Jan 22

Vietnamese shredded pork


This recipe is super involved.

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make a dry rub, three sauces and wait 10 hours for your pork to be done cooking, it does make a really delicious meal. Try not to be discouraged by looking at the length of this post. If you break it up into segments, the recipe isn’t too overwhelming.

I’m not even sure how I heard of Vietnamese pork. I think I may have actually been thinking about Cuban pork sandwiches when I started a Google search. Turns out Vietnamese shredded pork is excellent.

The easiest way to explain this recipe is to sketch out a timeline (feel free to change as needed. This is just what I did).

Night, Day 1: Make the dry rub and follow step 1 under “directions” below (at the very bottom of the page, after all the sauce/rub recipes). Also make the basting liquid. Put the liquid in a container to use tomorrow. Pretty easy so far.

Morning, Day 2: Follow step 2 under “directions” below. Also easy.

Afternoon, Day 2: Follow step 3 under “directions” below. Still easy.

Evening, Day 2: Sauce time! Start by making the caramel sauce below. This is going to be the most difficult task. It’s not really involved – it only has two ingredients – but it’s all about timing. Check out this site for some more help and pictures. I’m not sure mine came out quite right, as the coloring didn’t quite mesh with what the recipe called for. It worked, though. My husband made a similar caramel sauce once and it turned brittle, because he overcooked it.

Now make the lemongrass sauce. This is where I messed up a little bit. The grocery store didn’t have fresh lemon grass, so I bought dried. I tried soaking it in warm water for a bit, and then put in in the food processor. But instead of making a mince, it just made hay. I used it in the sauce, but strained it out at the end.

Now you’re ready for steps 5 and 6. Then it’s time to eat! See, it wasn’t too bad after all.

This was really good with Vietnamese coleslaw. I used a Nigella Lawson recipe found here, but omitted the chicken. I didn’t really measure the cabbage or mint amounts, so feel free to play around with it.

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Recipe: Vietnamese shredded pork

Adapted from sundaynightdinner.com

  • 1 (5 to 7 lb) bone-in pork butt, shoulder or Boston Butt
  • 8-12 hamburger buns

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Dry rub:

  • 2 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons course kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  1. Mix dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl.

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Basting liquid:

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 3/4 chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  1. In a saucepan, heat chicken stock, vinegar, brown sugar, fish sauce, five spice, pepper and cayenne over medium high heat.
  2. Simmer gently, stirring for 5 minutes until sugar dissolves. The basting liquid will thicken slightly when removed from heat.

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Lemongrass caramel sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 medium stalks lemongrass (9 tablespoons), mince in a food processor
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 6 tablespoons caramel sauce (see below)
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2-5 (depending on your preferred level of heat) Thai chili peppers or Serrano pepper, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  1. In a saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in caramel sauce, fish sauce, chili peppers, and black pepper. Gently simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Add chicken stock, return to a simmer for 3 minutes and then set aside.

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Vietnamese caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup plus ½ cup water
  1. Fill the sink with enough water to come halfway up the side of a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup of the water into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. As the sugar melts, the mixture will go from opaque to clear. Small bubbles will form at the edge and gradually grow larger, moving toward the center of the pan. Eventually, bubbles will cover the entire surface. After about 15 minutes, the sugar will begin to caramelize and turn in color. You’ll see a progression from champagne yellow to light tea to dark tea.
  3. When smoke starts rising, remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly swirl it around. Watch the sugar closely as it will turn darker by the second; a reddish cast will set in (think the color of a big and bold red wine) as the bubbles become a burnt orange. Pay attention to the color of the caramel underneath the bubbles. When the caramel color is that of black coffee or molasses, place the pan in the sink to stop the cooking process. The hot pan bottom will sizzle upon contact and the bubble action will subside.
  4. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water (there may be a small dramatic reaction) and place the saucepan back on the stove over medium heat, stirring until the caramel has dissolved into the water. The result will be slightly viscous; flavor-wise, it will be bittersweet. Pour the caramel sauce into a small glass jar and let it cool; it will thicken further. Store indefinitely in your kitchen cupboard.

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  1. Remove fat layer and trim excess fat from pork butt. Apply dry rub evenly over pork butt, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight on a large plate.
  2. The next morning, put pork in slow cooker and set on low. Cook for 8 to 10 hours, or until pork shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Halfway through the estimated cooking time, baste one side by spooning the basting liquid over pork. Flip the butt over and baste the other side. Repeat basting process one more time, halfway through the remaining cooking time.
  4. Make the lemongrass caramel sauce when pork is finished cooking.
  5. Shred pork by using two forks and pulling apart the meat and discard fat. Put shredded pork in a large bowl. Pour sauce on shredded pork and mix well. You can strain the sauce if desired.
  6. Serve pulled pork on a hamburger bun with a side of Asian slaw.


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