What I Stopped Buying- Garage, Living Room and Holidays

11.10.2016

0800

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My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.

Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.

Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.

There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??

GARAGE

  1. Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
  2. Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
  3. Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap

LIVING ROOM

  1. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
  2. Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard

HOLIDAYS

  1. Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas  [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.

What I Stopped Buying- Kitchen Items

11.08.2016

0800

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So my list of “Items That I No Longer Buy” continues onto the kitchen area. This list will include items I stopped buying for the sink area, cooking and dining area. As well as a short list of items I no longer buy for grocery shopping as well as the refrigerator.

For the kitchen items, switching over to reusable items really cut down time for shopping and running errands. I didn’t have to constantly keep track of what I was running out of or running low on. Plus, looking for sales wasn’t as stressful as before. Since I shop so little now, I actually tend to only look for a sale once, and just stock up on the bulk item in my glass container. The products that I do stock up on now, will last me for a much longer period of time.

It’s interesting when I do go shopping for bulk kitchen items such as soap, vinegar or baking soda, because I know exactly where the items are located in the stores, but I’ll walk around thinking that I’m forgetting an item (also because my basket will ultimately have a total of 4 items in it). When in the end, the total number of items I need is just the four…. for the next 5 months, because that’s how long it lasts. It’s great. You should try it!

SINK

  1. Dishwashing Soap ———————–> Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap
  2. Plastic Dish Rack ————————> In-sink Metal Dish Rack
  3. Paper Towels —————————> Fabric Kitchen Towels
  4. Kitchen Cleaning Spray ——————-> Vinegar & water mix,  Baking Soda as an exfoliant
  5. Dish Cleaning Sponges ——————-> Alternative Dish Scrub (Alternative Dish Scrub)

COOKING

  1. Plastic cutting Board —————-> Wooden cutting board
  2. Plastic Kitchen Tools —————-> Metal/Wooden Kitchen Tools
  3. Non-Stick Kitchen Pans ————-> Stainless Steel Kitchen Cookware Set/Cast Iron Pans

DINING

  1. Plastic Water bottles ———————> Reusable water Bottles
  2. Plastic Straws —————————> Metal Reuseable Straws
  3. Coffee Filters —————————> French Press (doesn’t use disposable filters)
  4. Plastic Utensils ————————-> Silverware
  5. Paper Plates —————————->Dishware

GROCERY SHOPPING

  1. Plastic Bags ————————–> Reusable grocery bags
  2. Plastic Produce Bags ——————-> Fabric Produce bags (DIY Produce Bags)

REFRIGERATOR

  1. Plastic Ice Cube Tray ——————-> Metal Ice cube tray
  2. Plastic Tupperware ——————–> Glass Tupperware

What I Stopped Buying- Bathroom Items

 

11.03.2016

0800

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So I thought I would go over what I have actually stopped buying in lieu of alternative zero waste options. A few people have asked me about what I had to give up when I started my journey to a zero waste lifestyle and majority of the time I knew I was forgetting to mention certain items, so I decided to mke a list of what I gave up.

The items listed with “N/A” indicates that I no longer use it and didn’t find a replacement for it. There’s only one item that repeats and the item is the sage leaves which I use in lieu of candles and the scented bathroom spray.  The bathroom and kitchen were the most effected rooms during the change of switching over to zero waste alternatives so this list is one of the more elaborate lists.

This list can give you an idea of what I gave up, but to be honest, I really didn’t have to give up too much. It’s simply a list of items that I simplified and the replacement items are longer lasting and more durable over a longer period of time. If you’re thinking of moving towards this lifestyle, I hope this list helps. If you’re loking for any of the items I listed, take a look at my store on my homepage and skim through the room categories. There, you’ll find the suggestions I recomend for certain areas in your home.

MEDICINE CABINET

  1. Face wash (Clearsil) —————————> Unpackaged organic soap bars
  2. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid) —————-> Deodorant crystal
  3. Toothpaste (Colgate) ————————–>  Baking Soda
  4. Plastic Toothbrushes  ————————->  Recycleable toothbrushes
  5. Band aids (BAND-AID) ————————>  Gauze and paper tape
  6. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) —————->  Bulk honey
  7. Cotton balls (store brand) ———————->  N/A
  8. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips) ———–>  N/A
  9. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret) ——–>  Bulk body lotion
  10. Face lotion (Neutrogena)  ———————->  Bulk face lotion
  11. Rubbing alcohol ——————————> N/A
  12. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss) ——> Dental floss (ECO-dent)
    1. ECO-dent is packaged in paper, with a little bit of plastic packaging
  13. Bug spray for your body (OFF) ——————-> Citrus essential oil
  14. Jewelry cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelry Cleaner) —> N/A
  15. Makeup————————————-> Organic makeup
  16. Body Sunblock ——————————-> ALBA Sport Sunblock
  17. Face Sunblock  ————————> Mineral Fusion Sunscreen Moisturizer

