Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly is a vegan take on a Vietnamese classic home food called Thịt Kho Tàu. A taste of my childhood: sweet, savory, full of umami flavors and made so simple!
What is Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly?
Braised Pork Belly (Thịt Kho tàu) is one of my childhood dishes! It is a staple in many Vietnamese households, and is eaten all year round, especially on Lunar New Year. The recipe features pork belly in a sweet, savory caramelized sauce and serves with a bowl of white rice.
There are some differences between the Northern and Southern versions of this dish:
- In Northern Vietnam: The Northern version has smaller chunks of pork belly, adds eggs and the sauce is more savory.
- In Southern Vietnam: The Southern version has bigger chunks of pork belly and braises the pork belly in coconut water, which makes the sauce sweeter.
Veganizing this Pork Belly dish
My plant-based take on Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly is inspired by many Vietnamese food creators. I saw many uses rehydrated TVP and coconut mix with tapioca starch. I have tried this with both tofu and TVP, and the TVP works better in sticking between the layers. This version of vegan pork belly is similar to how I remember it: full of umami flavors and memories of my childhood 🥰🥰🥰
For the full instruction and video on how to make Vegan Pork Belly using tofu, click on this blog post!
How to make the Vegan Pork Belly
The Vegan Pork Belly composes of three parts: the lean 'meat', the 'pork skin' and the coconut 'pork fat'.
To make the lean 'meat', you will need:
- Firm tofu or TVP: the tofu or TVP has a firm, chewy texture that works well as a meat alternative.
- If you use tofu: press the tofu to remove the excess water, then fry until golden brown.
- If you use TVP: rehydrate the TVP and squeeze out excess water, then fry until golden brown.
If you use TVP:
To make the coconut 'pork fat', you will need to mix tapioca starch, flour and coconut milk and simmer on low heat until thickened. This mixture creates a fatty, creamy paste that helps stick the lean meat, pork skin and fat layers of the vegan pork belly.
To make the pork skin, you can use either a baguette or tofu skin.
After creating the two parts, we layer the tofu/TVP together with the coconut pork fat and skin. Full the full instructions and details, click here!
How to make the sauce
Then we braise the vegan pork belly in a sweet, savory sauce made with classic Vietnamese ingredients:
- Sugar: adds sweetness to the dish
- Onion, garlic, and chili: for the aromatics
- Soy sauce: adds a deep, savory flavor
- Mushroom seasoning
- Black pepper: a hint of peppery
- Coconut water (optional): creamy, sweet taste. In the Northern part of Vietnam, we use water whereas Southern part uses coconut water. I do prefer this dish with coconut water as it adds a subtle hint of creamy, nutty flavors but this dish also tastes great without.
First, fry the pork belly pieces in oil until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a plate and set aside.
In a pan or pot, add 3 tablespoon sugar and 50 ml of water. Mix until caramelized and bubbly then lower the heat.
Put in the minced aromatics (shallots and garlic) and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
Put the vegan pork belly to the pan and mix with the caramelized sauce.
Add all seasonings (soy sauce, mushroom seasoning (or salt), and black pepper) and 200 ml water. Mix together and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes with the lid closed.
Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with green onions and chili slices.
How to serve Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly?
Enjoy this Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly with a side of white rice and other vegetable side dishes or soups. The deep, savory taste of this dish is perfectly complemented by the warm, fluffy white rice and other vegetables.
Another option is that you can serve this with Mung Beans Sticky Rice (Xôi đậu xanh) on the side.
Storage: The recipe keeps well in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
If you have tried my recipe, please let me know what you think by leaving me a review on this page or tagging me on Instagram @veggieanh. I would love to see your creations!Print
Vegan Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly - Thịt kho tàu chay
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minute
- Yield: 2 people 1x
A plant-based take on a traditional Vietnamese recipe. Vegan 'pork belly' with a sweet and savory caramelized sauce is a staple in Vietnamese households.
Step 1: Vegan pork belly (see full recipe at https://veggieanh.com/vegan-pork-belly/)
Pork fat layer (Coconut Tapioca mixture)
- 100 g rice flour
- 120 g tapioca starch
- 200 ml coconut milk
- 300 ml water
Lean meat layer
- TVP slices: 8 TVP slices (could be more, depending on the size of the TVP)
- oil for frying
Pork skin layer (bread)
- 1 small baguette (or cut the baguette into a slice)
- OR 1 small sheet of yuba (tofu skin)
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 50 ml water
- ½ onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 chili
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp mushroom seasoning
- black pepper
- 200 ml water or coconut water
- green onion
Make the vegan 'pork belly'
To make the 'lean meat' layer
- Dehydrate the TVP slices by pouring hot water on them and letting them sit for 20 minutes.
- Drain and rinse and squeeze out excess water out of the TVP slices.
To make the coconut 'fat' layer
- On a pan on low heat, combine the rice flour, tapioca starch, coconut milk and water.
- Keep mixing the mixture until it forms a thick white paste, that is very similar to pork fat. This takes about 5-10 minutes.
To make the pork skin layer
- Rehydrate the tofu skin sheet by pouring hot water on top until softened (about a few minutes).
Make the Vegan Pork Belly
- To make the vegan pork belly, layer the 3 layers together: bread 'skin' in the bottom, followed by a thick layer of the coconut 'fat', 'lean meat' (tofu or TVP slcies), coconut 'fat' and 'lean meat' tofu. The coconut 'fat' in between each layer will help the layers stick together.
- Wrap the vegan pork belly tightly with aluminium foil and steam for 25-30 minutes.
- Afterwards, chill the vegan pork belly in the fridge for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- Cut into thin slices that resemble 'pork belly' slices.
Make the sauce
- Finely chop the onion, garlic, and chili pepper.
- Add oil to a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, fry the vegan pork belly until both sides are golden, then remove from heat.
- On a pot or pan, add some water and the sugar on medium heat, and stir vigorously until the sugar melts and you are left with a caramelized sauce.
- Back to the pot, add the minced onion, garlic and chili and stir for 1-2 minutes on low heat.
- Add in the fried vegan pork belly slices.
- Add 3 tablespoon soy sauce, black pepper, mushroom seasoning, coconut water (can sub with water) and mix well.
- When the mixture starts to come to a boil, bring to a low simmer for 10 minutes with the lid closed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the vegan 'pork belly' on a plate, garnish with green onions and chili slices. Serve with a bowl of rice and enjoy!
Leftover can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days.
The details on this recipe excludes the time to chill the pork belly in the fridge before cooking.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Make the vegan pork belly: 50 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Main Course
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: vietnamese
Keywords: comfort food, lunar new year, vegan, vietnamese
thank you so much for this recipe! to make the sauce, you mention adding the pork belly twice (in steps 5 and 7). do we add the pork belly before the soy sauce mix or after?
Veggie Anh says
Hi, thanks for your question. My bad, add the vegan pork belly before the soy sauce!
Veggie Anh says
I made the change to the blog post. Add the vegan pork belly in step 5.