After a hot, booze-fuelled afternoon strolling through the French Quarter with a hurricane in tow (obviously), an air-conditioned retreat and a home-cooked meal is the only way to end the evening.
That was our exact situation a few weeks ago when we went to New Orleans to Chef Nini Nguyen – who you may remember from her time on the hit reality cooking competition top chef – where we cooked a full NOLA and Vietnamese inspired spread alongside her.
After a match on Top Chef: Kentucky and Top Chef: All-StarsThe New Orleans-based chef, instructor and recipe composer is now teaching people how to prepare delicious, restaurant-worthy dishes at home and posting video recipes on her website every week. Patreon† Nguyen’s specialty? Fusing her Vietnamese roots with the Southern panache of New Orleans cooking into some seriously unique, flavorful (and spicy!) dishes that we just couldn’t get enough of.
We fried catfish on her porch, peeled the biggest papaya we’ve ever seen, and learned how to make Caramelized Pork in Fish Sauce, an incredibly savory, mildly spicy pork belly seared and simmered in fish sauce, Thai peppers, and molasses.
Also known as Thit Kho, it’s a comforting, quintessential Vietnamese dish that uses many of the ingredients stashed in your pantry. It’s also impressively easy to prepare. Handy, since we had been drinking bottles? Silk and spices – a red wine that goes well with Nguyen’s pork dish all night.
“The smoothness of Silk and Spice wine pairs well with the deep flavors of the pork and subtle spices of this dish,” Nguyen tells InsideHook.
The Portuguese wine brand offers a shockingly affordable red blend that sells for around ten to thirteen dollars. But don’t be fooled by the low price, Silk and Spice is not like other cheap wines (in that, you know, they taste bottom shelf).
Using grapes from the Syrah, Baga, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional varieties, Silk and Spice is bold with spicy notes of black pepper and pink peppercorns, while aromas of blackberry and ripe plum take your nose on a joy ride. It’s an accessible yet complex wine that will make even the snobs on the popular wine review app Vivino give four stars†
So once you have bought 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)
- 1 onion, chopped (medium size)
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1.5 pounds pork belly (cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 2 Thai peppers
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp molasses
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp sugar
- Boiled jasmine rice
1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, sauté the onions and garlic until aromatic. Then add the pork to the pan and sear for a few minutes.
2. After the pork has cooked for about 3 minutes, add the water, Thai chillies, fish sauce and molasses.
3. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced.
4. Once it is at this stage, add the teaspoon of sugar. Let the liquid reduce completely and skim the extra fat from the pan if necessary. Once the pork belly looks caramelized, it’s ready.
5. Serve with warm jasmine rice.
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.