Vietnamese-Inspired Caramel Pork Bowls — all the big flavors of family-friendly takeout in a simple one-pan meal topped with loads of fresh herbs and veggies. Easily made gluten-free.
The Beauty Of Bowl Recipes
If you guys follow me on Instagram (@thepigandquill), it’ll come as no surprise that bowl food is kiiiinda my thing. Heck, even if you’ve read one of the foodie roundups I’ve done here for TME, it’d be fairly (or, in the case of this one, blatantly) obvious. It’s not as if bowls really offer anything more in the way of nutrition than the same components compiled alongside each other on a plate — but there’s something very forgiving about schlepping everything into a bowl. Not to mention the fact that, in the process of creating the many layers of a bowl, there is the potential for more, uhhhh, food.
But perhaps the most beautiful thing about bowls is that they’re generally the result of component cooking — that is, assembling an array of complementary and mostly pre-prepped or low-prep ingredients into one eating vessel, and then calling it a day. Yes, in some instances they’re just as much work as preparing a traditional entree with the usual two or three accompanying sides. But for the most part — and in the case of the Vietnamese-Inspired Caramel Pork Bowls you see here — it’s as easy as prepping one main item and then loading that up with what really amounts to be a crap ton of glorified condiments.
Vietnamese-Inspired Caramelized Pork Bowl Ingredients
So let’s tuck in.
In these Vietnamese-Inspired Caramel Pork Bowls, you’ll find:
- Sweet and savory caramelized ground pork
- fluffy rice
- quick “pickled” cabbage
- shredded carrots
- kimchi (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it…several times)
- loads of herbs
- bright lime juice
- aaaand toasted sesame seeds! Bonus points if you can wrangle up some finely chopped roasted peanuts, too.
As for how it comes together — well. Pop the rice into the Instant Pot (or rice cooker…or if you’re a bigger badass than me, hit up the OG stove top method), get the crazy flavorful pork going in the pan, and while that takes place, get your garnishes in order. Within 20 mins or so — ta-da!!! Bowls that are big on flavor, short on effort and highly reminiscent of your fave takeout situation.
Proof that we really do eat all the meals that I develop for The Mom Edit as a family: Chris’ bowl (sans kimchi), Lana’s bowl (sans herbs) and my bowl with, shocker, all the dang things.
Vietnamese-Inspired Caramelized Pork Bowl Recipe
- FOR THE PORK:
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 T dark soy sauce (or wheat-free tamari, for GF)
- 2 T shaoxing wine
- 3 T coconut sugar
- 1 tsp five spice
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- black pepper
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 4 giant handfuls baby spinach
- FOR THE BOWLS:
- 1/4 head purple cabbage, shredded
- juice of 1 lime, plus extra lime wedges for serving
- 4 servings prepared white or brown rice
- 2 carrots, shredded (buy 'em shredded!)
- large handful EACH cilantro and mint
- kimchi (see note)
- sesame seeds or crushed roasted peanuts
- Thinly slice or shred cabbage. In a large bowl, toss shredded cabbage with the juice of 1 lime and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- In a large cold skillet, add pork and press firmly into a single layer. Bring heat up to medium until you hear sizzling and cook undisturbed until deeply browned, about 5 mins (you can lift pork to check for color -- turn back heat if necessary). Meanwhile, stir together dark soy sauce, shaoxing wine, coconut sugar, five spice, ginger, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- When pork is brown on the bottom, carefully tip pan and drain off excess fat, holding meat in place. Return pan to heat and break up pork with a wooden spoon. Add scallions and drizzle soy sauce mixture over pork. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is fully cooked through and "sauce" is mostly absorbed. Add spinach and cook until wilted, another minute or two.
- Portion rice and pork among serving bowls, adding cabbage, shredded carrots, kimchi, fresh herbs, sesame seeds (and/or peanuts) and a lime wedge, to taste. Enjoy!
A quick note on cooking rice: we use our trusty (very unfancy) rice cooker or the Instant Pot. If using the Instant Pot, my fave method is: 1:1 ratio of rice to water, high pressure for 3 mins (white rice) or 15 mins (brown rice), and let the pressure naturally release for 10-15 mins. Couldn't be simpler.
Re: kimchi. I love the kimchi that my local Costco stocks -- it lasts forever in the fridge and just gets funkier and fizzier over time. If you aren't sure if you love kimchi, I encourage you to try, try again. The spice and flavor can vary greatly from brand to brand (unsurprisingly, I like just about all of them) -- so if you're generally a fan or pickled, spicy or fermented foods, chances are there's a kimchi out there for you!
Here’s to easy weeknight cooking that (almost) tastes like you got to leave the house.
Guys! Follow me on Instagram for more peeks into our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!