Recipe: Cured Meat in Fish Sauce - Thịt Ngâm Nước Mắm

By Helen Le Published: February 8, 2015

  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Ready In: 60 mins

  • Yield: 5 Servings

This is the dish I make every Tet, no matter whether I am in Vietnam or overseas.

  • To parboil the pork, bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add some salt and 1 tbsp of vinegar. The vinegar will help to reduce the strong smell and also keep the pork in a very bright color. Parboil for about 5 minutes until the impurities rise to the top, then remove and rinse well. Also wash the pot clean.
  • Return the pork to the pot, and then fill with water enough to cover. Add 2 onion halves and 1 - 2 smashed shallots. Boil the pork for about 30-45 minutes. Keep the heat on medium low and and occasionally skim off the foam. When the pork is cooked through, transfer to an ice water bath.
  • If you're using beef shank, also boil with some salt. Instead of adding onion and shallots, we're gonna add some spices such as star anise, cinnamon or black cardamom. Beef shank takes longer to cook, about 1.5-2 hours. When it's cooked, remove and let it cool.
  • To make the brine: mix 2 cups of fish sauce with 2 cups of sugar (1 fish sauce :1 sugar). Stir well under low heat. Some older recipes might say that you should cook the fish sauce for some times to reduce it a little bit, but I don't like he idea of boiling fish sauce in my house because that will make my kitchen stink for a few days. So just once the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool completely.
  • When the meat has cooled down, wipe it dry with some paper towel and arrange in a jar. Only pour in the fish sauce when the fish sauce is completely cool. Insert some bamboo skewers on top to press the meat down, keeping it submerged in the liquid. Then add a few garlic cloves (remove the core, if any) and chilies. Also add some crushed pepper. It can be eaten in 3 days and you can keep it for 3 weeks
  • For the beef shank, it could turn very hard after some time so I will add 1 cup of vinegar into the mixture. The acid will help tenderize the meat, and it also gives it a nice sour taste later. The rest of the steps I just do the same.
  • On New Year Days, if some guests decide to stay over for lunch or dinner, you can just take out a piece of pork or beef, cut into thin slices and serve them. No more cooking involved! You can serve it as a drinking snack with some pickles or Banh Chung or as side dish together with hot steamed rice. You can also roll it in rice paper together with fresh vegetables.