Vietnamese Pulled Pork

November 30, 2007 | Chuck
Vietnamese Pulled Pork

A few weeks ago, I had a major craving for pulled pork after seeing this pulled pork sandwich from Simply Recipes. I love any big hunk of meat that is slow-cooked or braised. But after looking at the ingredients in the recipe, I was hesitant to make it because it seemed too vinegary.

I have a low tart tolerance and generally dislike anything with a lot of vinegar. And I have major issues with BBQ sauce, Tabasco and other vinegar sauces that dare call themselves hot sauces, but that's a sore subject for another time. When I have barbecued meat, I make sure the BBQ sauce is on the side. I want to taste the meat first and the sauce second!

Instead of making pulled pork with a traditional vinegar or tomato based sauce, I decided to create a Vietnamese pulled pork with my favorite Vietnamese ingredients. I used the flavors from my mom's braised chicken in caramel sauce with lemongrass and chili peppers (ga kho xa ot) as the inspiration for my pulled pork. My mom's ga kho xa ot is my favorite Vietnamese dish and it's the first thing I eat when I visit my parents.

I decided to make the pulled pork in the oven, since I don't have a reliable outdoor grill. My first attempt at making pulled pork turned out well and the SNDsters enjoyed it. I was pleased with the flavors from the dry rub, caramel sauce, lemongrass, chili peppers and fish sauce. However, I used bad cooking directions from a Food Network chef, who shall remain nameless. But let's just say, the results were far from "ultimate."

After searching for better roasting directions, I found a great article on pork butt selection and preparation. I learned the ideal cooking temperature was 225 to 250 degrees F and the target internal pork temperature was 190 to 205 degrees F.

Using these directions, my second attempt at pulled pork was a bigger success. I was extremely pleased with the texture of the pork and how easily it pulled apart. I oven-roasted a 7.5 lb pork butt at 250 degrees F to an internal temp of 195 degrees F and it took 9 1/2 hours. Yes it's a long time, but it's easy work and definitely worth the wait.

During the roasting process, the fragrance of Chinese five spice, which was used in the dry rub, filled my entire place. The pork developed a nice bark, primarily from the brown sugar in the rub. The pulled pork had a great five spice flavor on its own, but it was even more delicious after the lemongrass caramel sauce was mixed in.

Vietnamese Pulled Pork Sandwich

I was extremely happy with the flavors of my pulled pork. There was a nice combination of sweetness and heat from the caramel sauce and fresh chili peppers. The saltiness of the pork comes from the kosher salt in the dry rub and fish sauce. The flavors are rounded out by the citrus of the lemongrass.

The pulled pork was served as a sandwich with a side of Vietnamese slaw (goi bap cai). Dinner was completed with an amazing sticky date pudding from Bakesale Betty. The slaw and date pudding will be written up in future posts, so I'll hold off describing them for now.

I created Vietnamese pulled pork to satisfy my desire for pulled pork without a heavy, vinegar based BBQ sauce. "Let the pork shine" was my philosophy. Give it a try and tell me what you think.

SNDsters: Eric, Tracy, Mark, Jane, Hungry Bear, Chuck

Oven-Roasted Vietnamese Pulled Pork Recipe

The quantity of lemongrass caramel sauce is enough to coat the pulled pork from a 5 to 7 pound pork butt and impart the flavors of the sauce. If you desire a wet pulled pork, double the sauce amount and reserve half of it. Then, spoon the reserved sauce over the pulled pork when served.

Dry Rub Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons course kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Lemongrass Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
5 tablespoons canola oil
3 medium stalks lemongrass (9 tablespoon), mince in a food processor
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large shallots, minced
6 tablespoons caramel sauce
5 tablespoons fish sauce
5 Thai chili peppers or Serrano pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup low sodium chicken stock

1 (5 to 7 lb) bone-in pork butt, shoulder or Boston Butt
14 - 16 hamburger buns

1) Remove fat cap and trim excess fat from pork butt. Mix dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Apply dry rub evenly over pork butt, wrap in Saran wrap and refrigerate overnight in a roasting pan or on a large plate.

2) Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Place pork butt on the rack of a roasting pan and bake for 75 to 90 minutes per pound. Roast until tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 195 degrees F.

3) Halfway through the estimated cooking time, baste one side with a cotton mop or spoon the basting liquid over pork. Flip the butt over and baste the other side. If desired, repeat basting process one more time, halfway through the remaining cooking time.

4) Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in caramel sauce, fish sauce, chili peppers, and black pepper. Gently simmer for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, return to a simmer for 3 minutes and then set aside.

5) When the pork reaches 195 degrees F, remove from oven. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and rest for 30 minutes. Shred pork by using two forks and pulling apart the meat and discard fat. Put shredded pork in a large bowl. Pour sauce on shredded pork and mix well.

6) Serve pulled pork on a hamburger bun with a side of Asian slaw.

Basting Liquid Recipe

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 chicken stock
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne

1) In a saucepan, heat chicken stock, vinegar, brown sugar, fish sauce, five spice, pepper and cayenne over medium high heat.

2) Simmer gently, stirring for 5 minutes until sugar dissolves. The basting liquid will thicken slightly when removed from heat.

[tags]vietnamese, pulled pork, pork, sandwich, lemongrass, caramel sauce, five spice, spicy, roasted[/tags]

47 Comments on “Vietnamese Pulled Pork”

  1. Nate said:


    Came over to your site from Andrea Nguyen’s “Viet World Kitchen” blog. I smoke pork butt on my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker, usually fixing it according to the “Renown Mr. Brown” recipe out of “Smoke and Spice”. But your recipe looks really good. I wish I had seen it before a recent catering gig I did for some Vietnamese friends of ours.

    I like your blog. You take great pics.

  2. Chuck said:

    Thanks Nate. If you ever try out the pulled pork recipe, let me know what you think. I’m always looking for feedback to make things better.

  3. Lee said:

    Your recipe for pulled pork looks so good. When you bake it for 75 – 90 minutes per pound, is your roaster open or covered?

  4. Chuck said:

    Lee, the pork butt is uncovered. It just sat on a V-rack of a roasting pan.

  5. wonderful pork! I made a similar recipe last week but added orange halves to the roasting pan.

  6. canarygirl said:

    Oh wow….this looks absolutely amazing! Am bokmarking your site to give this one a try! :)

  7. I’m making this right now…I just put the pork butt in the oven an hour ago. I have high hopes! I’ll put some picture of it online when it’s done.

  8. edna lewis said:

    Usually it’s the pictures that get me hungry. Today, it’s words. Your words. Used to describe the pulled pork. Truth be told: I had to stop reading, halfway through, because lunch is at least 90 minutes away and to read any further would be pure torture. But, I will make a shopping list before the end of the day.

  9. Chefectomy said:


    I am blown away at the concept of Vietnamese pulled pork. I will make this and send you some comments. Your site is excellent.

    I just launched my first food blog and aspire to what you are doing here.


  10. Alisa said:

    The picture looks amazing the the decription of the roast sounds delicious.

    Okay, this is a goofy question, but would using a crock pot work instead of oven roasting? I’ve never roasted anything before and don’t know how oven roasting would compare to cooking in the crock pot.

  11. Nic said:

    I cook pulled pork in the crock pot all the time. I will cook it on low for 10-12 hours, then turn it off and let it sit for a few more to cool. Then remove and shred.

    I NEVER use any sort of sauce while cooking it. I’ll add a bit of onion powder and a bit of worcestershire, but that’s it. Sauce should always come AFTER cooking.

  12. Alisa said:

    So then I’d just put on the dry rub and cook it, then put the lemongrass caramel sauce on afterward. Got it.

    Thanks so much Nic. I appreciate it! :)

  13. Philip said:

    Nice recipe and website.

    I usually roast pork butt covered for about ten hours at 225, seasoned just with salt. We serve it on Acme burger buns with shredded carrots, paper-thin cucumbers, cilantro leaves and scallions and a jalapeno/rice vinegar-enhanced mayo. It’s the middle-aged white guy version on banh mi.

