This is one of my FAVORITE Vietnamese dishes, however, I'm very hesitant to write a blog entry on Vietnamese Cuisine for fear that I don't serve my heritage enough justice. But I will try to share you my takes on some of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. My mom is from the south and my dad is from the middle. There are many differences in the style and overall cooking techniques between the different regions of Vietnam. I mainly know the southern style, so bear with me.
Please note that I learned a lot about cooking through watching my cousin, Phoung, as I was growing up. She is only 6 years older but she took care of me, my sister and her little brother while we were growing up at our aunt's house in Trabuco Canyon.
We didn't have the shiniest toys or the coolest clothes or even cable, but we managed and builded strong family bonds through those years and I couldn't imagine my life any different. Because of our parent's sacrifices, all four of us went on to college. Phoung is now a successful clinical pharmacist, married and has two hairy trolls. My cousin, Evan, is a teacher whom his students adore/ fear. LOL. Christina, my sister, is about to graduate this year with a Bachelors in Nursing. And I am a lost soul with a chemistry degree "pretending" to be a scientist.
Anyway, back to the recipe. I hope you try it and tell me what you think or what your version of this recipe is. :) Also, from my understanding, this is a very southern dish.
1-2lb Pork Short Spare Ribs
3-5 TBSP Fish Sauce
3 TBSP Agave Syrup (I use this in lieu of sugar because I feel agave has a deeper and roasted taste which transfers to the dish)
4-5 diced Garlic pieces
2 TBP cooking oil
1/2 C Water
Chopped cilantro (optional - I say that but honestly it is NOT a Vietnamese Dish without the cilantro)
*make sure your pan has a lid
1) Cut the pork into bite size pieces and mix with fish sauce and agave syrup in a mixing bowl for about 45 min. (You want to lightly marinate the meat...not saturate the pallet)
2) In a pan lightly sauté the garlic with cooking oil until translucent
3) Add marinated meat at medium heat, so you can lightly toast the outside of the meat (> 3min)
4) Add water to pan and cover the pan with the lid
5) Reduce the heat a bit (not too low) and leave the meat to cook for 30-45 min (You want the water and marinate to soften the meat as well as the cartilage)
6) Once the meat is to your liking, take off the lid and bring the heat back up. The water will vaporize and caramelization will begin. (>10min)
7) Add cilantro and serve with rice and sliced veggies like cucumber and tomatoes.