SHOWER

  1. Shampoo bottles (Pantene Pro-V) —————-> Bulk Hair Shampoo
  2. Conditioner bottles (Pantene Pro-V) ————–> Bulk Hair Conditioner
  3. Disposable razors (Gillette) ———————-> Epilator
  4. Shower Pouf ———————————-> Pumice Stone & Wash rag

SINK

  1. Tampons (Tampax) —————————> Keeper Moon Cup
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)  ——> Sage leaves
  3. Nail polish (from wherever) ——————–> N/A
  4. Nail polish remover (store brand) —————-> N/A
  5. Bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)  ————> Vinegar & Baking Soda
  6. Toilet Paper (Plastic packaged) ——————> Toilet paper (Paper Packaged)
  7. Bathroom Hand Soap ————————–> Unpackaged organic soap bars
  8. Bathroom rags ——————————-> Microfiber cloths
  9. Candles (to make the bathroom smell nice) ——–> Sage
  10. Bathroom sink scrub brush ———————>  100% Sisal Fiber Bath Sponge

TOILET

  1. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles) ————–> Bulk Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap

Zero Waste Cleaning

09.12.2016

0800

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My cleaning routine is fairly simple. I use a mixture of water and vinegar to wipe down surfaces (in the water bottle) and I use Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap for washing dishes and even cleaning my sink and bathtub (in the wide mouthed Ball Mason Jar). I use baking soda if I want to exfoliate a surface if necessary. I’ve even used the soap to wash my cat when he needed a bath. This soap is so useful in my life and Dr. Bronner’s soap has a long legacy of producing quality soaps.

This is how the Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One soap company explains their quality: Other Ways Dr. Bronner’s Makes Higher-Quality Soaps

  • Unlike most commercial soapmakers, who distill the glycerin out of their soaps to sell separately, we retain it in our soaps for its superb moisturizing qualities.
  • We super-fat our bar soaps for a milder, smoother lather.
  • We use natural vitamin E from sunflower seeds and citric acid from fermented tapioca to protect freshness.
  • We do not add any chelating agents, dyes, whiteners or synthetic fragrances.
  • We use pure and powerful high-quality certified organic essential oils.
  • Our liquid soaps are three times more concentrated than most so-called “liquid soaps” on the market, and they are only a few percent away from being a solid, which saves on packaging materials.
  • Our soaps are a superb value, costing less than less-concentrated, inferior detergent body-wash “liquid soaps.”
  • Our soaps are most popular for at-home washing, but they are also the soap of choice for many campers and hikers, as they are biodegradable and nature-friendly.
  • We also use better packaging; our plastic cylinder bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic.

You can check out the rest of their story and legacy here,Dr. Bronner’s Legacy , and you can check out their website here: Dr. Bronner’s All-In-One .

I haven’t used store bought chemical cleaners for the past five years, and as I discovered alternative ways to clean, I was much happier knowing I wasn’t inhaling the fumes from my cleaning products. Although cleaning can be a touchy subject, due to how people view “dirty” or “clean”, I think it boils down to what you’re willing to sacrifice and risk. Some people are more comfortable with the chemicals, but I am not.

My soap is environmentally friendly and because it’s such a good soap, even when I dilute it with water, it still lathers really well! Due to the fact that I’m constantly diluting this soap, I never have to stock up each week. I make a bathroom bulk grocery run probably once every three months. Honestly, my lotions and soaps last me a long time.

It’s not a bad idea to eliminate the more harmful chemicals from your home. In fact, I’m an advocate for natural and organic cleaning products. Some people have commented that perhaps my way of cleaning isn’t sanitary, but unless I put my home through an autoclave, I don’t’ think it could ever be 100% clean. We as humans do retain a certain amount of bacteria in our bodies and if you’re THAT afraid of what comes out of your bodies, shouldn’t you be more concerned with what goes into it?

*UPDATE- 06.16.2017- I no longer use Olive Oil Dispenser – Square Tall Glass Oil Bottle and Stainless Steel Pourer Spout to contain my bulk liquid soap, but instead I now I refill my  32 oz, Dr. Bronner’s Organic Peppermint Pure-Castile Liquid Soap container. These containers are easier to clean and they have a much more durable design. I use a water bottle that was gifted to me, for my vinegar and water mix for cleaning.

