Pork belly cubes marinated in minced lemongrass, garlic, shallots, fish sauce and honey are grilled until golden on the outside and the meat is tender.
As I was cropping the photos and putting watermarks on them, a conversation I had with two young Vietnamese women came to mind. Sam and I were in Hanoi, we took Grab to a flower shop with a coffee shop above it. We were there for a watercolor painting class. The artist who was going to conduct the class was running a bit late so we chatted with the facilitator and her friend.
Back in Saigon, Alex and I enjoyed bánh khọt so much that it became our mission to buy the special pan for making them so we could do our home version. We found a high-end version of the pan at Takashimaya but the price was so shocking we contented ourselves with touching it. The second time we saw bánh khọt pan for sale was in the market in Cu Chi. It was quite cheap but the non-stick coating was already peeling along the edges. In other words, we left Saigon without buying a bánh khọt pan.
Before Sam and I flew to Hanoi a month later, Alex made me promise that I would find the elusive bánh khọt pan and buy one to bring home. I did promise thinking it would be easy. As it turned out, bánh khọt is more a Saigon specialty than a Hanoi thing. I asked everyone I could where I could get the pan but no one knew.
That day when we were waiting for the watercolor painting instructor, I chatted up the facilitator and her friend hoping they could point me to a place where I could get the bánh khọt pan.
A simple question about where to buy a pan led to an animated conversation about food. I mentioned that Sam does not eat red meat and the two young ladies were wide-eyed with shock. We love meat, they declared. And so do I. Meat is delicious, they said. And I totally agreed.
I hope you’re not one of those people who view red meat as unhealthy and something we should stay away from because this dish, in all its glory and simplicity, is something to be tried at least once in your life.
Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Belly
- 600 grams pork belly we used boneless with generous layers of fat (increase to 700 grams if using bone-in pork belly)
For the marinade
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 shallot peeled and finely chopped
- 2 large stalks lemongrass minced (peel the outer layers and use only the lower portion of the stalks)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce (we used Kikkoman)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
For the dipping sauce
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 2 bird's eye chilies slit and cut up
- 1 to 2 cucumbers
Marinate the pork
- Rinse the pork belly and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut into two-inch cubes. Place in a bowl.
- Using a mortar and pestle ground all the solid ingredients for the marinade to a paste (or use a mini food processor). Stir in the liquid ingredients to make the marinade.
- Pour the marinade over the pork belly cubes. Mix well. Cover the bowl and keep refrigerated for 24 hours.
Cook the pork
- Preheat the oven the 475F.
- Place a rack over a baking tray.
- Arrange the pork belly cubes on the rack in a single layer. Grill at 475F for 20 minutes or until done and the edges are lightly charred.
Prepare the garnish
- While the pork cooks, rinse the cucumber and slice into rings.
- Stir together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce.
Serve the grilled lemongrass pork belly
- Arrange the grilled pork on a platter with the cucumber rings and dipping sauce on the side.