she cooks…he cleans

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Vietnamese Clay Pot Pork (Thit Kho To)

I fell in love with a Vietnamese restaurant, and with Clay Pot Pork.  Chateau Saigon is a gem of a restaurant in the mecca of multi-ethnic eateries that line Buford Highway.  Restaurants in this area of Atlanta are mostly in shopping centers and strip malls, alongside pawn shops, thrift stores, and car dealerships.  In other words…not the trendy area of town.  However there is a lot of good food tucked away there, and often the most dive-y looking spots are the most authentic.  I don’t know much about Vietnamese cuisine to know if Chateau Saigon is “authentic” or not, but the restaurant is clean and filled with light, the service is elegant, and the food is beautifully presented and delicious.  If you’re looking for a new and different dining experience in Atlanta, give it a try!

The Clay Pot Pork is an intensely flavored dish – served at Chateau Saigon in a heavy, piping hot pot.  The meat is tender and is bound with a deeply rich sauce that has cooked down to the sticky essence of all its ingredients.  Wanting to make this at home, I browsed through several cookbooks and the internet to find recipes.  This recipe is modified primarily from Weave a Thousand Flavors – a blog that drew me in with mouth-watering photography and beautifully detailed instructions.

Using a good quality fish sauce is probably essential to this dish, since there is quite a bit of it in the recipe.  I like Red Boat Fish Sauce because it is 100% pure, first pressed, high-protein fish sauce – made in Vietnam with only 2 ingredients: black anchovy and sea salt.  Looking for “umami”…here it is!  It is available in some stores (see their website), but you can also order it from Amazon.

You don’t have to have a clay pot – a good Dutch oven or braising pot (with a lid) would work.  I used our Tagine– also a clay pot.


  • 3 pounds fatty pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into cubes
  • 5 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (or more if needed)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 1/3 cup Vietnamese Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 to 4 scallions
  • fresh ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon or to taste

Preheat oven to 325F.  Melt the coconut oil in the clay pot (or Dutch oven) over medium heat for a few minutes.  Turn the heat up to medium-high, then add the pork in small batches and brown on all sides.  (This will take several batches.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or the meat will steam instead of brown.)  When each batch is done, transfer the browned meat to a bowl.  Add more oil if necessary.

Turn off the heat and add the sugar to the pan.  Stir well to combine, then turn the heat back on to medium.  Stir the sugar constantly until it melts and starts to separate from the oil (it will glob up, bubble and look pasty…don’t worry).

Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger to the sugar.  Saute for a few minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in the fish sauce and Sriracha sauce.  Add the meat and all the accumulated juices to the pot.  Add water and ground pepper.  Stir well, tossing the meat until it is well-coated with the gravy.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven.  Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the pork is caramel in color and tender, and the sauce is thick.  Add more water if needed during cooking to keep the sauce from drying out.

Note:  None of the recipes mention it, but I found that a lot of fat accumulated as the pork cooked.  I spooned off excess fat near the end of the cooking time, reserving some to saute the green onions (next step).

While the pork is cooking, trim off the root and any wilted green parts from the scallions.  Wash and dry with paper towels.  Slice the white part of the scallion in thin pieces, and cut the green parts into ~1-inch segments.  When the pork is almost ready, briefly saute the scallions in 1 tablespoon reserved oil from the pork (or coconut oil), until they are glossy and fragrant.

Serve the pork with Jasmine rice, topped with scallions.

Now that was tasty! The same can be said for our musical guests…Little Feat! One of America’s greatest bands, led by Lowell George, they served up some of the greatest tunes you’ll ever come across. Such as on Sailin Shoes with the classics such as “Easy To Slip” and the truckers anthem, “Willin'”

Waiting for Columbus captures Little Feat at their live zenith, and when they were cookin’, ain’t nobody better. Except of course for She Cooks! Enjoy!

23 comments on “Vietnamese Clay Pot Pork (Thit Kho To)

  1. Nancy, this morning Ron and I went to Lawrenceville to pick up some pork and if it hadn’t been so early, we would have tried to find one of those Buford Hwy spots because I’ve had some of the best food of my life on that highway!!