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Clutter Free Spaces

08.22.2016

0800

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It’s simple to keep clutter free spaces, but it means more than simply owning less. There’s a strategy and rules to live within to keep your spaces clutter free. It always looks easy, but even for veteran minimalists/zero wasters/tiny living folks, once in awhile- extra stuff creeps into your home. This may come during seasonal sales at stores, birthdays, holidays or maybe after coming home from a vacation. If you give yourself a set of rules, the decision to buy or not buy becomes easier and more clear. There can be even rules to consistently keep areas of your home clean and tidy. Here is my set of rules that I follow:

  1. Live within your means
    1. Let the size of your home dictate how much stuff you have, and not the other way around. If your closet is bursting at the seams, instead of dreaming of a bigger closet, why not try paring down your clothes to fit the space you have?
  2. Purge Often
    1. So set aside a time, a few times a year, to go through your things and get rid of the ones you don’t use anymore. You can even do this once a month or once every few months.
  3. Have a place and a purpose for everything
    1. ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’ Almost a cliche, but still some of the best organizing advice out there. If you have lots of things in limbo on tables or countertops or the floor and still haven’t been able to find a place for them, then maybe the answer is to purge it.
  4. Become a habitual putter-awayer
    1. I think the easiest way to make sure you put things away is just to do it, and then keep on doing it until it’s so habitual that you wouldn’t ever think of not doing it. When I accumulate items from around the house to use for a project, and I’m not done with the project yet, I’ll place the items next to the door. I do this so that on my way out to grab another tool/material, I pick up an item I know I can put away on the way to the room I’m headed towards. I do this or I gather all of the items that need to be put away by the door and then walk room to each room to put away each item to its rightful spot. It’s like ‘reverse shopping’, I’m just returning everything.
  5. Store items where you use them
    1. Be smart about where you store things. Store items by function and necessity. Not having to walk halfway across your home to put things away will make #4 that much easier.
  6. Stop clutter before it enters your home with a landing strip
    1. A landing strip consists of hooks and a small side table where you can place items immediately after walking in the door. Setting up a landing strip by the front door is useful because clutter has to come into your home somewhere, and you can stop it right at the source. This location can also be the location where you may place items you are thinking about returning, so that they may never find a place in your home.
  7. Go paper free
    1. Scanning all the documents you’ve been hanging onto may seem like a daunting task, but once you’re done, they’ll be easily searchable (plenty of apps, like Evernote, allow you to search scanned documents for certain words) and you’ll have that much less stuff to manage.
  8. Realize that life is about experiences, not things
    1. We’re constantly being bombarded with advertisements that try to convince us that a happy life is all about having the latest stuff: a new car, an outdoor kitchen, an ice cream maker. But studies have shown, over and over that it isn’t the things in our lives that make us happy: it’s our experiences that we treasure most. So the next time you’re tempted to buy more stuff, ask yourself if the money wouldn’t be better spent on a vacation or a nice night out.
  9. Forgive yourself and try again
    1. Remember that nobody is perfect, and nobody’s home is perfect. Even the homes you see in the magazines aren’t perfect — it took a whole team of stylists to make them that way. Try to stick to these rules each day and before you know it, these rules will become habits and part of your day-to-day life.

Keeping Clutter Away

08.10.2016

0800

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So I stick to a few rules to keep clutter from piling up. Although I do live a simple life with a limited amount of possessions, clutter can still find its way into my living areas. So here are some rules that I use to keep my spaces and surfaces clear of clutter:

  • Wash dishes when you’re done with them. Obvious, I know, but too often we leave dishes to pile in the sink. When you’re done with dinner, everyone should pitch in to put away leftover food, wash dishes, and clean the table, stove and counters.
  • Keep counters and sink clean. If you cook or prepare food, wipe down the counters real quick when you’re done. When you do anything in the sink, rinse and wipe it down.
  • Keep floor clean. I find that most of the house needs sweeping or vacuuming only once a week, so that in itself is a bonus. I don’t wear shoes in the house so once a week floor sweeping is all it takes to keep it clean. I also keep items of of the floor so that running around with my microfiber cloth is a quick task.
  • Put away clothes when you take them off. If clothes are dirty, put them in the hamper. If they’re still clean, put them away or at least hang them up on a designated side of your closet so you know that you’re going to plan to wear it again later. With a capsule wardrobe, I tend to repeat pieces of clothes during the week.
  • Put other items where they belong. Instead of laying something on a counter, table, or floor, take a few seconds to put it where it belongs. This is a simple habit that will save tons of time.
  • Pick up before you go to bed. I like to do a quick pick-up before bedtime, of stuff that has been left around. This leaves the house beautifully clean when I wake up in the morning.

