The most important ingredient of this rich pork braise is the bittersweet Vietnamese caramel sauce, which gives the braising liquid its dark hue and robust flavor. The key to a perfect caramel sauce is to brown the sugar just shy of the point at which it becomes a black, burnt mess and ruins your pan. As frightening as that may sound, I highly recommend following Andrea Nguyen's recipe and technique for making caramel sauce, which can be found here, along with some extremely helpful photos.
Once you have made the caramel sauce, rest of the recipe will be easy, albeit somewhat time consuming with the marinading and braising time. Although the it calls calls for country cut pork ribs, I would think it would work equally well with other fatty cuts of pork, dark meat chicken, or beef; just adjust the braising time accordingly.
Pork Ribs Braised in Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen
- 3 lbs country cut pork riblets (ask your butcher to cut the whole ribs crosswise through the bone into long strips)
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 6 tbsp fish sauce
- 6 tbsp caramel sauce (recipe here)
- 1 cup water, plus more if needed
- Trim the ribs of any excess fat.
- In a large bowl, mix the onion, sugar, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce. Add the riblets and stir well to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the broiler. Remove the riblets from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and broil until browned on each side, about 9 minutes per side. Set aside on a plate.
- Place the riblets in a braising dish or a large skillet with deep sides. Add any juices that have collected on the plate, along with the reserved marinade, caramel sauce, and remaining fish sauce. Pour in enough water to cover the riblets by two-thirds.
- Bring the braising liquid to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook for 45 minutes. Uncover the braising dish and turn the ribs. Increase the heat to a vigorous simmer and continue to cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until the pork is very tender. Serve with steamed rice.