Pork Riblets Simmered in Caramel Sauce

(Xu'o'n Kho)

SERVES 6-8

Originally from rural northern Vietnam, this dish was traditionally cooked in a clay pot.

3 lbs. baby back pork ribs, cut in half crosswise
by butcher and separated into riblets
1/2 small yellow onion, peeled and minced
2 cups plus 2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 tbsp. nu'o'c ma×´m (Vietnamese fish sauce)

1. Put pork, onions, 2 tsp. of the sugar, pepper, oil, and 2 tbsp. of the nu'o'c ma×´m into a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and marinate for 2-4 hours. Preheat broiler. Put pork on a baking sheet and broil until charred in places, turning once, 5-10 minutes per side. Set aside.

2. Put remaining 2 cups sugar and 1/3 cup water into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover, and boil over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, 4-5 minutes. Uncover and cook until sugar reaches 370º on a candy thermometer and turns dark reddish-brown, 15-20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set bottom in a bowl of ice water for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water to caramel, return pan to medium heat, and stir until caramel liquefies, about 5 minutes.

3. Add pork and any accumulated juices, the remaining 2 tbsp. nu'o'c ma×´m, and 1/2 cup water to pan with caramel. Reduce heat to a medium-low partially cover, and simmer, skimming fat occasionally, until pork is tender, about 1 hour.