These are the main rules I stick to, it’s not a complicated system being that I also have a limited amount of possessions, but it does help. As life changes these rules may have a few others added on to adjust to everyone in the household. What are your rules you stick to?

Essential Design Tools

03.28.2016

0900

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When I mention my essential design tools, I’m talking about tools I keep around in order to hack an object or product. Whether it be the way that the product is used, is placed in a location or creating more than one type of use for it. These alterations are never designed to compromise the integrity of the product itself unless I really want to step into that realm. The reason why I don’t want to alter the integrity of the products too much is because by living a zero waste life, I must be able to make multiple products be able to be used for multiple functions. This idea of versatility with every product I invest in, is always in the back of my mind with every purchase or design hack.

Supplies I keep in order to fix or hack day to day situations and circumstances around the house:

  1. Shoelaces and Rope
  2. S-Hooks
  3. Metal Binder Clips
  4. Velcro straps
  5. Carabiners
  6. Metal Rings

All of the tools I choose to keep are reusable and are made of durable material. I do prefer metal or stainless steel material because these tools can be manipulated into the shape of a loop. My favorite tools out of all of these are the carabiners and metal rings. Carabiners are strong, safe, secure and easy to use. Their closed loop design and locking mechanism was the design feature that caught my attention years ago. And due to the fact that these carabiners can be used repeatedly, the investment will pay off on its own. Metal rings can be used anywhere to create another secure loop for hooking any carabiner to it. These two tools coincide with one another when I use them.

I also favor rope as well. If you can find extra rope that’s braided together, then you’ve found gold in my opinion. The strength of braided rope combined with the knowledge of knots is essential. Also, rope has a soft flexibility to it where it can be use with clothing alterations, products and repairs. It’s flexible enough to create tension for a blanket fort, yet can be turned into a lasso to help save a drowning adult in a roaring rapid.

Metal binder clips and velcro straps are used as temporary grips for a group of anything that need to be bundled together. Although metal binder clips are limited in the width of the object they’re gripping, the metal material is still strong enough to retain it’s own shape.  Velcro straps can be used for larger bundles and can also be linked together to extend their capabilities around larger bundles.

S-Hooks are simply used when I need to hang something up without needing to drill a hole into another material. It is my go to tool when I have to deal with an object that needs support due to gravity more so than any other issue.

There are parameters to living a zero waste life, but one has to live within those parameters and still meet their own needs. Some might say that keeping supplies such as  the ones I’ve listed above is excessive, yet, I reuse these design tools repeatedly. If you notice that you constantly reuse certain tools or constantly go out and buy the same supplies, I’m betting that you’ve stumbled upon your own design tools. Invest in supplies that are versatile and are produced with durable materials, and they will consistently give back to you.

Ottoman Attachments

03.09.2016

0700

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Materials:

  • Cloth bags
  • Short screws that will hold the bags in place

Tools:

  • Screwdriver

With no coffee table as a furniture piece, means that I have to manipulate the uses of my ottomans. Coffee tables do provide a flat and even surface to place our items on but storage is also necessary. I personally need a place to keep my remote control and reading material. Sometimes that  storage is also where I keep a small pile of papers for sketching when I’m watching TV or my cell phone when I want it off of the couch when I’m sitting on the couch.

Since my ottomans have storage space under their lids, I decided to solve my  problem by attaching a few canvas bags. These bags are old bags that I’ve had for awhile and I thought they would work great here. I picked my canvas bags due to the strength of canvas itself and the colors are neutral enough that they won’t stand out too much from the ottoman color. I attached the smaller bag with a safety pin and the larger bag with two screws. If you’re going to try this method of attaching bags to an ottoman, I suggest you put a sample weight in the bag as you measure the height that it should hang above the floor. All bags are designed and sewn with different stitches and will fill out in different capacities. Some bags are designed to fill out more on the bottom half of the design and some will not. By placing a sample weight in the bags (ie. remote controls, some papers, a magazine), you will be able to see how the bag will sit against the ottoman with the tension relying on the screws or safety pin(s). If you decide to have a bag for magazines or papers, make sure that there is enough room on both sides of the object so that you can slide it in and out of the pocket with ease. This may take some adjustments when you’re trying to place the location of where the bag is going to sit above the floor.

