Traditionally cooked over hot coals as street food on the hectic byways of cities such as Hanoi and Saigon, Vietnamese lemongrass pork (or thit heo nuong xa) is one of the easiest and tastiest classic Vietnamese recipes to replicate in your own home kitchen. It’s a great way to experience some authentic, flavoursome food of this exotic country.
Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork
|10 mins prep
up to 24 hours marinate
30 mins cook
|Sweet Thai chili and turmeric rice|
|Newton Johnson Pinot Noir|
Releasing The Flavours
I used a pestle and mortar to make the base for the marinade. I find this is better than using a food processor or blender for this type of meal because I want to have all of the aromatics released, and crushing the ingredients ensures this. If you don’t have one available, you can use a hand blender, but I recommend getting a pestle and mortar, it does make a positive difference.
In the method below, I present cooking options for both standard grill ovens and charcoal BBQ.
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Measuring spoons
- Pestle and mortar (or hand blender)
- Small bowl
- Pastry brush
- Large sealable container
- 4 pork chops or loin steaks
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 2 small shallot
- 4-5 tbsp chopped lemongrass (see below)
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oil, preferably groundnut
- 1-4 tsp fish sauce (see below)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Pinch salt
- Coriander and green scallion stalks (garnish)
Fish sauce is an acquired taste. If you’re not used to it, try 1 tsp and see how you like it. I cook with 1 tsp, that’s enough for our tastes. Lemongrass paste can also be used, this is stronger than chopped lemongrass, so use 2-4 tbsp, depending on the strength of flavour you’re looking for.
- Crush the garlic gloves, chop the shallot into ring sections, extract the lemongrass from the stalks. The video in the hints, tips and pictures section shows how to do this.
- Add the garlic, shallot, lemongrass, sugar, pepper and salt to a pestle and mortar. Crush them into a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and combine the soy sauce, fish sauce and oil.
- Brush the marinade over all sides of the pork chops. Place them in a sealable container (or in a tray with a cover) and marinate in a fridge for up to 24 hours.
- Pre-heat a grill to medium-high or Big Green Egg (direct setup) to 180°C/355°F.
- Remove the pork chops from the marinating container. Cook them either under the grill or directly over the coals of the Egg for 4 to 8 minutes per side (depending on how thick the pork is), turning a couple of times.
- Transfer them to a warm plate and cover loosely with kitchen foil for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and green scallion stalks.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- Some thinly sliced red chili can be added to the paste to give it some extra flavours.
- This meal is normally cooked with pork chops over coals on the city streets of Vietnam. I used pork loin steaks because I happened to have some available. I’ve also seen it cooked with sliced boneless pork shoulder and cubes of pork on skewers. As long as the meat is about 1/2 an inch thick, you’re fine.
- As you’ll see from the comments below, this marinade can also be used on pork shoulder for a low and slow cook.
- This video shows how to extract the parts of lemongrass necessary for cooking.