When I was in Hanoi, one of my fave breakfasts came from a lady at the corner of the alleyway just down the way from my hotel. She had a sign that read XOI, which is sticky rice, but when you asked for some she served it up with a big chunk of braised pork belly, a braised egg and some marinated cucumber slices. It was so good.
It has occurred to me back here in Canada that I ought to be able to make this delight at home.
I checked on YouTube because instructions to do just about anything can be found there – and sure enough there were several videos about how to go about making braised pork belly and eggs or thịt kho tàu.
The only special ingredient (by that I mean stuff you likely can’t find at the No Frills) you need to make this dish is a piece of pork belly. At my local Asian market they had loads of them of various sizes behind the butcher counter and I could choose which one I wanted. If you can’t get pork belly, you can substitute pork shoulder in a pinch.
Like most braises, making this requires some time. The only challenging thing about it, really, is making some caramel to start off the dish. This is a matter of melting a couple tablespoons of sugar in your braising pot. As it cooks, it starts to brown. When it gets good and brown (but not burnt), you toss in your pork belly (I had marinated my pork ahead of time, and cut it into good sized pieces). As soon as the pork hits the bottom of the pot, you have to start stirring it, getting all the pork covered with a caramel coating and at the same time making sure you don’t burn the caramel.
After that, you add water or coconut juice and some fish sauce and braise the meat for an hour, covered. Some recipes call for some soy sauce in the braising liquid as well. Meanwhile, hard boil as many eggs as you want to include and take the shell off. Once the meat has been braising for an hour, add in your eggs and continue simmering for another hour with the lid off. The liquid will slowly start cooking off and the resulting braising liquid will become more like a super-delicious sauce.