This system works very well and I can store my remote control, my phone when it’s not being used and even reading material that I’m waiting to read. I’ve used these attachments for years and I actually have another ottoman which also has two bags attached to it with the same method. These bags are also great when you need to store an object(s) that you need access to quickly, such as kids toys. I hope this post was useful for those of you who may use it. Depending on the needs of you and your family, you should pick your canvas bags accordingly, by testing out different sized bags.

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Tết 2016- The Set Up and Food

02.08.2016

0800

So I just wanted to share the set up that my family uses for Tết. We use the alter, entryway dresser and dining table as our platforms. The alter is for Buddha (bàn thờ Phật), the entryway dresser is used for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai) and the dining table is used for my ancestors (ông, bà).

Before the Tết ceremony begins: (Day 1)

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During the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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On the alter sits a bowl of dry rice in which we have placed many incense sticks (cây nhang) over the years during each Tết celebration. On the entryway table is the set up for the Saint of the Property (Đức Đai), which includes a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, water glasses, a variety of foods such as soup (Canh), Vietnamese braised pork with eggs (thịt kho), Vegetarian stir fry egg noodles (mì xào chay), shrimp salad (gỏi tôm), and fresh fruit. On the dining table, there is a small bowl of dry rice for the incense sticks, three bowls of rice for my ancestors (one for my dad’s side, one for my mom’s side and the third is for all other ancestors), water glasses, candles and the same variety of foods as on the entryway table but in addition, there are also Vietnamese mung bean dumplings (bánh ít trần).

Tradition goes that when ceremony starts, each person always prays and greets Buddha first with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) at the alter, then we move over to the entryway table and ask the Saint of the Property, permission (xin phép) to invite our ancestors to come and celebrate Tết with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). Then at the dining table, we invite our ancestors to come and celebrate with us with 2 bows (hai xá) and 2 prayers (hai lạy). After each request, we each place one incense (cây nhang) into the designated dry rice bowl. At the end of the first round of bows, each person will visit each table again to ask permission to leave the ceremony, but using the same amount of bows and prayers per table that was used in the first round. This second round of bows and prayers will release the person to go on with their day as they please.

After the Tết ceremony: (Day 1)

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The bows, prayers and the placing of the incense sticks are repeated each morning for three days (ba ngày Tết), during the three day celebration. At the end of the three day celebration, there will be another feast that will be the same set up on each table and on the alter in which we bid farewell (tiễn đưa) to our ancestors.

In the late evening (close to midnight): (Day 1)

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In the late evening, we celebrate the New Years Eve (Cúng giao thừa) by lighting the alter candles and  welcoming the new year. This ceremony includes three separate steps by the owner of the home. The first prayer (lạy Phật) takes place at the alter to Buddha with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). Then the owner will step outside on the front porch of the home and prays to Heaven and Earth (cúng trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy) The owner will then come inside to the alter and will pray to the lord of Heaven and Earth (lạy trời đất) with 3 bows (ba xá) and 3 prayers (ba lạy). The owner of the home will then place three incense into the rice bowl at the alter after these last three bows are completed. This last set of bows will end the ceremony of welcoming the new year.

 This is an overview of what the set up is for my family for this year. There are traditional baked goods missing from this set up such as Bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients) and  Bánh tét (savoury but sometimes sweetened cake, made from mung bean or mung bean and pork filling), as well as tea in addition to the water glasses. Each family has their own variation of what foods they cook or how they set up their ceremonies, this is just my family’s set up for this year.

So,  Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year) I wish you all a healthy and happy new year with plenty of wealth and triumphs throughout the year 🙂

Recipe – (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs)

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs (Vietnamese braised pork) - great with rice and popular on Lunar New Years!

This thịt kho recipe is a low and slow braise so the meat is going to be reeeeally tender. In this recipe we’re going to use pork belly because the fat on the meat tastes awesome! If you can get pork belly with the bones, you’ll have even better results. My ideal ratio of pork for this dish is actually 1/2 pork belly and 1/2 of a leaner cut like shoulder.

Hard-boiled eggs for thit kho - boil and peel them first!

Near me in Southern California’s Little Saigon, I hear you can get a higher quality of pork belly at Quang Minh Mini Market. It costs more for the belly, but there seems to be a consensus that its worth the cost–something I need to check out soon!

Here are the brands I use for the seasoning: Rico coconut soda, Kikkoman soy sauce, and Three Crabs Brand fish sauce. The thick soy sauce brand is Koon Chun, to be used in a pinch.

thit kho seasoning

As a kid I enjoyed mashing the yolk with the rice and spooning sauce over it–it’s fun! This dish is commonly eaten with a side of dua chua (pickled mustard greens) which provides a fresh and crunchy balance.

