Spiced Palm Sugar–Braised Pork Cheeks

Angus An

Kittichai - NYC

Fish sauce, palm sugar, and other ingredients from the Thai larder are used to make this intensely flavorful dish of braised pork cheeks. You can find many of these ingredients in Asian supermarkets.


  • Braise:
  • 12 pork cheeks, sliver skin and excess fat removed
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 pandan leaves (optional)
  • Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
  • 1 whole star anise
  • To serve:
  • Vegetable oil as needed
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 leaves bok choy, sliced
  • Truffle oil for garnish (optional)
  • Cooked steamed buns or white rice


Place the pork cheeks in a large pot. Cover with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Drain the cheeks and rinse them in cold water.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Sauté until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the star anise, orange peel, cinnamon, and white peppercorns. Toast until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pork cheeks, chicken stock, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and optional pandan leaves. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Braise until tender, about 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the cheeks cool in the braising liquid, about 30 minutes. Remove the cheeks and set aside. Strain the braising liquid and return it to the pot.

Make the sauce: combine the palm sugar, water, and sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until the mixture is caramelized and has turned amber in color, about 10 minutes. Carefully pour the caramel into the braising liquid. Add the orange peel and star anise. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce until very thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes. Taste. If the sauce tastes too sweet, season with more fish sauce.

To serve, heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic; sauté until crispy, about 5 minutes. Return the pork cheeks to the reduced sauce. Spoon sauce over the pork cheeks to coat them. Reheat over medium heat until warm, about 10 minutes.

Divide the pork cheeks among 4 serving dishes. Top each serving with sliced bok choy and some fried shallots and garlic. Finish with a drizzle of truffle oil, if using. Serve with rice or steamed buns.


4 servings