These Vietnamese grilled pork chops (suon heo nuong sa) are full of sweet and savory flavors and infused with lemongrass fragrance. This is one of the easiest Vietnamese restaurant dishes to make at home.
Overview of Vietnamese grilled pork chops
The Vietnamese translation of this dish is “thit heo nuong sa” or “suon heo nuong sa“. It is a popular Southern Vietnamese dish, and we usually serve it along with rice, a wedge of egg meatloaf, a sunny-side-up egg and sometimes pork rind salad.
You can easily find this rice plate on the menu of a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. Restaurants in Vietnam often use broken rice for the rice plate and call it “com tam suon bi“.
These Vietnamese pork chops have a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Marinated with lemongrass, they have a crisp and citrusy aroma. Then grilling them until charred enhances the flavors and makes the pork chops incredibly tasty.
How to make Vietnamese lemongrass pork chops
You just need to spend 5-10 minutes to prepare the marinade and let the pork chops sit in the marinade to soak up all the flavors and aromas. After that, grill them for a few minutes, and that’s it. I often marinate them in the morning and then cook them in the evening for a quick hassle-free dinner.
Now, let me walk you through some important points to make these lemongrass pork chops just like those at Vietnamese restaurants.
For this dish, it’s best to use thin-cut chops which are about 1/2-inch thick and have some marbles. Thin cuts need less time to marinate and cook. We can grill them on high heat so that we’ll get both great texture and caramelization.
There is more than one way to make the marinade for Vietnamese grilled pork chops, but generally, it always includes these main components: aromatics, sweeteners, and condiments to provide the saltiness. I usually marinate for 4 – 6 hours.
The must-have aromatic is, of course, lemongrass. You can find it at Asian grocery stores. My Western grocery stores start to carry lemongrass, but the price can be higher than at Asian stores.
If you like to cook Southeast Asian food regularly, you can buy a lot and put in the freezer so that you always have some stalks on hand. It does lose its fragrance over time in the freezer though.
How to prep lemongrass
To prep lemongrass, first, peel off the 2 – 4 outer layers which are often dry. Then, cut off the bottom bulb which is 1 – 2 inch long. We want to use just the white and light-green part of the lemongrass, which is the 6-inch chubby lower end right next to the bulb.
The skinny green part is tough and fibrous and doesn’t have as much aroma, so discard that part. Now, smash the chubby part, slice thinly and chop finely. In addition to lemongrass, I also use minced shallots and garlic in the marinade.
The fish sauce debate
My marinade has soy sauce, oyster sauce, and no fish sauce. It’s probably one of the rare occasions where I don’t use fish sauce in a Vietnamese dish.
I made two batches, one with fish sauce and the other without fish sauce to compare side by side. Both Mr. Delightful Plate and I voted for the one marinated without fish sauce.
What I learn is the fish sauce gives the pork chops a sour tinge and sharp taste, which makes the dish slightly less delicious. I will include both marinades in the recipe so that you can also compare yourself :).
Since my soy sauce and oyster sauce may not be the same as yours, taste and adjust the marinade to your liking.
Some people may add a small amount (around 1/2 – 1 teaspoon) of dark soy sauce to get a darker color on these grilled pork chops. I also tried that and found that despite small quantity, the dark soy sauce still alters the flavors in a way I don’t really like.
I use honey and feel that it makes the pork chops look glossy and delicious. You can use sugar in place of honey. Just taste to make sure you like it.
Grilling the pork chops
It’s undeniable that the pork chops taste best when grilled on a charcoal grill. Nevertheless, they are still absolutely delicious when we use a gas grill or grill pan.
If you use thin-cut chops as I recommend, grill them with direct high heat. I cook them with my Staub grill pan, and with high heat, it takes only 1 to 1 1/2 minute to cook each side and get the grill marks. Serve the pork chops hot with rice, a fried egg and vegetables for an easy dinner.
I’d love to hear what you think about the dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates.
Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Pork Chops
- Peel off 2-4 outer layers which are dry from the lemongrass. Cut off the bulb and the green skinny upper part. Keep the white and light green part (about 5 to 6-inch long next to the bulb). Smash and then slice thinly and finely mince. You need 1/4 cup of minced lemongrass so use 1 – 2 stalks depending on size.
- In a mixing bowl, mix together soy sauce, oyster sauce and honey. Taste and adjust to your liking. Add lemongrass, garlic, shallot, black pepper. Add pork chops to the bowl (or you can pour marinade into a Ziploc bag and put the pork chops in there) and mix. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, mix and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 4-6 hours.
- Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator and preheat the grill to high heat. When the grill is ready, shake off the minced aromatics in the marinade from the pork chops and grill each side 1 1/2 minutes or until fully cooked. The amount of time depends on the thickness of your chops.
- Transfer to clean plates and serve immediately.
- You can serve the pork chops with rice, a fried egg, egg meatloaf and scallion oil. To make the scallion oil, thinly slice 2-3 stalks of scallions, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and when the oil is hot, add scallions, cook for 20-30 seconds and transfer to a clean bowl.
- If you want to make this with thick pork chops, you may need to adjust the temperature of the grill. I think you can add 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of lime juice to the marinade to tenderize the thick pork chops more.
- I don’t use fish sauce in the marinade. What I learn is the fish sauce gives the pork chops a sour tinge and sharp taste, which makes the dish slightly less delicious. If you want to try, reduce soy sauce by 1/2 tablespoon, oyster sauce by 1/2 tablespoon and add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Taste and adjust to your liking.