Chopped yellow onions for thit kho, to add another layer of flavorNotes:
I have tried adding slices of yellow onion too and it adds a nice layer of flavor to this dish. You can remove the onion at the end of the braise if you prefer since it will have given up all its flavor to the broth. For the seasoning in this thịt kho recipe: tinker with the soy sauce, fish sauce, and salt after the liquid has finished reducing, to taste.

Thit kho with hard-boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens

5.0 from 2 reviews
Thịt Kho – Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs
Prep time
10 mins
Cook time
2 hours
Total time
2 hours 10 mins
Author: Hungry Huy
Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds of pork belly, cut into 1.5″ cubes
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs
  • 6 ounces coconut soda (I use Rico brand)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or replace this with fish sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces (6-8 will be fine)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar for the caramel color (nuoc mau). This is to deepen the color of the dish. Depending on how dark your caramel sauce gets, you may not need to use all of it. In a pinch, you can use about ⅕ teaspoon of thick soy sauce instead, but the caramel sauce will tastes better.
Instructions
  1. Cut the pork into smaller pieces. I like 1.5″ cubes so it cooks slightly faster.
  2. Bring 2-3 quarts of water boiling on high, or enough to fully submerge the pork.When the water’s boiling, add the pork for 1-2 minutes just to clean it. Drain then rinse the pork under running water until the water is clear.
  3. Add the coconut soda, soy sauce, fish sauce and salt to the pot.
  4. Fill up the pot until the water just covers the pork. Turn the heat to high.
  5. When it hits a boil, drop the heat until you still see a slight boil, maybe about about 25% heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check and stir the pot every 20 minutes. The longer you cook it, the softer the pork gets. Leaving it slightly uncovered lets the liquid reduce so you get a nice concentrated sauce later.
  6. Make the caramel color and add it to the pot.
  7. Make the hard-boiled eggs: add to a pot and cover the eggs with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let it sit for 8 minutes. Cool in water then peel. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot of pork in the last ~30-40 minutes of cooking.
  8. When there are about 30 minutes left on the timer, add the eggs. Eventually we want the liquid to reduce to about ⅓ or ¼ of the original.
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Comments

  1. SK says:

    Good job :) A good food in Tet’s Days at Vietnam, however, eating it in normal days is ok ! ^^

    • Huy says:

      Year round is definitely okay with me too :)

  2. Huy Vu says:

    Thanks! Just wish I had some Dua Cai Chua to go with this. =]

  3. daisy says:

    its so hard to find vietnamese recipes i understand and use online. more more more.

  4. Huy Vu says:

    =] sure thing.

  5. Jessica says:

    This reminds me of a Korean side dish called “Jang Joh Rim.” I wonder if they taste similar!

    • Huy says:

      Yeah it seems a lot of Asians share a similar variation of this dish!

  6. jason says:

    Huy, do i cover the pot with a lid? or leave it open?

    • Huy says:

      You only need to cover it slightly at the start so the liquid can reduce. Towards the end you can probably remove the lid entirely–adjust as needed.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really great recipe, the step by step pictures are really appreciated. Thank you for sharing, and keep them coming!

  8. Jen says:

    Similar to adobo in the philippines:) ill try this recipe..

  9. Shay says:

    A friend made this as a comfort meal for me once and I loved it!
    Now I can try making it for my family. Wondering if this needs to be simmered covered with a lid or left open to boil? Thanks

    • Huy says:

      Lid open mostly, to reduce. If the meat is still tough you can add water as needed and continue to boil uncovered until it reaches a sauce thickness you like.

  10. LT says:

    This is way better than the Filipinos’ adobo.

  11. Eric says:

    looks similar to adobo but taste way different to adobo trust me this dish is heaps tastier

  12. steve says:

    make sure you use good fish sauce, like the one pictured above.

  13. Linda says:

    I love the pictures and the steps are very similar to my notes from my mom’s cooking lesson to me. The only thing is I just cooked it today with the country style boneless ribs and I compared it to the pork belly meat. Somehow the rib meat was more tough. Is there a way to make it more tender? I cooked 2hrs as your recipe dictates.

    Also, many people asked & I wonder also, do you cook your pot covered or uncovered?

    • Huy says:

      I cook it uncovered so the liquid can reduce (evaporate) to an amount I like. If you see it reduces too much you can put the lid back on or add some water.

