Tom Khem, Sweet Salted Pork Stew With Hard Boiled Eggs…

Since I first started writing this blog, one of the most requested dishes from my followers (believe it or not, I do have a following!) is Tom Khem, loosely translated as Sweet Salted Pork Stew with Hard Boiled Eggs. I totally understand how my generation would miss this homemade goodness, because it is nowadays rarely made the way our grandmothers and mothers make it. Its secret (ready for it?) lies in the making of the caramel, which is one of the hardest steps of this dish. It takes experience and a load of patience! I have seen people use oyster sauce and thick soy sauce to give it its golden brown signature color, but this method also alters its original taste. As a matter of fact, I tend to be weary of the authenticity of any Lao dish that calls for oyster sauce and soy sauce, as these ingredients did not make it to Laos until recently when the Chinese influence began to flood our market…

This dish also has counterparts in neighboring countries. For example the Vietnamese version uses various spices such as cinnamon and I’ve seen star anises, too. I have also seen some Thai version, which consists of purely hard boiled eggs simmered in the sauce. Our Lao version, the one I have grown up eating and making, however, is fairly straightforward with a short list of ingredients, its stars really being the fatty pork and hard boiled eggs. It usually requires the pork belly meat, layered with fat with skin still attached. Since I try to be health conscious, considering the amount of sugar and oil that goes into making its sauce, I usually opt for the pork shoulder, cut country style: it still has some fat, but most definitely leaner.

This is invariably a dish that makes my 10 year-old ask for a second helping of steamed rice, over which he pours the golden brown sauce and eat with a spoon! I hope you enjoy this family recipe!

Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, country style, cut into 2 inches chunks
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled, lightly crushed
  • 2 inches of ginger, halved, and lightly crush to release fragrance
  • 3 tbs of fish sauce

How to make Tom Khem:

SugarPour into a pot oil and sugar

CaramelCaramelize sugar on medium to low heat, adjusting so that it slowly turns golden brown, and be careful NOT to burn the sugar!

Add garlic and gingerAdd garlic and ginger

Add porkAdd pork and coat all sides evenly with caramel and add water. Bring to boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Add eggsStir in gently hard boiled eggs, add fish sauce, and submerge them in sauce

SimmerStir occasionally to ensure even coating of the eggs with the sauce, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes

DoneServe with steamed rice and enjoy!

Pork belly thom khemAnd sometimes, I do give in and make it with ‘moo saam sunh’ (three layer pork) or pork belly. My boys would go for triple servings and skip dessert altogether!

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28 Responses to Tom Khem, Sweet Salted Pork Stew With Hard Boiled Eggs…

  1. phane says:

    thanks for this family recipe!

  2. enjoywithjoy says:

    Philippines has a similar dish too Pork Adobo with Hard Boiled Egg but the difference is we use vinegar and there is also a lot of different version it depends on where you are from. I think the end result is one delicious comfort food that your grandmother will be proud of.

    • Yes, I agree that this is the ultimate comfort food! I also make this recipe with chicken. I have never tried to make adobo, but have had enjoyed plenty at Lola’s (my sister in laws’ mom), but have never seen it with eggs!

  3. Molly says:

    This is my all time favorite dish. My mom makes it out of this world.

  4. Souk says:

    When do u add the fish sauce?

  5. Tina chansouk says:

    I heard its better to use soysauce??

    • Hi Tina! I have never used soy sauce in mine, but please feel free to experiment and adapt the recipe to meet your taste and dietary preference! Cooking is an art, so its beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Have fun!

  6. Ali says:

    Thanks for sharing. I grew up eating this dish at my friends house. I’ve been searching all over for a recipe to make tom khem. I ate this dish as often as possible when I was in Laos.

    • I am glad you found the site! Tom Khem is such a simple dish, but surprisingly not that many people know how to make it. It is most definitely a comfort food. Let me know if you test the recipe and how it turns out! Hope your trip to Laos was enjoyable. I so long to return, it can’t come soon enough!

