long one.  If you decide to try this but have never had it before, I suggest making a friend who knows how OR eat it at a restaurant first so you know how it’s basically supposed to taste, then try it at home.  Take your time with it, taste as you go, and mostly have fun, that’s what it’s supposed to be about anyway.

Oh my lovely piggy!

 Smells like licorice

I am actually picky about my fish sauce, 3 crabs is my choice

What the Foco you looking at? Hahaha!!

Eggy weggs! I want to smash ’em!

My oh my….

I didn’t use annatto seed, I got lazy…

 still, tasted pretty dang good.

My choice of drink was orange white wine, pretty good!

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