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 29, 2012

      Patty, I know what you mean…LOTS of great food of all descriptions! I’m lucky because James’ office is on Buford Highway, so meeting him for lunch is always a treat. I need to find out where you find pork in Lawrenceville though…

  2. howichow
    July 28, 2012

    I love Buford Highway! Since moving to Atlanta, I can’t seem to find enough reasons to get over there that often (we live in Vinings) but every chance I get, I take it. I’ll have to buy a Dutch oven just so I can make this yummy sounding recipe 🙂

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 29, 2012

      Kara, you definitely need a Dutch oven! You can do so much with it, from pot roasts, to stews and chilis. Thanks for commenting, and welcome to Atlanta!

  3. koritt
    July 28, 2012

    Looks amazing! I might just have to make an exception to my no sugar and virtually no pork way of eating just to eat this. 🙂

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 29, 2012

      Thanks! I was a little taken aback by the amount of sugar in this, but at least it is spread out with several servings, since it is so rich and filling. I was glad the coconut palm sugar worked!

      • koritt
        July 29, 2012

        I’ve never tried coconut palm sugar, so this will be a new experience for me. I’m sure that a little sugar now and then won’t kill me. 😛 Now, I just need to finish moving and get set up in my new kitchen. 🙂

  4. Jennifer
    July 28, 2012

    Chateau Saigon is by far one of the best Vietnamese restaurants we have tried on Buford Highway! The food was excellent and the service was outstanding. I’m glad someone else is praising its efforts!

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 29, 2012

      We can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu! So far, the shaken beef and the eggplant and pork claypot are also favorites. I may get braver…

  5. fbenario
    July 28, 2012

    Easy To Slip. Willin’. Two of the greatest of all 70s songs. Boy were they fine back then. And boy did they choose to go straight downhill soon after, misinterpreting L.George’s death as a sign they should become just another humdrum, unnecessary jam band. As if America ever needed even the first jam band. Worst self-imposed decline in history. Now a totally unlistenable shell of a band.

  6. Hi Nancy & James – Just want to say THANK YOU for your kind words about my blog and taking the time to take the recipe and make it your very own! It looks wonderful and I can just tell that the meat is tender and succulent – wish I could have some for dinner! 🙂

    chow 🙂 DEVAKI @ weavethousandflavors

    • She cooks...He cleans
      July 29, 2012

      Thank you for sharing such a great recipe! I really appreciated being able to see your photos at each stage of cooking, or cooking the sugar would have freaked me out. 🙂 And your blog IS beautiful!

  7. Wow, that looks awesome. I never use pork shoulder this way. I’ll have to break out of my sausage BBQ mold.

  8. Dave @ Food & Fire
    July 31, 2012

    Oh, I have SO got to make this! I’m even going to pop for the good fish sauce just to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

  9. joe
    August 10, 2012
    Coconut Palm Sugar
    The Truth About Coconut Palm Sugar: The Other Side of the Story!

