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shoulder season

Recipe: vietnamese grilled lemongrass pork (thit heo nuong xa)


My wonderful friend, Jennie, lives in New York City and has a great post with links on how to help with relief efforts as the city tries to recover from Hurricane Sandy. If you are so inclined, please click on over. Thank you! xo

And a reminder to please GO AND VOTE on Tuesday if you haven’t already voted! Thank you, again!


We set our clocks back Saturday night and the morning felt much brighter when we woke up. Of course, come sunset (and it came fast and early) Kaweah was already petitioning for her dinner two hours early. Jeremy dreads the overall shortening of the daylight hours and I think he makes it worse by counting the days. He told me this evening that it will be six weeks until the shortest day of the year and then another six weeks to get back to the amount of daylight we have right now. Well, yes – this is how it works with the Earth and the Sun. I accept the reduced daylight hours as long as there is some snow in the deal. I want my snow, please. If we get another repeat of last year’s lame snow season, I’ma gonna spit.

But before sunset jumped to 5:00 pm (and I’ll not complain since my girlfriend in Alaska is dealing with far more drastic diurnal shifts), we put our 5-6pm time slot to good use. On our 20 year smoochiversary, we went to Frasca for dinner, because it’s Jeremy’s favorite restaurant in Colorado. Who am I to tell him no?

brussels sprouts, duck prosciutto, pickled turnip salad (jeremy had pumpkin soup)

polenta-stuffed pasta with rabbit and chanterelles

my pork four ways: tenderloin, belly, bacon with spaetzle, and sausage

jeremy’s beef four ways: ribeye, marrow, beef cap, and carpaccio

fig hazelnut frangipane tart (me), pumpkin upside down cake with caramelized pecans (jeremy)

And we enjoyed the last of the evening walkies with Kaweah. For the next few months they will have to be afternoon walkies. We have some nice local trails around our neighborhood that have seen improvements over the years. I love trails so much. LOVE them. We were delighted to see another extension of a Boulder Parks and Open Space trail network finished. Kaweah was happy to give it the sniff down too.

yay! new trails!

and home in time for the last colors of the day

on the horizon

As I have indicated (read: complained), we haven’t had a whole lot of snow yet. When I say snow, I mean enough snow to last the winter and spring. The trails we slogged through last week are now dry or have a thin layer of ice at best. It’s been sunny and warm. Ahhh, shoulder seasons… So instead of sulking about, wishing for ski season to start already, I sulk about and run the trails. And I’m sulking and grilling. Actually, I’m not really sulking, because this Vietnamese grilled lemongrass pork (thit heo nuong xa) is crazy good.

pork shoulder, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, oil, pepper, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, fish sauce

roughly chopped garlic, shallots, and lemongrass with light brown sugar

pop the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and sugar into a blender or food processor

Whenever I’m at a Vietnamese restaurant and I order bun (rice noodles), I’m always given the option of beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp. Pork, please. I am a pork girl. This is a result of me being 1) Chinese and 2) from southern Virginia. Pork is king in my book. Earlier in the year, I learned to make Vietnamese bun bo xao (beef rice noodle salad), which is fantastic. But a small detail nagged at me for the past few months… why not make the pork version?

chop the ingredients until well-blended

add the dark soy sauce and other ingredients

thick and almost paste-like

I finally got around to finding a good recipe on Andrea’s site and discovered that it’s really very easy to do! It’s one of those “why didn’t I do this sooner?!” things. Well, I’m glad I’m doing it now. I am addicted. And happy. Call me a happy addict. Vietnamese grilled lemongrass pork is super easy. Like Andrea, I prefer dark meat and used pork shoulder, but you can use pork loin if that is easier or preferable. I also opt to marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator rather than one hour at room temperature.

slice the pork into wide strips about 1/2-inch thick

place the pork and marinade in a ziploc bag or a bowl

seal the deal

You can skewer the pork if you like, but my slices were large enough that they grilled just fine across the grate without dropping into the abyss. If I can avoid making extra dishes to wash, I will. Over high heat on our grill, these cooked up in about six minutes (three minutes a side). They smelled heavenly. I brought them in, let them rest, and sliced them up to serve.


a lovely deep color

slicing makes the eating easier

This pork is great on steamed rice, fried rice, in soups, in banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich), on rice noodle salad (bun), or just sneaking pieces from the serving plate when no one is looking (except the dog – she’s ALWAYS watching). I had to have it on a bowl of rice noodles with heaps of fresh vegetables, pickled vegetables, herbs, chopped peanuts, fried shallots, and nuoc cham (you can find the recipe for the beef version here). Even though I’m waiting for snow, this pork is one heck of a fantastic consolation prize.

pouring nuoc cham

oh pork, is there anything you can’t do?

Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork
[print recipe]
from Viet World Kitchen

1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, ~3-4 inches wide
1 1/2 tbsps light brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp shallots, chopped
3 tbsps lemongrass, chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (or thick soy sauce)
1 1/2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp flavorless vegetable oil

[You can use pork loin for this recipe, but I prefer pork shoulder for better flavor.] Slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick slices. They should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 inches wide, but go with what works for you. Place the pork in a ziploc bag or a bowl. Put the light brown sugar, garlic, shallots, and lemongrass into a blender or food processor and blend or pulse into a fine texture. Add the black pepper, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and vegetable oil to the blender or food processor and blend or pulse until combined (just a few zaps should do it). If you don’t have a blender or food processor handy, you can finely mince the garlic, shallots, and lemongrass by hand and stir in the rest of the marinade ingredients. Pour the marinade into the ziploc bag or bowl and mix until the pork slices are evenly coated. Seal the bag or cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. Andrea says you can let it sit on the counter to marinate for an hour instead, but I like the 24-hour dealio. If you refrigerated the pork, pull it out 45 minutes prior to cooking. Grill the pork slices on a medium-high to high grill. Flip the pieces after 3-4 minutes and cook until done (about 3-4 minutes more, depending on the heat of your grill). Take the pork off the grill and tent with foil for ten minutes to rest the meat. Slice the pork and serve on bun (rice noodles) or over rice or in banh mi… whatever sounds good to you! [Go to this link for the bun (rice noodle salad) recipe.]

