Slow cooked to perfection, this fall off the bone, tender pork was featured in “Slow Cooker Redeemed” in the New York Times. “It results in a vaguely Vietnamese tangle of pulled pork that is best accompanied by a bright and crunchy slaw, and served on warm flour tortillas…” I made you wait for it, yesterday, when I posted the Vaguely Vietnamese Slaw recipe, and I hope you’ll think these Tacos are worth that little delay.
I was intrigued the first time I saw this recipe. And then I read all 121 comments – many less than enthusiastic. A lot of problems with the cook time (which was a simple fix – the instructions should have said cook on high, not on low) and a lot of complaints about lackluster flavor. Yeah, I fixed that, too, thanks to all the lovely commenters.
RJ’s comment, in particular, caught my eye: a few recommendations to amp up that flavor and an unexpected twist: a coffee rub from Zingermans! It was the “OMG this is righteous!” that sold me. Was it really? I had to find out.
You know, of course, I’m gonna use my own Coffee & Coriander Rub, and I’ll sub in a little five spice powder for the varied and assorted herbs and spices…be careful with the five spice, folks. It can hijack your flavors in a heartbeat – it’s strong.
But the pork? It was indeed righteous! Of course, I have to laugh a bit as I say (well, type) the word. The thought of saying it makes me want to gel my hair and wear a little three-tiered skirt. Or maybe slice up a T-shirt and put on a ripped up pair of pants. (Which, I see, are back in style now…maybe? I can’t keep up anymore…)
The slow cooked pork was silky, tender, unctuous – and the juice? Gorgeous flavor. I did take about 1 1/2 cups worth and reduce it to concentrate those flavors and added it back into the shredded pork, but you don’t have to do that reduction step. I just like to complicate things up a bit sometimes. The rest of that lovely broth, by the way, will become a ramen soup later in the week.
If you don’t want to use your slow cooker for this recipe, pull out your Dutch oven, add a little more liquid and slowly braise the roast to fall apart perfection. And make sure to buy that pork roast on special – there’s hardly a less expensive cut of meat, especially right now in the fall. And use all those leftovers or freeze for later.
Vaguely Vietnamese Pork Shoulder
- ½ bone-in pork shoulder, skin and fat removed, approximately 5 pounds
- 2 tablespoons Coffee Coriander Rub or other Coffee Rub of your choice
- 2 teaspoons five spice powder
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup garlic chile sauce, or to taste
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice of one lime
- 12 to 16 flour tortillas, warmed
- Vaguely Vietnamese Slaw
- 2 to 3 limes, quartered, for serving
- Sriracha or Sweet Chili sauce, for serving
- Cilantro, roughly cut, for serving
Prepare the pork by removing most of the fat from the top. Mix together two tablespoons of Coffee Coriander Rub with two teaspoons of five spice powder. Rub all over the pork, set aside.
Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat. After a minute or so, swirl in the sesame oil and then the onions, stirring to combine. Sauté for about 5 minutes, being careful not to burn, then add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions are soft and becoming translucent. Remove from heat, stir in the ginger.
Add to the mixture the hoisin, garlic chile sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, fish sauce and lime juice, and stir to combine, loosening the mixture with a little less than half a cup of water.
Put a few spoonfuls of the sauce in the bottom of a slow cooker, then nestle the pork on top of it. Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the pork.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 to 7 hours, or on low 8 to 9 hours, or until the pork shreds easily with a fork. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and allow to rest for about 20 minutes, and while resting, defat the juices (and reduce, see next step) if desired.
Shred the pork with a pair of forks. Discard bones. Now:
- Add some of those juices back to the pork to moisten and toss to combine.
- Or add about 1 1/2 cups of the juices to a saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down to a lively simmer and reduce to about half to concentrate the flavors. Then toss with the pork to combine.
- Or moisten the pork with some of the juices AND add about 1 1/2 cups of the juices to a saucepan, bring to a boil, turn down to a lively simmer and reduce to about half a cup, until it’s nearly a glaze and pass as a sauce.
Serve with the slaw and warmed tortillas, with the cilantro, Sriracha, Sweet Chili Sauce and limes on the side.
To cook this in the oven, braise the pork shoulder, covered, in a 325 degrees F oven for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Add in an additional cup of water before placing in the oven and check from time to time that there is enough liquid in the pan to keep the juices from burning.
Adapted from the New York Times
Try this Shortcut Pork Ramen with the leftover juices and a little of the shredded pork.