Lemongrass Pork with Pickled Carrots

It’s no secret around these parts that I’m happy with our choice to buy a house in the suburbs.

We’ve got a kitchen with ample counter space, a deluxe gas grill, a patio to host summer shindigs, and even a basement man-cave for Dan. (A Dancave, if you will.)

lemongrass pork bowl with noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

But there is one severe drawback: unlike you city dwellers with amazing Thai that can be delivered to your door, I’m stuck with nothing but sub-par Chinese. Yikes.

So when I’m jonesing for the flavors of the Far East and there’s no Wondee Siam in sight, I do my usual thing and make my own favorite Thai dish.

This lemongrass pork recipe, adapted from Food & Wine, is completely addictive and incredibly quick to make.

lemongrass pork bowl with noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

It’s also a great introduction to a Thai flavor profile, for those of you out there ready to shake up your usual routine with something other than General Tso’s chicken or beef and broccoli.

The traditional sweet, sour, salty, and spicy taste of Thai food comes on subtly in this dish.

The aromatic combination of garlic, ginger, shallot, chili, and lemongrass are the standard bearer for many curry paste blends and recipes. So they’ll be familiar even if you’ve never started a Thai dish from scratch before.

lemongrass pork bowl with noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

If you want to make things more aggressively tart, a squeeze of lime juice is always welcome, but the pickled carrots that top each lemongrass pork bowl bring a sweetly tangy balance to each bite.

I just need to warn you about one thing in advance. If you’ve never used fish sauce before, it’s crucial to the flavor of the dish, but there’s no other way to say this—it’s going to smell like feet.

The sauce will smell like this right up until the last minute, when through some bit of culinary alchemy, the brown sugar overtakes it and meshes with the intense, umami-rich liquid to create the most heavenly sauce that will leaving you craving this dish fortnightly.

lemongrass pork bowl with noodles

Red Boat fish sauce is worth seeking out if you can get your hands on a bottle, but if you can’t find it at your local market, Tiparos brand is also widely available.

Serve the lemongrass pork over rice or noodles to make sure you can sop up every bit of the sauce, but try to save some for the next day.

Like most takeout-friendly dishes, this magically improves after a night in the fridge, so pace yourself.

lemongrass pork bowl with noodles

Lemongrass Pork with Pickled Carrots

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Lemongrass pork with pickled carrots is sweet, spicy, salty, and better than takeout. And it gets even more delicious the next day.


Pickled Carrots

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 medium to large carrots, julienned

Lemongrass Pork

  • 1/2 cup (105 grams; 3 1/2 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 Thai chili, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (tender inner bulb only), minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • rice, noodles, or other starch for serving


Pickle the carrots:

  1. Whisk the vinegar and sugar together in a medium bowl until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the carrots, making sure they're completely submerged.
  3. Let the carrots marinate at room temperature for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

Make the lemongrass pork:

  1. In a small saucepan, cook the fish sauce and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the brown sugar dissolves and the sauce comes to a simmer, bubbling and foaming at the edges.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the pork.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is browned and broken up into small pieces.
  5. Add the chili, garlic, shallot, lemongrass, and ginger and cook, stirring, for about a minute while the the mixture becomes incredibly fragrant.
  6. Stir in the chicken broth and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the broth cook and reduce for about 1-2 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat and add the brown sugar sauce, stirring to meld all the flavors.
  8. Spoon the pork and its sauce over your choice of rice, noodles, or your choice of starch and top with pickled carrots. Try not to inhale the whole thing in one serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 513Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 1574mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 12gProtein: 32g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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One Comment

  1. Tiparo fish sauce! Thanks for the tip because I fear fish sauce due to smell + I saw little ladies cutting up fish heads etc. & stuffing them in bottles on TV so a tip toward a good fish sauce will set me straight!

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