27 nibbles at “shoulder season”

  1. Kristin says:

    Oh…and I was just at the Asian market yesterday! Back I go to get some lemongrass. Pork bun is my & my son’s favorite and, if I make it at home, I can put in more mint & fried shallots!! There are never enough of those. Can’t wait to try this one!

  2. Ali says:

    We took the kids out for Vietnamese for the first time on Saturday and the pork bun was what I ordered. Absolutely my favourite! Thanks for the easy to make at home version.

  3. Irene from Rollinsville says:

    Where’s the new trail? I’m always looking for new trails in the shoulder season….

  4. Susan says:

    Looks absolutely amazing, Jen.
    Will definitely be making this.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Happy Anniversary to you and Jeremy!

  5. @Shopaholicinvan says:

    I can totally vouch for this recipe having made it 4 times in the last couple of months. It tastes just like the pork you get at a local Vietnamese restaurant. This recipe also works if you used pork shoulder with bone in. Makes an amazing pork steak to serve with rice and nuoc Cham.

    My local supermarket also sold pre-minced lemongrass; which will convenient, lacks the depth of flavor.

    We love this recipe and thank you for reminding me to make it again soon.

    Happy anniversary to you and Jeremy! :)

  6. Melissa says:

    Happy happy again! And always.

    Re. pork: YES PLEASE.

  7. Fiona says:

    Big storm coming here by Friday. So I think you’re in for a nice snow storm over the weekend. I’ll look forward to ski photos.

    Meanwhile: PORK! Yum.

  8. Kath the Cook says:

    Oh my! Yours looks soooo wonderful. I make a version of this from Gourmet but your meat prep is simpler and sounds awesome. (mine involves caramelizing sugar, lime juice, shallots, fish sauce, etc.) I’m going to try yours – my work people love it when we have “noodle day” (bun with pork).

  9. Diana says:

    Yum! My mom makes this & since I live 2 1/2 hours away from her now, thanks to you, I no longer have to drive all that way to eat it :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. Nicola says:

    I just bought a beautiful brand new BBQ, with great heat. I can hardly wait to try this and many of your other recipes. CANNOT WAIT! Thank goodness we’re moving into our summer season (never have I said this before, because I don’t like the South Australian heat), for many chances to taste your genius, all the way Down Under.

  11. zingara says:

    the final dish photo looks like what is served in vietnamese restaurants here but it’s called “bun tiet nuong”. the sauce is called “nuoc mam”. we LOVE it. we eat vietnamese at least 3 or 4 times a month & i always order it.

  12. Kevin (Closet Cooking) says:

    That is one tasty looking pork bowl!

  13. Jill says:

    mmmm…..this weekend!

  14. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    My mouth is watering. This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. I suppose I should grill some before the weather changes or at least head to New Saigon. Great recipe. I can never get to much Vietnamese. Happy anniversary. I’m not sure there is a better place to celebrate.

  15. Debbie says:

    Great photos of the food…absolutely mouth watering! I dread this time of year when the clocks go back…..I’m already counting the days till spring! I just made your cannellini bean kale sausage stew and it is delicious…….thank you…thank you…..thank you!!!!

  16. Margie says:

    I love me some pork, and this recipe is OFF DA WALL! I’m bookmarking, fer sure, fer sure. (The search is on for some lemongrass. I neglected mine, or rather, the drought of 2011 caused it’s demise. Must score me some soon.)

  17. angelitacarmelita says:

    For the record, no, there isn’t anything pork cannot do. There, I said it. I can’t wait to try this…. love me some pork!

  18. Ellen says:

    DAMN girl

  19. Jenny says:

    I made this tonight – OUT OF THIS WORLD! Hubby loved them – so did Andrew!

  20. jenyu says:

    Kristin – yeah, it’s my fav too! :)

    Ali – you’re welcome, dear.

    Irene – it’s Mud Lake, but it’s just a new little section that they finally finished (but it’s nice and Kaweah likes “new” trails).

    Susan – thank you! xo

    Shopaholicinvan – thanks!

    Melissa – :)

    Fiona – no ski photos, sadly! Perhaps you should send YOURS to me? ;)

    Kath – mmmmmm!

    Diana – aw, so sweet.

    Nicola – I hope you enjoy it. Even though I have experienced Australia’s heat first hand, it’s quite a wonderful place to be :)

    zingara – it’s what I always order too!

    Kevin – :) yum!!

    Jill – yay! Did you make it or did your sister? xo

    Abbe – Ha, we grill year round!! :) And thanks – Frasca is awesome <3

    Debbie - oh yay, so happy to hear it. That's a great stew (and we should all thank Kalyn!!)

    Margie - I'm jealous you were growing your own!

    angelitacarmelita - ha ha, LOVE that sentiment :)

    Ellen - c'mon over, I'll make you some. xo

    Jenny - YAY!! xo

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  22. Angie says:

    It was a big hit, we loved it!

  23. Irna says:

    We always order this pork at our local vietnamese restaurant in Cairns Australia, so I was delighted to come across it in your blog. I’ve got mine marinating at the moment, waiting to be grilled.

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  27. Lizzie says:

    Bloody delicious. I did with chicken because that’s what I had on hand, but looking forward to trying it with pork.

    Yum yum yum.

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