Thit Kho

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Ingredients

  • 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)

Method

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.

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