Infused with fragrant lemongrass and punchy fish sauce, these Vietnamese pork chops are rich in flavour that's sweet, savoury and salty. The caramelised pork are even better dipped in a delicious and mouthwatering Nouc Mam (Vietnamese fish sauce dipping sauce)!
Perfect served as a rice dish with sliced cucumber and tomatoes or in a generous bowl of Vietnamese style rice noodle salad (bun thit nuong)!
I also have a mouthwatering 15-minute Garlic Butter Pork Chops recipe worth trying!
Not limited to using pork loin chops, you can easily use pork shoulders instead like what I've done when filming for this recipe. Pork chops are leaner and quicker to cook whereas pork shoulders are richer in flavour and take a little longer on the pan or grill.
Either way, I'm sure you're going to love this delicious sticky, flavour-pack lemongrass pork! You don't always have to go to a Vietnamese restaurant to have this classic Vietnamese dish!
- Pork shoulder - although technically not pork chops, shoulder meat is very flavoursome and thus perfect for this recipe! Of course, you can simply use pork loin chops. Just make sure to use thin cuts, ~1 cm in thickness. Unless you've got a good butcher, I do find the pork chops available at the supermarkets tend to be quite thick - about 2.5cm / 1 inch.
- Lemongrass - a rather tough herb that is frequently used in Vietnamese cooking. Lemongrass adds a burst of lemon and citrus flavour with a subtle hint of mint. It is a fantastic herb to use and makes everything super delicious! When cooking with lemongrass, make sure you finely chop, grind or pound the herb to help release its fragrance.
- Brown sugar - or palm sugar is perfect for this recipe due to their molasses content. Can substitute with just plain white sugar (it'll still taste amazing!)
- Fish sauce - widely used South East Asian umami-bomb condiment that is pungent and adds complexity to a dish. Fish sauce is a liquid derived from the fermentation of anchovies, salt and water over a long period of time. Used in many dishes from stir-fries to marinades to curries to soups, etc. Popular dishes such as pad thai, larb, vermicelli salads and shaking beef all uses fish sauce!
- Dark soy sauce is preferred over normal soy sauce as it is richer in flavour and less salty. This complements the fish sauce very well as it is very salty. Dark soy sauces are also darker in colour and caramelise extremely well when sizzled. Works perfectly with this dish!
- Brown onion - can use shallots instead too.
This is a very simple and quick recipe that is easy to prep and cook!
The most important step to achieve the most flavoursome, tender and juicy Vietnamese pork chops is to marinate it - the longer, the better.
Marinating for tender and flavoursome meats is seen in all types of cuisines and is also very frequently used in Chinese cooking such as the velveting technique!
Prepare and marinate
To start, finely chop the aromatics: lemongrass, spring onions, brown onion (or shallot) and garlic.
If you have a pestle and mortar, dunk those chopped aromatics in and grind them to a rough paste. This process will help release all of the flavours and in particular, lemongrass.
If you don't have a pestle and mortar, give these a quick blend in the food processor if you have one. Otherwise, just do what I do, crush the lemongrass with the blade of the knife (you'll need to put your weight into it) to help release its flavours and chop everything as fine as possible.
Now, combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. It'll seem quite dry at first but after about 30 seconds, you'll find the marinade will turn more liquidy. This is the onions releasing their liquids due to exposure to salt (from soy sauce, fish sauce and salt).
Once you're satisfied that the sugar has dissolved enough, add in sliced pork shoulder or thin pork chops. Mix well then cover and let it marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
An alternative to marinating in a bowl is to use a ziplock bag. Ziplock bags promote even distribution of the marinade, take up minimal space in the fridge and no washing required!
If you want to prepare ahead, let it marinate overnight and the flavour will be even better the next day!
Cook until lightly caramelised to perfection
A little charring and caramelisation are what makes Vietnamese lemongrass pork chops so irresistible!
Perfect cooked on a grill for an easy BBQ lunch and just as easy on the stove.
In a large pan or griddle pan, add a little vegetable oil and fry or grill the pork for about 2 minutes on each side on medium-high heat.
