These pork patties are spectacular as far as I’m concerned! So full of flavor! Aside from the caramalization and other great ingredients, the sauce has a ton of ground black pepper — this is typical of many Vietnamese sauces, and I think it’s what makes this dish (must be from the French influence in Vietnam). If you like Southeast Asia’s obligatory sweet, hot, sour, salty flavor combo, I think you’ll really like this dish!
3 Tbsp tamarind purée
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 cups finely chopped shallots (about 5 very large Euro-style)
3 red Thai bird chilies, minced
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 large cloves garlic, very finely shredded or minced
1 1/2 lbs lean ground pork
1/3 (slightly rounded) cup sugar
3 scallions, sliced
In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp fish sauce with 1/2 cup water. Set aside.
In another small bowl, mix together 2/3 cup chopped shallots with half the minced chilies and 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Set aside
Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in remaining 1 1/3 cups chopped shallots. Cook for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add remaining minced chilies and garlic. Stir-fry an additional 40 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine pork, remaining 2 Tbsp fish sauce, remaining 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and the cooked shallots. Make 18 small patties (a little less than 1/4 pork mixture, at about 2 1/2 inches each in diameter).
In a skilled large enough to easily fit all patties in a single layer, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add patties and brown on each side (about 3 1/2 minutes per side). Turn heat off and remove patties from pan — wipe out pan with a paper towel.
Add 1/3 water and 1/3 sugar to pan over medium heat and swirl gently until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to caramelize (about 12 minutes — you should end up with a nice, copper-colored sugar-water. Remove from heat. Slowly add fish sauce/water mixture to sugar-water. Return to a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the uncooked shallot/chili mixture. Cook about 1 1/2 minutes, until shallots have softened. Stir in 3 Tbsp tamarind purée. Add back the pork patties and stir to ensure patties are well covered in the sauce. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes (turning patties after first 10 minutes). Remove lid. Remove patties and set aside. Simmer sauce another couple of minutes until slightly reduced. Remove from heat. Serve patties over steamed jasmine rice, topped with sauce and sliced scallions.