Originally from rural northern Vietnam, this dish was traditionally cooked in a clay pot.
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- 3 lb. baby back pork ribs, cut in half crosswise by a butcher and separated into riblets
- ½ small yellow onion, peeled and minced (¼ cup)
- 2 cups plus 2 tsp. sugar, divided
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- ¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce, divided
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- Steamed jasmine rice, for serving
To a large bowl, add the pork, onion, 2 teaspoons sugar, the pepper, oil, and 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Toss to combine and coat the ribs. Marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat a broiler to high and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer the riblets to the baking sheet and broil, turning once, until the meat is charred in places, 15–20 minutes. Remove from the broiler and set aside.
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it by the stove. In a large pot, stir together the remaining 2 cups sugar and 1⁄3 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, 4–5 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the sugar turns dark reddish-brown (370°F on a candy thermometer), 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately set the bottom of the pot in the ice water to stop the cooking. Add 1 cup cold water to the pot, return it to medium heat, and cook, stirring continuously, until the caramel has liquefied. Add the reserved riblets and any accumulated juices, as well as the remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce, then bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot, lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, skimming and discarding the fat occasionally, until the pork is very tender, about 1 hour. Top with scallions, and serve with steamed jasmine rice.