Thom Khem Recipe

Discover the secrets of Thom Khem, a delectable Cambodian masterpiece! Explore an unforgettable journey of flavors in this traditional dish.

Thom Khem

    Thom Khem

  • Cuisine: Cambodian
  • Category: Main dish
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 300 calories

Thom Khem, also known as "Braised Caramelized Pork Belly," is a beloved and traditional Cambodian dish. It's a flavorful and hearty delicacy that beautifully combines the contrasting flavors of sweet and savory.

The dish features succulent pork belly slices that are first caramelized in palm sugar, resulting in a rich and fragrant caramel syrup. This infusion of sweetness is balanced by the umami depth of fish sauce and soy sauce, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Garlic and shallots add a delightful aromatic component, enhancing the overall taste.

Thom Khem is characterized by its long, slow cooking process, which allows the pork to become incredibly tender and absorb the flavors of the sauce. It's often served with hard-boiled eggs, which take on the exquisite taste of the caramelized sauce.

This dish embodies the essence of Cambodian cuisine, offering a sweet and savory symphony that's deeply satisfying. Whether enjoyed with rice or as part of a larger Cambodian feast, Thom Khem is a culinary treasure that showcases the country's culinary heritage and the art of balancing flavors.


Unveil the rich flavors of Cambodian Thom Khem! Our recipe offers a tantalizing culinary adventure. Try it today.


  • 1 pound pork belly, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup of palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup of fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 shallots, sliced
  • 2-3 hard-boiled eggs (optional)

Method Instructions

  1. In a pan, melt the palm sugar over medium heat. Stir it constantly until it turns into a caramel syrup with a rich golden color.
  2. Add the minced garlic and sliced shallots to the caramel. Stir and cook for a few minutes until they become fragrant.
  3. Add the pork belly pieces and sear them until they are browned on all sides.
  4. Pour in the fish sauce, soy sauce, and water. Stir to combine everything.
  5. If you want to add hard-boiled eggs, gently add them to the pot.
  6. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the pork belly becomes tender, and the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally.
  7. Once the pork is tender and the sauce is thick and sticky, it's ready to serve.
  8. Serve your Thom Khem with steamed jasmine rice.

Recipe Video

Thom Khem

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Recipe Tags: Thom Khem, Thom Khem Recipe, Recipe


Thom Khem is typically served as a main dish and is best enjoyed with steamed jasmine rice to complement its rich and flavorful sauce. Here's how you can serve it:

  • Steamed Jasmine Rice: Start by preparing a generous portion of steamed jasmine rice. The fragrant and slightly sticky nature of jasmine rice pairs beautifully with the sweet and savory Thom Khem sauce.
  • Pork and Sauce: Ladle the caramelized pork belly and its sauce onto a serving platter. The tender pork slices should be coated in the thick, flavorful sauce.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs (Optional): If you've added hard-boiled eggs to your Thom Khem, arrange them alongside the pork. The eggs will have absorbed some of the caramelized sauce, making them a delicious addition to the dish.
  • Garnish: You can add some fresh herbs or a sprinkling of sliced green onions for a touch of freshness and color.
  • Serve: Place the serving platter of Thom Khem in the center of the table along with the bowl of steamed jasmine rice. Diners can help themselves to a portion of rice and top it with the caramelized pork and sauce.


  1. Choose the Right Cut of Pork Belly: For the best results, select pork belly with a good balance of meat and fat. The fat adds flavor and tenderness to the dish.
  2. Palm Sugar: While palm sugar is traditional, you can substitute brown sugar if palm sugar is not readily available. It will provide a similar caramelization effect.
  3. Caramelization: Be patient when caramelizing the sugar. Stir it constantly until it turns into a golden syrup. Don't rush this step; it's crucial for the dish's flavor.
  4. Balancing Flavors: Adjust the amount of fish sauce and soy sauce to your taste. You're aiming for a balance of sweet and savory flavors with a hint of saltiness.
  5. Hard-Boiled Eggs: Adding hard-boiled eggs is optional, but they soak up the delicious sauce and offer a nice contrast in texture.
  6. Simmering Time: Let the dish simmer for the recommended time (1.5 to 2 hours). Slow cooking is essential to achieve the desired tenderness and flavor.
  7. Stirring: While simmering, stir occasionally to ensure even coating and cooking of the pork belly.
  8. Portion Control: This dish can be quite rich due to the caramel sauce. Serve it in moderation as a little goes a long way.
  9. Garnish: Fresh cilantro or sliced green onions make for a visually appealing and flavorful garnish.
  10. Leftovers: Thom Khem tends to taste even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Ingredient Substitutes

So, if you're looking for ingredient substitutes for Thom Khem, here are some options in case you don't have access to the traditional ingredients:

  1. Palm Sugar Substitute: If you can't find palm sugar, you can use brown sugar, white sugar, or even honey as a replacement. Each will bring its unique sweetness, so adjust the quantity to taste.
  2. Fish Sauce Substitute: If you're vegetarian or don't have fish sauce, you can use soy sauce or tamari for a similar salty and savory flavor. Alternatively, you can try a vegan fish sauce made from ingredients like mushrooms or seaweed.
  3. Soy Sauce Substitute: If you're out of soy sauce, you can use tamari, liquid aminos, or even Worcestershire sauce as a substitute. They will provide a salty and umami flavor similar to soy sauce.
  4. Pork Belly Alternative: While pork belly is traditional, you can use other cuts of pork, such as pork shoulder or pork loin, if you prefer leaner meat. You can also make a vegetarian version using tofu or seitan.
  5. Galangal Substitute: If you can't find galangal, you can use ginger as a replacement. While the flavors are not identical, ginger will still provide a similar aromatic quality.
  6. Kaffir Lime Leaves Substitute: If you can't find kaffir lime leaves, you can use lime zest or regular lime leaves. The flavor won't be exactly the same, but it will add a citrusy element.
  7. Lemongrass Substitute: Lemongrass can be substituted with lemon zest or lemon grass paste. While the flavor won't be identical, it will still provide a citrusy and aromatic note.
  8. Chili Pepper Substitute: If you prefer less heat, you can reduce or omit the Thai chili peppers. Alternatively, you can use red pepper flakes or a milder chili pepper variety.


Embrace the culinary allure of Thom Khem. From simmering caramel to tender pork, it's a taste of Cambodia you won't soon forget. Enjoy!

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