      As for toughness of the meat, different cuts will vary in amount of connective tissue. Just cook it longer if its still too tough. At first I was afraid to overcook it, but giving it more time has always resulted in tender results. Just check it every 15 minutes or so.

  14. Tracy Le says:

    Just tried your recipe. Turned out so awesome. Thanks!!! :)

  15. foodiegal says:

    Is that a typo? This doesn’t take 20 hours does it? If so, can we cook this in a crock pot?

    By the way, I’ve had this dish many times at parties and IT IS TO DIE FOR! I love that the ingredients are simple and so are the directions. Is there a substitute for the coconut soda, if I’m not able to find it? Thanks!

    • Huy says:

      I’m DYING, that’s hilarious!! Yeah I meant to say 2 hours–oops, that’s been updated and thanks!

      The best thing you can use is fresh coconut juice, coco soda 2nd, then 3rd is cola or lemon-lime soda. Hope that helps.

  16. TrinityTrinh says:

    Can you substitute chicken or beef? I do not eat Pork. I’m sure it won’t taste the same but thought I would ask

  17. Trinity trinh says:

    Have you or can you substitute chicken or beef. I have taken pork out of my diet.

    • Huy says:

      Hey Trinity, I personally haven’t tried it but I bet it would be pretty good too. I’ve had this with tofu instead of meat and really enjoy that version too!

  18. Amy says:

    Super easy recipe to follow, and ended up delicious! I used pork shoulder only because the local grocery store didn’t have any pork belly left, and the end product was still absolutely delicious! The meat was so tender and flavorful without being too salty. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Huy says:

      Hey Amy glad to hear you liked it! Yeah you can really use any cut of pork you want and it still turns out pretty well :)

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A Zero Waste Lifestyle

01.17.2016

0646

Before I went zero waste, I used to buy anything bottled, use sponges in the sink, bought spices packaged in plastic bags and also in glass jars, and the worst culprit of all was that I bought packaged foods.

Kitchen Now:

  1. Whole Foods Market: Bulk balsamic vinegar, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios, raw honey, candy, oats, black beans, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, spices and coffee.
  2. Philz Coffee: Loose leaf green tea and chamomile tea (and coffee if I want Philz coffee each morning)
  3. Kitchen Items: 3 pots & pans, 1 grill, 1 set of basic flatware, 1 set of basic kitchen utensils, 1 hand held mixer, 2 silicone bakeware pans, 1 dinnerware set, 1 set of mixing bowls, 1 set of Pyrex storage containers
  4.  Dining: Cloth napkins and kitchen towels, Tea infusers, re-useable wine corks, wind-up flash light and I now compost everything
  5. Recyclable products: Soups, baking soda, and occasionally wine

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Living Room Now:

  1. Giant/small towels as floor mats and door mats, I hate that the rubber backing on standard door mats falls apart after exposure to weathering.
  2. I buy digital books or I check out books from the library (Fortunately I bought an iPad when I started grad school so it came in handy)
  3. I use an indoor air filtering plant to liven up the space as well as making it functional as well.
  4. I limit the amount of batteries I need/use. I replaced my flashlight with a wind up flashlight and in total I have 3 items that uses batteries. In addition to that, I limit the size of batteries to AAA or AA (it’s really not necessary to have a library of them and it makes attaining them harder when traveling).
  5. Christmas bag: Flour sack towels (28″x 29″) and bandannas for wrapping gifts. If you wrap gifts using basic box wrapping techniques and then tuck the ends within the folds, you can always secure the wrapping. Or check out Furoshiki and check out the techniques they list and their products they have available.
    1. Here are some examples from the website:

Basic WrapFlat Object WrapRoll Wrap 1

Office Now:

  1. I use refillable ball point pens and lead and replace them in my pen/pencil unit
  2. Due to my profession, moving away from rendering materials is quite difficult so I do use colored pencils and a lead holder as well as a Faber-Castell kneaded eraser. (The kneaded eraser doesn’t slough off eraser bits)
  3. I used to keep my work saved on re-writable CDs but now I have a 1 TB external hard drive. I also utilize my emails and use my clouds to store data.
  4. I use a stapleless stapler so now I don’t buy staples for refilling and it’s very efficient
  5. I’ve opted out of junk mail as much as I can but some mail still gets through, when it does, I use the back of the one sided pages as scratch paper (I can’t remember when the last time I bought paper).
  6. Recyclable products: Envelopes, stamps and Christmas cards… There are still items I value and I can’t seem to stray from and hand writing is one of them. I value a hand written letter, the ink/lead on paper denotes a moment in time- a moment in time when the writer touched the document as well as the receiver.

