Charcoal, sugar, pork ... what’s not to like? The streets of Hanoi are packed with hawkers crouched over tiny charcoal braziers turning little sticks of tantalising caramel pork. The liquid caramel glaze is the cornerstone of Vietnamese cooking, not just for grilling but for stews, fish and more. Whip up some of this insanely good pork for noodles (bun cha) or to fill the famous bahn ml baguettes.
Put the garlic, shallots and lemongrass in a blender or mortar and pestle and process or pound until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl, then add the pork, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and a good grind of black pepper. Combine well, then divide the mixture into 18 portions and shape into balls. Flatten each ball slightly, then place on a heatproof metal rack and brush with oil.
Put the remaining sugar with 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until melted.
Preheat a barbecue, chargrill or a grill (broiler) to high. Cook the patties on one side for 2 minutes or until golden. Turn and brush the cooked side with the caramel mixture. Cook for another 2 minutes or until golden and crisp, then remove from the heat and brush with a little more caramel. Two ways of serving the Imperial Pork are given on the next page.
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