dinner/meat/noodles/recipes/vietnamese food

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly Pasta

Posted January 29, 2015 by Stephanie
vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com

Pork belly: without a doubt, it’s a love it or hate it thing and I’m defiantly on the love it side. I have lots of friends that won’t touch the stuff. They think it’s incredibly unhealthy because of all the layers of fat. I get where they’re coming from, but pork belly (when it’s done right) is SO delicious. The people who don’t like belly are the people who don’t like bacon and to me, no bacon equals no life.

Bacon was and still is a must eat for me but pork belly is something I grew to love. Growing up, my mom used to make pork belly but I wouldn’t touch it. It’s not like it was some sort of weird cut of meat that grossed me out, it was just that when I was a kid I was the pickiest eater in all the land and I basically wouldn’t eat meat aside from plain chicken breast.

I was such a brat. The good news is that I pretty much eat everything now. So parents, don’t despair, your picky eaters can and probably will grow up to eat more than just chicken strips and fries (still one of my favorite meals!)

If you do have some picky eaters on your hands and want to expose them to the deliciousness of both pork belly and Vietnamese flavors, you have got to give this Vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta a go. If you haven’t used fish sauce before, don’t worry, it’s not actually that fishy tasting. Think of it as a boosted up, crazy umami packed soy sauce flavor. It’s super flavorful and surprisingly perfect with pasta.

Usually when I make caramelized pork, Mike and I have it with rice, but this pork belly and spaghetti situation happened right before we moved house – I was cleaning out the freezer and found a sad package of on sale pork belly that I stashed away for a rainy day. After a couple of minutes of me staring blankly into the freezer, it came to me: Vietnamese caramelized belly!

That was obvious choice; not so obvious was tossing it with spaghetti, but after after my first few wordless bites, I started OMG-ing. Seriously, seriously good. Sweet and savory chunks of caramelized pork belly, as much black pepper as you can stand, al dente spaghetti and you’ve got yourself a super comforting bowl of deliciousness.

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly Pasta Recipe
serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pound pork belly slices*
  • 2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • lots of black pepper
  • 8-12 ounces spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • sliced green onions

In a cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed pan, add the sugar and melt over medium to medium high heat. Don’t stir, just let the sugar melt and turn a deep caramel brown color, 3-5 minutes.

Add the pork belly, stir and cook until lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the the water, fish sauce, onions and shallots. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat until the liquid is at a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender and the sauce reduces greatly, about 20-30 minutes.

Taste and season with plenty of black pepper. Add the pasta directly into the pan and toss to coat. Garnish with plenty of fresh green onions to add some brightness and enjoy immediately.

Notes: They sell pork belly in a variety of ways – I found the belly I used here at Whole Foods for a super reasonable price (less than $4!). The belly I bought was in about 1/4 inch slices, which I then cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Try to find belly with a reasonable meat to fat ratio.

The kind of fish sauce you use is key. If you’re not familiar with it, start with 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce and season to taste. KEY POINT: Make sure the fish sauce you’re using is transparent. There’s a fermented kind of fish sauce that is an opaque brown and you DO NOT want to use that.

vietnamese caramelized pork belly pasta recipe - www.iamafoodblog.com


  1. Sune Moolman says:

    Pork belly = true love.
    Love that you served it with the spaghetti, looks fabulous!

  2. Quin says:

    Hi Steph, these are some seriously awesome pics you took. Caramelized pork belly is my lazy day food, I’m gonna try with pasta! For extra flavor I often add a bit of coconut water or coconut milk. Hope a thicker texture would also go well with pasta!

  3. Most is us were brats as kiddies; I was chicken hater oddly enough; I only ate ham and white fish. Stephanie, Carbonara ain’t got nothing on this! New must make dish!

  4. molly yeh says:

    this looks unreal! i am a pork belly lover 4 life!

  5. Team pork belly of course. I mean have you met my belly?

  6. derek says:

    I’ve got to ask, what brand is that beautiful skillet? Every time I see it in one of your posts I think, “I have to have that skillet!” Not sure I’d give up on using my 95 year old Griswold, but I’d definitely love to give this one a go. I will be trying this recipe very soon. Thanks.

    1. steph says:

      it’s a finex :)

  7. It’s 6.50am over here and it’s never too early for pork belly, right?

  8. Gosh, this looks crazy good!

  9. alifemoment says:

    wow, your photos are amazing, so clear, well done

  10. Ugh, I do not understand the pork belly haters. If I could eat every meal with pork belly (and not gain a single pound, ehem), I totally would. This recipe looks BOMB.

  11. Abigail says:

    YES! I am so excited for this recipe! My local butcher just had a freezer special and I stocked up on Pork Belly and ground Lamb!

  12. You had me at “caramelized pork belly.” It seems to me that this technique could work well with other reasonably fatty meats too.