To get good caramelisation on the pork, it's crucial to space the pork chops/slices out. As such, to cook ~1kg or 2 pounds of pork, it'll take around 3 batches.
I find using a non-stick pan particularly useful as it prevents any sticky mess and can easily be wiped with a paper towel.
As you can see from image #8 above, by the time the pork is just cooked, the herbs and marinating sauce will turn quite dark and almost charred.
Do not continue to cook the second batch. Get a paper towel, scrunch it up and wipe the pan clean. This will make sure each batch gets a fresh start, without any leftover charred bits from the previous batch.
Repeat until all of the pork chops have been cooked.
Rest the pork for about 5 minutes before serving! Serve in a classic Vietnamese manner and pair with some rice, fresh tomato, cucumber slices and a side of nuoc mam!
Let's take a second to appreciate how juicy, glossy and yum these pork slices look!!
- Cooking with thin pork chops or shoulder slices. This will speed up the marinating process (takes less time for pork to absorb the marinade) and is quicker to cook. In addition, thin slices are much easier to eat with rice, rice noodles or vegetables. This brings me to the second point.
- Do not overcook the pork chops! No matter how long you marinate it, if you overcook the pork, the juices will inevitably sizzle up and turn the pork dry! So, conservatively, 2 minutes per side should be enough on medium-high heat.
- Marinate for at least 1 hour, even better, overnight. This is key to flavour-packed, tender pork!
- Wipe the pan or griddle pan clean with scrunched up paper towel after cooking each batch. Soy sauces burn easily when sizzled on high heat. So do sugar, garlic, onions and lemongrass. All of which are in the marinade. By wiping the pan clean is the trick to making sure your Vietnamese pork chops are lightly charred and caramelised without any unpleasant burnt bits.
See those charred bits? My favourite part of the meat 🙂
Good to know (FAQs)
First and foremost, do not overcook. Cook time depends on how thick the pork is. For this recipe, if you're using 1cm thick pork chops, roughly 1.5 minutes per side will be sufficient. Check doneness by cutting open a piece to make sure it's cooked through. The second tip is to marinate for at least 1 hour for tender meat.
Absolutely not! It may seem like a waste but it's better to be safe than getting food poisoning! The marinade is easy to whip up so discard and make a new batch if you can't get enough of these Vietnamese pork chops!
Up 3 to 5 days is the safe zone.
I recommend freezing the raw pork with its marinade and defrosting overnight in the fridge the day before cooking. This way the pork should still be tender and retain its juiciness. Nonetheless, it is safe to freeze cooked pork chops for up to 2 to 3 months.
Made this recipe or have questions? Let me know your thoughts by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you and will get back to you. 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Vietnamese Pork Chops (Caramelised Lemongrass Pork)
- Optional: pestle and mortar or food processor
- 1 kg / 2 pounds pork shoulder or loin or thin pork chops
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 1 stalk fresh lemongrass finely chopped
- ¼ brown onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions (green onions) finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar or white/palm sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- freshly cooked rice
- sliced cucumbers and tomatoes
- nuoc mam
- Wash and pat dry pork shoulder or loin with paper towels. With a sharp knife, trim off fat and cut into 1 cm thick slices. (note 1)
- Finely chop lemongrass, onions, spring onions and garlic. For best results, grind to a rough paste with a pestle and mortar. Or, roughly chop and blend in a small food processor. (note 2)
- In a large bowl or ziplock bag, combine all marinating ingredients and mix well. Add pork slices and coat well (if using a ziplock bag, seal then rub pork all over). Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate.
- When ready to cook, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large non-stick pan or griddle pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, with a pair of tongs, place pork slices onto the pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until cooked through and pork is lightly charred on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. Make sure there is wiggle room in between each slice. You most likely will have to cook in 3 batches.
- Once the first batch is cooked, wipe clean the pan with a scrunched up paper towel using a pair of tongs. This will get rid of charred bits of aromatics from the first batch.
- Repeat for 2 more times or until all pork have been cooked.
- Serve with some rice, fresh tomato and cucumber slices and a side of nuoc mam as a dipping sauce.