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!