My family has a thing for sweet sauces with meat. Our favorite Thanksgiving turkey has a maple syrup gravy, my husband pours molasses on his bacon, and I hate to admit how often ketchup comes out with my husband’s dinner plate. When I saw the caramel sauce in the Vietnamese Style Grilled Pork, on page 215, Aloha Days Hula Nights, in the Entrees – Pork section, I knew it would be a perfect meal for us.
Now, caramel and I have a long, uncertain history. There are not many dishes I can’t put together well, so my husband loves to tell the story of sophomore year in college where I proudly declared, “To make caramel, you just have to mix water and sugar and bake it in the oven!” Since we were merely engaged, my husband actually ate the sticky black crystals that came out of the oven later that day and pretended they were edible. But since that day, caramel makes me nervous.
And I have to confess…caramel defeated me again in this recipe. Maybe it was my nonstick pan, but I could not get the sugar and water to turn brown–it just crystallized at about 20 minutes. I had to substitute an ice-cream topping caramel I had in the fridge, and it was so delicious. The caramel really goes well with the fish sauce, and the shallots soften and take on a tasty caramelized flavor. The broiled pork was tender and the sauce complemented it perfectly. The sauce tasted good on everything: the sweet potatoes we ate with the meal, the next day on pork over rice…even kale swirled in the sauce tasted great. I will make this again soon (and hopefully conquer the caramel)!
What a tasty, wholesome meal! The sauce was good on everything…
Vietnamese Style Grilled Pork
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water, divided
- 2 large shallots, minced
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Nuoc Nam (fish sauce)
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- Pinch salt
- 2 1/2 pound pork loin, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
In a small saucepan, bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce turns deep brown, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1/2 cup water in a small pan over high heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and keep hot. When sauce reaches the desired color, stir in 4 to 5 tablespoons of hot water carefully as the hot caramel may splatter. Add enough water to make sauce thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set caramel sauce aside to cool.
Combine shallots, oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, and caramel sauce, stirring to blend. Add pork loin to sauce. Cover and marinate 20 minutes. Heat grill or broiler. Place pork on grill and book just until done, about 2 minutes on each side. Arrange on serving platter. Serve.
Note: The caramel is the secret to this dish.
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