  13. celyn says:

    ooh my…this looks so gooood! thank you for sharing – I will definitely be trying this!

  14. cynthia says:

    Oh my goodness. This is all my dreams come true. I can just imagine how deliciously sweet-savory (my faaavvvvvv) it is and how gorgeous the caramelization must be when tossed in the pasta. AHH. I need to make this ASAP! #teamporkbellyFOREVER PS these PHOTOS!!! Beyond incredible, Steph!!

  15. Elyse says:

    Belly pork rocks! Such a great recipe, so trying this.

  16. Izy says:

    Yeah….I’m sad to say I’m a pork belly no-er. It’s not because of trying to be healthy (I mean I eat butter as much as humanly possible hehe) but just the TEXTURE. Even so, I do like it more when it’s not rolled up (easier to remove that fatty layer!) so I would happily involve myself in this pasta situation ;)

  17. i was the pickiest eater ever, too, and now i adore food. it’s props to my parents for persevering with exposing me to all kinds of things i wouldn’t eat back then, that i love now. yay pork belly!

  18. betty says:

    I made this tonight and it was amazing! I added a little garlic with the shallots and cooked them a bit before I added the liquid tho. thank you for sharing this. it’s def going into the roatation.

  19. I pork bellied on instant ramen noodles the other day in a pinch, and it was definitely tasty, so I’m all about the pasta curve ball. Good one, lady! :)

  20. angeline says:

    hello, could you replace sugar in this recipe with rice malt syrup? If so what would be the quantity? I am trying to cut down on sugar, otherwise would love to try this recipe!

    1. steph says:

      i haven’t tried – i’m not sure if it will caramelize. have you every tried caramelizing the malt syrup? i think it would work though, maybe try 2 tablespoons and see how it goes? let me know if it works!

  21. Kathryn says:

    My mother is pork belly hater. I sometimes wonder how we can be related. Would never ever thought of combining it was pasta but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be able to think of eating anything else having seen this.

  22. foodess says:

    You’re a bit of a genius, you know that?!

  23. Ala says:

    How you manage to take these gorgeous photos without burning down your whole kitchen is beyond me. Go, you!! I’ll definitely have to send this recipe along to my friend who is obsessed with pork belly. Cheers!

  24. Oh my. That looks fabulous. I want some now!
    I do love a good pork belly. But couldn’t have it to frequently. More as a treat.
    I have a picky boyfriend. He has been picky since childhood. But it’s veggies he doesn’t eat. Maybe you could post a recipe that will tempt him. Ha!
    Those are some beautiful and amazing pictures too. Thanks for posting xx Dandy

  25. Natasha.Tasha says:

    Wow this is a must do dish!
    I made something similar the other day, but it was just pork belly, leek, onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika and ground ginger. I like using less ingredients but more spices. Looking forward to your next dish!

  26. First of all, you set the bar for photo food porn. omg. And I agree, pork belly when it’s cooked well, aka isn’t chewy but melts in your mouth, is one of the best things on the planet! And when it comes to nutrition, I think pork is as healthy as the animal it came from (just my opinion :) ). Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe, Stephanie!

  27. teresa says:

    Wow, this sounds so good! would this recipe work with another type of meat also?

    1. steph says:

      i haven’t tried with other types of meat but i think as long as it has a relatively high fat content (ie, not chicken breast) it’ll work!

  28. Marcus says:

    This recipe looks AMAZING! Do you think that Capellini pasta would lend itself well to this dish?

    1. steph says:

      yup, any long or short pasta will do!

      1. Marcus says:

        Thanks, Steph! :)

  29. I have got to say.. I have never actually tried pork belly. But I’ve heard good things about it. I want to try it now!

  30. Kelsey M says:

    Woah there. Like woah. I’ve really only ever eaten pork belly in Japanese food but this looks fantastic!

  31. Fergus says:

    Wow great photography!

  32. Mi says:

    I love the spin you did on this dish with the pasta!

    Can’t wait to try it out!

  33. Rayray says:

    I made this tonight. In the words of my toughest food critic (my 2 year old daughter), “Pork belly, Yumm!” Everything was amazing, especially the sauce! My husband and I fought over who would get the leftovers for work tomorrow :).

  34. Betty says:

    I foolishly thought I had pasta in my pantry and find not so I ended up cooking some jasmine rice and it was just as delish. there was also plenty sauce left over for fried rice the next day too.

  35. Marcus says:

    Hi, Steph! Would a Le Creuset cast iron skillet be suitable for this dish? If so, are there any changes I’d need to implement? I know it’s not ideal for dry cooking, so I just want to make sure that I don’t need to coat the surface with any oils, fats, etc before putting in the sugar. :P

  36. Lyn says:

    The pictures look mouth-watering !!:) This is the perfect example of fusion dish:) I heart both spaghetti and pork belly, and the combi is simply perfect.

