Here's yet another use for pork shoulder if you're looking for something besides porchetta, pulled pork, or carnitas. Vietnamese cuisine has various preps for pork shoulder, and I decided to try a recipe from a new, basic Viet cookbook for braised pork w/ young coconut (lon kho nuoc dua). I've also seen it labeled as "thit heo" instead of "lon." See photo below and link to a few more photos.
The cookbook is called Vietnamese Home Cooking and it's a collaboration by Robert Carmack, Didier Corlou, and Nguyen Thanh Van. Never heard of any of these people, but Corlou and Nguyen are chefs at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi. Lots of general info demystifying Viet cookery, photos aplenty, and good home-style dishes that aren't always available in US restaurants. Really like the book so far and highly recommend it for those who are intimidated by cooking Viet food at home.
I never grew up w/ this exact pork dish, but my mom made something similar w/ spare ribs and eggs. This dish hails from the South. Note that this is made w/ unsweetened young coconut juice NOT coconut milk or cream. The kind of fresh juice that you buy from a yoke vendor as you wander the streets in Vietnam. Very refreshing...
Overall, I was happy w/ how the dish turned out. The pork was decidedly porky, but had a salty-sweet angle from the fish sauce, coconut water, and sugar. Turned out wonderfully caramelized (and you know how I love that!). Pork was extremely soft and tender, and the hard-cooked egg added a homey-ness and further richness to the dish. The coconut juice seemed to evaporate during the long braising process, but its unique essence was there. Next time, I might add some chili during cooking, as well as lemongrass.
Here's the recipe that I modified from the book:
Braised Pork w/ Young Coconut (lon kho nuoc dua)
1.5 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1" cubes
2 TB sugar
3-4 young coconuts or about 4 c. coconut water
2 TB canola or vegetable oil
1/4-1/2 c. fish sauce, to taste
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1 fresh long red or green chili, seeded and thinly sliced
coarsely chopped Chinese chives and green onions
Sprinkle pork w/ sugar and refrigerate for 1 hr. Use cleaver to remove top of coconuts and drain water. If desired, scoop flesh from inside, cut into small dice, and reserve.
In a medium pot or saute pan, heat oil over med. heat and brown pork on all sides. If meat begins to burn due to sugar, then add a little coconut water. Add fish sauce, remaining coconut water, and reserved flesh if using. Bring to boil and reduce to very low heat. Partially cover and gently simmer til pork is tender and liquid is reduced by half, about 2-2.5 hrs. Check every 30 min. to make sure liquid hasn't reduced too much. If so, you can add more coconut water, tap water, or chicken broth.
Add hard-cooked eggs for last 30 min. of cooking. Garnish w/ chili, chives, and green onion before serving. I served w/ broken jasmine rice and sauteed pea shoots. A light Vietnamese soup or "canh" would be a nice digestive at end of meal.