  14. Amy said:

    Hello, to my knowledge this is my first time visiting your site.
    Your pulled pork recipe looks divine; I’m always looking for recipes that are different from your typical run-of-the mill ones. One question for you. I really don’t like spicy (spicy hot) foods. Is there anything I could use in place of the chili peppers? I was just thinking of using chili powder to add flavor to it. I don’t want to add fresh chili peppers (although I know deseeding them cuts back on their spiciness) because as said just want to use the chili powder for flavoring.

    Thanks for posting your recipe.

  15. Linda said:

    Thank you for this recipe. I’ll have to try this. It looks delicious.

    For Alisa, you’d probably also want to elevate your pork so that it’s not on the bottom of the crock.

  16. MoBatali said:

    Just Made it!
    Just ate it!
    Sooooooooo sated….
    The carmel sauce took two tries but I think I got close. The lemongrass sauce was great but had to strain out the solids for the gringoes in the house, I did add the pan dripping to the sauce and it was very yummy (who can’t follow a recipe? ME!). My house still smells like it (the rest of the roast is still cooking down even more….hours 7-9) and I thank you so very much! I’ll be dreaming of that for a long time…..I’ll bring the rest to the cooks at PCC tomorrow….they’ll grub!

  17. Spike Cornelius said:

    I just made this with a 3 pound boneless butt, and I gave up after 6 1/2 hours, with the insta-read at 180, most of the time with the oven at 225.
    It still came out very tasty.
    My next move is to bake some halved acorn squash with the pulled pork stuffed into the cavities of the squash.

  18. Spike Cornelius said:

    This pork is so versatile! One night sandwiches, another Squash filling, and tonight an addition to a stir fry!

  19. Argus said:

    Sounds very, very good! Really must try it one day soon. Mmm, how to say pork butt in German? I could end up the laughing stock at the butcher’s. ;-)

  20. It is so attractive that I would like to eat it with my favorite Qingdao beer! I would also like to recommend it to a few classmates about it and encourage them to cook it!

  21. Ahna said:

    Wondering if the 195F is too long. Does it make your pork dry? We are cooking this today. We normally good our pork to 170F.

    I think we are going to have to strain the lemongrass as well. It looks too tough to eat even though we food processed it. What are you thoughts?

    It looks really amazing! Can’t wait to try it!

  22. Chuck said:

    Ahna, the pork will be done at 170F, but it’s not easily shreddable until it reaches 195F. The first time we made this, we stop cooking it at 170F… it’s much better to cook until 195F. It shouldn’t dry out since pork butt is so fatty.

    As far as the lemongrass, it should soften up a little bit when you cook it. It really depends how small it is and how much of the stalk was trimmed. Strain it if you think it’s too tough.

  23. Ahna said:

    OK! This is outstanding! I have never seen my husband so excited to tear into a piece of meat before! I love the sauce too! Wow..the flavors just go together so well. I made the slaw but made a broccoli slaw version. Mmm…so good.

    It took us 12 hours to roast it (our oven was a little cold)…and 2 minutes to eat it! Wow…worth the wait!

  24. Kim said:

    I just made this and it was pretty good. I did it in the slow cooker though and had the traditional cucumber salad to go with. It rocked.

  25. Chris said:

    I noticed that you removed the fat cap from your butt. If you allow the fat cap to remain, until the end of your cooking time, you will have more moisture in your end product. As the fat cap will render down and flow through the meat, carrying the rub in with it. You can remove the fat cap prior to pulling and discard.

  26. Buxtonb said:

    This was an awesome recipe. I cooked it in the crockpot and it turned out great. I did not use the basting sauce, but did use the lemongrass sauce. I served it on French baguettes with mayonaise and brocolli Asian slaw on top. It rocked.

  27. Wow. Looks and sounds really delicious. When I lived in San Francisco, I was addicted to the Vietnamese sandwiches sold down the street from my apartment. Your version is somewhat different, but the flavors remind me of those amazing sandwiches so much, I’ll definitely have to give this recipe a try.

  28. Jean said:

    Wow.. it looks yummy. Can I make it with beef or lamb? I’m allergy to pork.

  29. Made this yesterday – Lovely. Cooked a 6lbs roast 9 hours and wrapped it (heavy foil, double Paper, towel) another hour out of the oven. Shredded nicely.