  37. Kerry says:

    Is there something you could use apart from Fish Sauce in this recipe? I have allergies but so want to try this!

    1. steph says:

      ooh i haven’t tried with anything other than fish sauce – maybe soy sauce would work?

  38. Jason Lee says:

    HORRIBLE DISH! Unlike everyone else who commented saying this looks good, I actually made it. As an avid foodie and having tons of experience in the kitchen this my experience was not fault of poor kitchen skills. Everything was great up until adding the water and fish sauce. The combination with the sugar and pork belly produced an odor that literally had us (three adults) nearly vomiting.

    By far the WORST meal I have ever made. Avoid this (at least the fish sauce) at all costs.

    1. Tripp says:

      If you call yourself a foodie then your not a chef. Your just an ungrateful human that has never really cooked shit in your life. All you do is put other people’s dishes down cause your pallet is is nothing more than a child’s tastebuds….. Do us all a favor and just stick to your box of Mac and cheese

  39. Tim Amey says:

    I made this this evening. It was simple, inexpensive and absolutely delicious!!! I’m so glad I stumbled across this recipe.

  40. Cathy says:

    What camera do you use to take photos? They’re all so great!

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      it’s a nikon d810!

  41. jackie says:

    hi.it’s my first time commenting. i tried this dish when you first uped it on your blog. i found it a tad too sweet for my italian taste buds, but i love trying new stuff. also didn’t know i could comment on your blog. i bought your cook book. it’s really beautiful. my compliments

  42. Kari says:

    This dish was just awful. I had a wonderful piece of pork belly and the only thing in this dish I could taste was the fish sauce (way too much) and the sugar. My house still smells of fish sauce the day after I cooked it. I was not able to eat the dinner neither was my daughter. Maybe if your into fish sauce and sugar this dish would work.

  43. Michael says:

    I love this blog, and this dish is clearly super dank, but I’d like to point out one thing. Fish sauce is not really a condiment that you can season to taste, because the funky, fishy gross smell doesn’t cook out immediately, so once you commit to adding more fish sauce to a dish, you should cook it for another five minutes or so to get some of that funk out and leave only the beautiful umami flavors. If you’ve never used it before, start with the fish sauce, and then, if at the end your dish isn’t salty enough, just add some soy sauce or salt, rather than a splash of fish sauce, at least if you don’t particularly like, or are not used to that fishy funkiness, but want a particularly savory dish. Otherwise, though, this dish is magic.

  44. Heidi says:

    I made this tonight…it smells great, but looks not so good!
    As soon as I added the pork to the pan, it started to broil…not caramelise, which I suspected it would.
    Tastes nice, but next time I will do it my way.

  45. Polly says:

    I just made this. It was really quite tasty. I had some left over pork belly from a roast yesterday and sliced it very thinly (more like ramen size). Added it in after the sauce had reduced somewhat and left it to cook slowly. The pork was obscenely melty delicious. I also added a little bacon to top up the pork. Added a really lovely smokiness to the dish.

    Thanks for posting.

  46. L Collins says:

    Made this last night and it was incredible! perfection

  47. Ethan says:

    I like pasta and this recipe is very unique! I love it

  48. Celene says:

    This was absolutely delicious. I didn’t use the shallots. I used Ramen type noodles instead of spaghetti. I added a fried egg on top along with a little bit of chili oil.

  49. Jessica says:

    This recipe is a crowd pleaser!

  50. Kelly says:

    I made this and it was absolutely to die for!!!! If you have any other side pirk recipes please send me some. Thanks

  51. Corky Akins says:

    What brand of fish sauce is the best for this recipe?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i love red boat fish sauce :)

  52. Paige says:

    Thank you for the recipe! I am sharing an honest commend for other people’s favor.
    I like fish sauce as a touch but this was way way too much fish sauce. The whole kitchen smelled like fish sauce, and it was very unexpected. It was almost traumatizing. I’d avoid adding fish sauce. After boiling the pork for half an hour, fish smell went away from food to the house. It tasted sugary and good but I don’t see the benefit of adding fish sauce after the smell. I wouldn’t make this again.

  53. Wha? says:

    Why do people leave reviews like”this looks great gonna cook it tonight”? How about you make it then post your review? I have to read through 20 kissup responses to realize no one has actually made it. Are you folks just so bored with life or what? Please tell me what I am missing.

  54. Wren says:

    I stumbled on your blog purely by accident. I was attracted to the photo of the entrée. I am so glad I searched the web until I found that there is an actual recipe. It was so easy to prepare and very tasty! My husband and son really enjoyed this dish. My husband worried that won’t be any leftovers for his next day lunch. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Looking forward to cooking other dishes from your blog.

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi wren,
      thanks so much for leaving comment! so happy you and your family liked the pasta. it’s one of my faves, for sure! :)

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