This is an over all view of what my life inventory looks like now. It makes life a lot easier when I have less to worry about. Majority of my time, I think I’d prefer eating food or going on an adventure. Once I got rid of a lot of my items, I noticed that I sleep better now, my stress level seems to lessen because there’s less upkeep with my life. It’s strange how when I used to think of hanging out with my friends meant that we would go shopping (and not window shopping), and now that shopping really isn’t a part of my life- I had to search to find what to replace it with. Even if I had the choice to document my life in photographs, I think there’s still a pressure to do so- sometimes, the memories are enough to take away from that experience.

A Zero Waste Bathroom

01.16.2016

1650

So I filled out the “About” section of my website yesterday and I know I wrote that I’m trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. I use the word trying because the system isn’t perfect. As we all change and get older, our needs change, whether it be mental needs, health needs or the needs of our loved ones. So this is the trash I’ve accumulated so far in 2016:

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I started trying to live a zero waste lifestyle in 2010 and over the years my system became more refined. I found better alternatives for current products I use and even had to opt out of certain products. To give you a better perspective of what I gave up, I made a list: (of what I could remember)

Bathroom In The Past:

  1. Tampons (Tampax)
  2. Scented bedroom spray (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  3. Bug spray for your body (OFF)
  4. Face wash (Clearsil)
  5. Deodorant (Secret Invisible solid)
  6. Toothpaste (Colgate)
  7. Toothbrushes (made of plastic that would end up in the landfill)
  8. Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond)
  9. Band aids (BAND-AID)
  10. Antibiotic ointment (Neosporin)
  11. Nail polish (from wherever)
  12. Nail polish remover (store brand)
  13. Shampoo bottles (Garnier)
  14. Conditioner bottles (Garnier)
  15. Harmful bathroom cleaning sprays (Scrub/409)
  16. Toilet cleaner (Scrubbing Bubbles)
  17. Jewlery cleaning liquid (La Sonic Jewelery Cleaner Concentrate)
  18. Cotton balls (store brand)
  19. Cotton swabs to clean my ears (Q-tips)
  20. Candles (to make the bathrom smell nice)
  21. Fancy body lotions from (Victoria’s Secret)
  22. Face lotion (Neutrogena)
  23. Rubbing alcohol (store brand)
  24. Toilet Paper (Store brand- packaged in plastic)
  25. Make-up (chap stick/lipstick/eye shadow/eyeliner/mascara)
  26. Disposable razors (Gillette)
  27. Dental Floss (Oral-B SuperFloss Dental Floss)

Bathroom During the Present: (Product details can be found under: Store> Store Link)

  1. Vinegar
  2. Toilet paper (wrapped in paper)
  3. Dr. Bronner’s soap bars (which I use for 6 different household cleaning tasks)
  4. Deodorant crystal
  5. Baking Soda
  6. Stainless steel seasoning container (to contain my baking soda)
  7. Compostable toothbrushes
  8. Citrus essential oil
  9. Keeper Moon Cup
  10. Dental floss (ECO-dent)
  11. Bulk lotion
  12. Gauze and paper tape
  13. ALBA Sunblock
  14. Pumice Stone & Wash rag
  15. Sage leaves (I burn sage to release the aroma and use it as a cleansing method )

I think that’s pretty much the entire list. If I’ve left out anything I’ll come back to edit it. This is what my bathroom looks like now:

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From the list of items I used to buy, the one criteria I needed each product to pass was the plastic packaging issue. Now I buy items packaged in glass or stainless steel OR paper (and not the glossy kind of paper- just raw paper). I have seen bulk soap sold in stores, but they always have a sticker price tag attached to them, which is not recyclable. I use my Dr. Bronner’s soap for cleaning my bathroom, as a body wash, as a face wash, pet shampoo, laundry detergent, and dish washing soap. With the amount of use I get from one bar of soap, I think this investment pays for itself. I now only use candles in my emergency kit in case of a power outage. My list also was tested with the help of another blog called “The Zero Waste Home” with Bea Johnson and her family. I followed a majority of what she suggested but there were a few that I did not agree with. If you want to check them out, here is the link The Zero Waste Home

There are a few hang ups with this system that still doesn’t make it completely 100% zero waste, such as sunblock and make up. However I did discover a company called TerraCycle who will let you mail them certain trash to be reused into other items as long as you join one of their brigades. Check them out here TerraCycle- Outsmart Waste Currently I’m on their wait list for their Personal Care and Beauty Brigade.