What differentiates Vietnamese cuisine from Chinese and Thai is its lightness in texture and lesser sweet flavours. A few Vietnamese dishes are hot and spicy and can get as hot and spicy as a hot-rated Thai dish. The caramelized pork is a typical Vietnamese home-cooked meal that is rarely found in restaurants. It's simple, but it has its certain tricks to pay closely attention to.
The trick to make a successful caramel sauce is to stay focused. Ladies (and some Gents), it's great to be able to multi-task, but for this step, I would suggest that you put that skill aside. That melting sugar will require your devoted attention. Otherwise, you'll end up with a burnt and carbonated sauce. The sauce and ginger will coat the pork, which will add a semi-sweet and lightly spicy/salty taste to the pork. It's a wonderful alternative to the ordinary pork chops.
Recipe "au pif":
1 lb of pork shoulder (cut in thin 3-4 inch slices), or 4 thin boneless pork chops also cut in about 2-3 inch long pieces (keep the fat on!)
1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp granulated sugar (raw cane sugar will also do)
2 tbsp canola oil (or cooking oil)
2 tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 tsps ground black pepper
Marinate the pork in the fish sauce and black pepper, in a medium-sized bowl and mix well with your hands.
Preparing the caramel (and do nothing else). Heat oil in large pan on medium-high and add in the sugar. From time to time, remove pan from heat to make sure sugar does not burn.When sugar starts absorbing the oil and starts to melt, mix the sugar with oil evenly, until the sugar starts changing colour, to a light brown colour. When sugar turns into a darker brown colour, remove pan from heat and add in the ginger and garlic, and stir.
Place the pan back on heat and slowly add in the thin slices of pork one by one until the pan is filled with one layer of the pieces of pork. Let the pork cook for about 1 minute and turn them around to cook the other side. The meat will have a darkish golden colour from the caramel.
The meat will sweat and create a sauce with the caramel. Once that stage is reached, cover the pan and let the the pork/sauce mixture simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
If you have no sauce, perhaps the heat was on too high or the pan was not removed from the heat to control the transformation of the caramelized sauce. In this case, you simply add a 1/4 cup of chicken broth and let the pork/sauce simmer.
Vietnamese families often add in hard-boiled eggs to the dish and eat this meal with white jasmine steamed rice. It's one of my favourite meals and easy to make, if you keep that trick in mind.