  7. Omg, you’re killing me over here with all these recipes! This is one of my faves. I especially loved it after Humnoy was born and needed some Lao homemade goodness. I didn’t realize it was so easy!

    • I know, right? Give it a try as your weekly Lao food challenge and let me know how it turns out! This is on the sweet side, so adjust your sugar amount to your liking! Happy to run into another Lao blogger from Seattle :)

  8. Latda says:

    This looks wonderful, I can’t wait to try this out! When my parents are on vacation to Laos (and they are there often now that Dad retired), I always crave for some good thom khem but can never find it anywhere and I have no clue how to make it. I’ll try this and also ask my mom how she makes hers. I am going to start up a blog myself (one day, ONE day! :) with all my mom’s traditional Lao cooking! Project 2013! :)

    Thanks!

    • Hello! Welcome to the House on the Mekong! I am glad to hear that you will give this recipe a try. Let me know how it turns out when you do and I hope that it will taste half as good as your mom’s: no matter how old we get, our mom’s cooking is still what brings us ‘home’. Do share your blog once you start one. I love learning tricks and about how others cook traditional dishes, especially with regional variations. What part of Laos is your family from?

  9. I add tomatoes to mine, to give it a little sour taste to it. I have a strange recipe, I know.

    • Vinya, when do you add tomatoes? I can imagine the taste, as it is similar to how I make the sauce for khua mii. This would be interesting to try! By the way, I am still waiting for your recipe of green papaya salad with THE secret ingredient ;)

  10. Kavy says:

    Thanks for sharing. I had a craving and didn’t know how to make it. Now I can try it tomorrow after I get the pork belly. Yum!

    • Pork belly is the best component of this ultimate comfort food! Glad you found the site and welcome to the House on the Mekong! Please share feedbacks if you have time! Enjoy!

  11. Latda says:

    Hi! I was so busy with the holidays I completely forgot to check up on your site. Your site is wonderful, thank you for allowing us into your home and helping us create these wonderful traditional Lao dishes. You are absolutely right, as many times as I’ve made kapoon, neim kao or larb, it doesn’t taste as good as mom’s cooking. I will definitely share my blog once it’s up.

    My parents are yet again in Laos vacationing. My Dad called yesterday to tell my sister and I that him and my mom arrived safely in Bangkok, Thailand. They will spend the night there before flying to Udon and driving into Laos today. I’m so jealous! My mom is from a small village from Luang Prabang and my dad is from a small village called Napo (spelling may be off) which is towards the south heading to Pakse. They stay in Vientiane and Luang Prabang a lot when they travel.

    When they return from their trip I plan on following my mom around for a few weeks and ask her to whip up some of my favorite traditional Lao dishes. I’ve invested in a Flip camera so I can video tape her throughout the process. I plan on taping everything from grocery shopping to her “hand” measurements and how she cooks and prepares each dish. I cannot wait to share with you once I complete my blog! :)

    • So looking forward to your contribution to Lao cuisine! Since our traditional food and methods of cooking are still so unknown to the world, anything each one of us can do to render it justice and to bring it to the forefront will be much appreciated. I am happy to hear that you will invest time in learning and really rolling up your sleeves. Our generation owes it to the world and to the younger generations the real Laos and the culture that shines through with each Lao dish :) Have fun cooking!

  12. Lao Ocean says:

    I want to eat this right now. One of my favorites. Nice blog, btw! :)

  13. Monnica says:

    I have had such a craving for this recently, thank you for your post. I’m making tonight but in addition to the moo saam suhn I’m adding some ham hocks yummm….

  14. Mike says:

    What would you do/add to make it more like soup

  15. Mena says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I made it the other day and it really hit the spot.Hope you post more recipes soon.

  16. Sandy says:

    Ok, I am one of the worst cook and hate to cook. I attempted another recipe ( can’t remember) and it was so nasty my son didn’t even eat it. I been very discourage to try again and came across your recipe. I’m still on the last stage of finishing up your recipe and I’m really impressed.. It is really good and I can’t wait to dig in.. Thank you so much for putting this out there.

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