Recipe: Tom Khem, Caramelized Pork Belly

Recipes by Tina Carroll.

IMG9538931282904253Tom Khem is a traditional Laotian dish of caramelized pork belly. The literal translation is salty stew or soup. It combines a perfect balance of salty and sweetness. It’s can be served over steamed jasmine rice or with sticky rice. This dish was one of the first dishes I learned to make and it continues to be the “go to” dish when I want to make Lao food. This dish is pretty simple to make and doesn’t require a lot of prep other than hard boiling the eggs and cutting up the pork belly, but you can buy it already cut up.

Serves: 4 to 6 people
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 pounds of pork belly
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 5 slices of ginger
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups of water


Cut pork belly into bite size pieces (approximately 1/2 inch x 1 inch) or you can cut it as big or as small as you like. Smaller pieces will cooker faster. Heat vegetable oil in a pot on low heat and add sugar. Let sugar melt down and brown to a caramel color. Once sugar is caramelized add chopped garlic and continue to stir so garlic does not burn. Turn heat to high, add pork belly and salt for taste. Cook on high heat for about 15 minutes or until meat is almost cooked. Add 4 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil, then add ginger. Continue to cook on high heat for 90 minutes allowing meat to fully cooked and tenderize. Peel hard boiled eggs and add eggs to the soup. Leave to simmer for another 30 minutes on medium heat.

Variation – Pork belly can be substituted with any type of meat, usually fatty meats.

Leave a Reply