    I wonder if I made a mistake though. I did not use all the Dry Rub – about half. Still a nice bark on the Pork. Used the Baste and the Lemongrass Caramel Sauce. I think the Lemongrass sauce is a must after you shred the pork. I did strain it after I tested it with some left over Chicken Breast. I used Dry Lemongrass from my Herb Place. All in all this is excellent and will do again. I perhaps will use all the Dry Rub and More Thia Chillies (no fresh available used dried here too).

    Thanks to you guys. You are in my favorites.

  30. Alma said:

    I have never seen a website with better information for novice as well as experienced cooks. I am much closer to novice when it comes to cooking dishes like the ones described here. Eric, Tracy, Mark, Jane, Hungry Bear, Chuck lay everything out with such wonderful descriptions of the process and the pitfalls that I am filled with confidence. I want to try everything I’ve seen on this website. The pictures are world class and the recipes are so well done. I especially enjoy the feedback and replies like the one on this recipe where the writer is toying with the idea of cooking the pork at a lower temperature and Chuck responds that it would make the meat difficult to shred. Wow! Such dedication to your readers.

  31. This pulled pork looks amazing! Yum :)

  32. Chen Liang said:

    This looks absolutely amazing!It is so attractive that I would like to eat it with my wife,who just have given birth to a baby! I would also like to recommend it to our colleagues and friends about it and encourage them to cook it!
    thank you very much!

  33. Frank Mosher said:

    Just made this yesterday, Dec.18/10 and it was excellent!!! Superb!!

  34. Jim said:

    I have a pork shoulder in the oven as i type this. i can’t wait to try your vietnamese style pulled pork, but that will have to wait until next time. like you i’m not fond of the bbq style or the heavy smoke flavor that’s so popular now. i love the bark, and as you know, the cook get’s first pickings. you may want to try a little trick i learned. i put a big pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven and refill it a couple times during the long cooking process. this helps keep the pork moist. thanks!

  35. TarikB said:

    Thank you so much for this recipe slight mishap/disaster involving a Celsius oven that made it a roast pork instead of pulled pork but flavors were still awesome. The lemon grass sauce was the star though, I used the leftovers to do a chicken stir-fry the next day which was also amazing.

    Thanks again.

  36. Michael said:


    The receipe looks amazing. Have you any experience cooking in a smoker or similar in a UDS?

    Regards from Germany


  37. Zira said:

    This sounds absolutely amazing, and I can hardly wait to try it.
    Speaking of certain foodtv chefs…Some of them might be kind of cute, but MANY of his recipes aren’t exactly “ultimate.”
    I’ve had no less than 3 disasters using his recipes, and I won’t use them again.
    Paula Deen’s however, ALWAYS come out great.

  38. jasi said:

    yeah, there are some recipes that have TONS of vinegar. we’re really sensitive to it too. sometimes when it’s fried with meat and veggies it gives off this really strong aroma. it’s not our favorite.

    but this pork roast looks amazing. we make this lemongrass marinade for bbq chicken, shrimp and pork chops so why not, right?! i wonder how many different things we could add it to?

  39. Henry said:

    Always looking for the perfect slow roast, Vietnamese pork butt/pork spare rib recipe. I’m usually a little disappointed with some aspect of my efforts. I am hopeful with this recipe. An internal temperature of 195 degrees is often not enough to achieve total breakdown of fat and desired pullability.
    Pork is in the oven now @225. Seven or so more hours to go. Used Steen’s Pure Cane Syrup (tough to find anywhere but the deep south USA) instead of the caramel along with red onions and fresh lemon grass from the garden for the sauce. It’s very nice, stronger when strained, milder when not. I’m going to make boiled peanuts to eat with the pork. Boiled peanuts yum, I’ve bought them from roadside vendors scooping them out of 55 gallon drums of boiling brine in the rural south and at Vietnamese markets in Centerville, Virginia and Houston, Texas. It’s one of those weird cultural overlaps, like polka music with an accompanying accordian from Mexico and Poland.

  40. A delicious Vietnamese dish. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will try it.


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