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Vietnamese Pork in Tomato Sauce

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This refreshing main course dinner, Vietnamese Pork in Tomato Sauce with Nuoc Cham seems spring-like to me. Warm rice on a bed of lettuce and fresh herbs is topped with meat sauce. The nuoc cham is sprinkled on at the table and the fresh flavours of Vietnamese cuisine are in every bite.

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This recipe is adapted from a beautiful coffee table cookbook titled The Foods of Vietnam by Nicole Routhier. She called this a Vietnamese interpretation of the universal spaghetti and meat sauce. I’d call it a healthy, fresh tasting interpretation of rice and meat sauce…perfect for a gluten free diet since there is no spaghetti.

Pantry Essentials – Vietnamese Cuisine

If you enjoy Asian cooking then fish sauce is essential. Fresh herbs and fish sauce play a central role in Vietnamese and Thai cuisines. Fish sauce is the secret ingredient and is used to make the dipping sauce served with salad rolls called nuoc cham. It takes five minutes to make and will keep in your fridge for weeks, even months. It is the same sauce that is sprinkled on this dish at the table.

Two bottles of gluten free fish sauce
Two bottles of gluten free fish sauce -photo credit Jim Little

If you are new to cooking Vietnamese or Thai foods then you may want to check out these two blog posts; The Gluten Free Asian Pantry and fish sauce.  If you need a vegan or allergy friendly option check out my Vegan Fish Sauce substitute.

A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute
Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute -photo credit Jim Little

Cook Once, Eat Twice

Do you like the cook once, eat twice philosophy? This recipe already makes two meals for two people but sometimes I make a double recipe of the meat sauce and freeze half. As long as I have a jar of nuoc cham in the fridge then this becomes a quick and easy dinner. If you need a reminder to use up all those jars in your fridge then add a label to the sauce that reads “for Viet Pork & Tom Sauce”. If you like the visual reminders add “for Salad Rolls” too.

Wok Cooking

I can’t say it enough, you really should have a wok. A standard flat bottom wok isn’t that expensive, will last for years (possibly decades) and it cooks Asian food best. Sure you can cook this is any frying pan or Dutch oven, the same way you would cook meat sauce for spaghetti. But you need to cook in a wok to see the difference. It doesn’t compare.

Let me know in the comments below if you tried this dish.

More Vietnamese Recipes


2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lime juice
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup warm water
1 small head of lettuce, cut into fairly small pieces or shredded
4 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped mint leaves
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 pound ground pork
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce (divided)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large onion, slivered
28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
½ cup chicken broth or water
2 Tbsp tomato paste
freshly ground pepper


NUOC CHAM - Combine all ingredients in a jar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
SALAD - Combine lettuce, green onions, mint and cilantro in a salad bowl and toss.
PORK-TOMATO SAUCE - Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground pork and saute, breaking up the lumps, for 8-10 minutes until no longer pink. Add the sugar and 1 Tbsp fish sauce. Cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the meat to a bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in the wok. Add the garlic and onion and fry until softened, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, the remaining 2 Tbsp fish sauce and the cooked pork to the wok. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Sprinkle generously with black pepper.
SERVING - To serve spread salad on each plate, top with warm rice then warm, pork-tomato sauce. Let each person drizzle the Nuoc Cham on their plate at the table.


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