Pork Simmered in Coconut Milk

Pork Simmered in Coconut Milk (Vietnamese)

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, with
    some fat and skin attached (see notes)
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 small or 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoon fish sauce (see note), plus more to taste
5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) canned coconut milk,
    shaken, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more to taste
6 hardboiled eggs, shelled

Cut pork into cubes, about 1 1/2 inches each. Combine 2 teaspoons salt with about 2 cups water in a large bowl. Add pork and soak about 20 minutes. Rinse well in cold water and set aside.

In a small heavy skillet or saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Stir to dissolve and place over medium to medium-low heat. Bring to a boil and cook, watching carefully, until it is deep brown but not burned. Set aside.

In a large pot, saut? shallots in about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, just until slightly softened. Add pork cubes and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add caramel from the skillet (if caramel has hardened, add a little hot water to dissolve it again.) Add fish sauce, coconut milk, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 cups water. Add the eggs, pushing down into the sauce. Cover and cook over medium-low heat about 1 hour.

Remove lid and taste sauce, adding additional sugar, fish sauce or coconut milk if needed. Leaving lid off, cook about 30 minutes. Remove pork and eggs with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl. Increase heat to high and boil remaining sauce for several minutes to reduce. Pour over pork and eggs and serve.

NOTES: The fat and skin are left on the pork while it cooks, to moisten the meat, and are removed as the dish is eaten. Other cuts from the pork shoulder, such as butt, can be substituted. Fish sauce is available in Asian stores and in some well-stocked supermarkets.

Yields 4 to 6 servings.