    • She cooks...He cleans
      August 10, 2012

      Rebuttal from a company that HELPS coconut farmers…There is no shortage of coconut trees in the world!
      “The simple answer to this is – NO. There is a rumor being spread on the internet that the production of coconut palm sugar “sacrifices” the coconut fruit and that this is a negative and that consumers need to be warned of this. This is very misleading.
      It is true that in order to collect the coconut flower blossom nectar, the source of coconut palm sugar, that the coconuts do not fruit. Yet, what the company spreading the rumor does not say is that, like any fruit tree, the coconut tree produces multiple flower blossoms and it is up the farmer to either allow the flower blossom to form into fruit, collect the nectar or a combination of both. Below is a picture that shows the multiple spears of coconut flower blossoms that the farmer can choose what to do with.
      The question the company spreading the rumor does not ask is “why would the farmer prefer to collect flower blossom nectar than sell the coconut fruit”? The answer is because the farmer makes more money selling the coconut palm nectar than coconuts!
      Coconut farmers are some of the most impoverished farmers in the world and selling coconuts, with no added value at the farm level, keeps the farmers in poverty. This is why our coconut palm sugar program has been so successful; because we have increased farmer’s incomes by over 50%! What would you do?
      Farmer’s are paid about $0.10 per coconut fruit; if they are lucky. This coconut is purchased by middlemen and then sold at a higher price to the larger processors that make coconut water, coconut oil or coconut meat. The farmers receive no added value income when they sell just the coconut fruit, keeping them in poverty.
      Coconut palm sugar production MUST be initially processed by the farmer, therefore bringing more value add to the farmer and the farmer making more money.
      The coconut tree produces on average 50 fruits per year. This is only 50 coconuts per year, per tree! At $0.10 per coconut, the coconut farmer is making $5.00 per year, per tree. This is $0.42 cents per month or a little over $0.01 per day! Now you can see why coconut farmers are some of the poorest farmers in the world and why it is so important to bring more value to the farm level. A farmer needs to have a lot of coconut trees in order to make any kind of decent living from growing coconuts and selling just the coconut fruit for production of coconut oil, coconut water or shredded coconut.
      There is a plethora of information on the internet that clearly exposes the truth of the coconut farmer and the need to increase their income.
      The company spreading the rumor clearly states, “So the next time you think about purchasing some coconut palm sugar, you need to ask yourself, “Do I need this more than I need coconut oil, dried coconut, or coconut flour? Am I willing to pay a higher price for coconut oil and other coconut products so that more trees can be sacrificed for coconut palm sugar production, or at some point even go without these products just so I can have coconut palm sugar?”. Trees are not sacrificed and the production of coconut palm sugar does not effect the price of coconut oil.
      There is absolutely NO shortage of coconut trees in this world. Anyone who has traveled in the tropics knows that coconut trees are EVERYWHERE. The issue is that the proximity of these trees to the large processors that make the coconut oil, coconut water or coconut meat.
      There is no shortage of coconuts on the global market. There is only a shortage of factory capacity and effort of companies willing to work with the coconut farmers to create solutions to their condition of poverty.
      We work directly with over 5,000 farmers on Java, increasing their incomes by over 50% by bringing added value to the farmer.
      Coconut oil, like coconut palm sugar, is a wonderful food product produced by the coconut tree. We are fans of coconut oil, use it in our diet and are confident, based on years of experience, that both products can and are being produced, simultaneously, without any harm to the coconut tree.
      Yet, the bottom line, is that coconut farmers make more money collecting the nectar than just selling the coconut fruit and the mission of our company is to help impoverished farmers earn more income so they can live in health and prosperity.”

  10. Pingback: Caramelized Beef and Scallion | Delightful Taste Buds

  11. Donna
    October 22, 2012

    Exquisite much research and well-explained technique here…LOVE the Little Feat selection…We have this at home and will definitely put it on whilst attempting to replicate this gorgeous recipe..I have a question regarding coconut palm sugar…The only place I can seem to buy it here (in France…but the countryside)…is in an asian épicerie/small market…but it is sold in small disc/hockey-puck shape/format…Can I possibly grind these discs in a processor to use in your various recipes using palm sugar?..The color is that blonde/pale amber color. Thanks so much for all you do…

    • She cooks...He cleans
      October 22, 2012

      Donna, thanks for all the comments! It is like waking up to Christmas! I am not familiar with discs of coconut palm sugar, but I imagine you can grind them up. The coconut palm sugar I use is not very fine-textured, so I always give it a few minutes to “soak” with the other ingredients and dissolve some. You could also substitute raw sugar (turbinado), I think.

  12. kayla
    October 4, 2013

    made this last night in my slow cooker and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! i ended up using regular sugar instead of the coconut palm sugar (i know, i know…). also added some jalapeno. while it was cooking, i added more ginger and garlic and onions for added flavor. i also used a few splashes of tamari. then i added chicken stock to make it more of a soup, then some chopped bok choy about 30 minutes before it was done, and it was a delicious soup with such an amazing flavor. not to mention the meat was just deliciously tender and juicy. this has become one of my favorite recipes! absolutely divine. thank you!

    • She cooks...He cleans
      October 4, 2013

      Thank you, Kayla! That sounds like an amazing soup – so happy we could provide the inspiration! Yum…

  13. Carol
    October 11, 2015

    I do not understand the browning in a clay pot. Also,my clay pot comes with instructions to always start it in a cold oven. The recipe sound great so will ry it in a cast iron dutch oven, but please explain.

    • She cooks...He cleans
      October 11, 2015

      I would follow the instructions for your clay pot. Some are flame-proof and some are not. This recipe will also be fantastic in a cast iron dutch oven! Hope you enjoy it!

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