Make This “Top Chef” Star’s Caramelized Pork Recipe Immediately 

Chef Nini Nguyen taught us how to prepare the Vietnamese and NOLA-inspired dish

May 20, 2022 6:45 am
And make sure to pick up a bottle of Silk and Spice.
And make sure to pick up a bottle of Silk and Spice.
Silk and Spice

After a hot, booze-fueled afternoon strolling around the French Quarter with a Hurricane in tow (obviously), an air-conditioned refuge and a home-cooked meal is the only way to end the evening. 

That was our exact situation a few weeks ago when we headed down to New Orleans to the home of Chef Nini Nguyen — who you might recall from her time on the popular reality cooking competition Top Chef — where we cooked a full NOLA and Vietnamese-inspired spread alongside her. 

After competing on Top Chef: Kentucky and Top Chef: All-Stars, the New Orleans-based chef, instructor and recipe composer is now teaching people how to cook delicious, restaurant rate dishes at home and posts video recipes every week on her Patreon. Nguyen’s specialty? Fusing her Vietnamese roots with the southern panache of New Orleans cooking into some seriously unique, flavorful (and spicy!) dishes we simply couldn’t get enough of. 

We fried catfish on her porch, peeled the biggest papaya we’ve ever laid eyes on and learned how to make Caramelized Pork in Fish Sauce, an unbelievably savory, slightly spicy pork belly that’s been seared and simmered in fish sauce, Thai chilies and molasses. 

Also known as Thit Kho, it’s a comforting, quintessential Vietnamese dish that utilizes many of the ingredients stowed in your pantry. It’s also impressively simple to prepare. Convenient, considering we had been sipping bottles of Silk and Spice — a red wine that happens to pair swimmingly with Nguyen’s pork dish — all night long. 

Chef Nini Nguyen serves Silk and Spice to her dinner guests.
Silk and Spice

“The smoothness of Silk and Spice wine pairs well with the deep flavors of the pork and the subtle spice of this dish,” Nguyen tells InsideHook. 

The Portuguese wine brand offers a shockingly affordable red blend that retails for around ten to thirteen bucks. But don’t let the low price point fool you, Silk and Spice isn’t like other cheap wines (in that, you know, they taste bottom shelf). 

Using grapes of the Syrah, Baga, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional variety, Silk and Spice is bold with spicy notes of black pepper and pink peppercorn, while aromas of blackberries and ripe plums take your nose on a joy ride. It’s an approachable yet complex wine that even the snobs on the popular wine review app Vivino give four stars

So once you’ve purchased a bottle — or six — of this delectable vino, here’s how to make the perfect dish to pair it with:

Caramelized Pork in Fish Sauce (Thịt Kho)

Serves 4


  • 1 onion, sliced (medium)
  • 3 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1.5lbs pork belly (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 Thai Chilies
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs molasses
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Cooked jasmine rice


1. In a heavy bottom pot, sauté the onions and garlic just until aromatic. Then add the pork to the pot and let sear for a couple of minutes.

2. After cooking the pork for about 3 minutes, add the water, Thai chilies, fish sauce, and molasses.

3. Let the pot simmer for about 30 minutes or until the meat is tender and the liquid is reduced.

4. Once it is at this stage add the teaspoon of sugar. Let the liquid reduce all the way and skim the extra fat in the pot if needed. As soon as the pork belly looks caramelized it is done.

5. Serve with hot jasmine rice.


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