Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork

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It’s 8 in the evening, and here I am, thinking about what I ate for lunch. And I’m hungry. I’m not sure if this is entirely psychological or somatic, or a little bit of both, but yeah, I can say that my tummy’s rumbling. It’s all in my head. It’s all in my head….

Let me make a confession: while I was on my retreat, I caught myself thinking about what I’m going to eat when I’m done with the silence. Don’t get me wrong, the Jesuits served filling, really really great meals, but I was craving. The craving for salty-sour grilled pork was so bad.

When we were in Dipolog-Dapitan a week ago, prior to my retreat, we went to their boulevard for dinner, and there, we were greeted by a proverbial barbecue mecca. There were rows and rows, stall upon stall of skewered anything – pork, chicken, chorizo, innards, even tocino! All you had to do was point or pick the meat, and they’ll grill it. I’ll devote a post to that, but as a prelude – I have been imprinted with this lingering obsession with barbecue. Hence, this post.
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Sweet or sour? That question profoundly affected me. For real. Would I ‘try’ to recreate the sweet smoky my taste buds were treated to when I was on vacation? Or would a more rough and tumble salty-sour taste pique my cravings even more? After careful deliberation – the taste of sweet grilled pork would have to wait. Salty-sour ruled the day.

I’d have to say grilling pork marinated in salt, pepper and vinegar is easier to manage. Because there’s not much sugar in it, it doesn’t burn as fast as when you grill pork with a soy sauce, ketchup and sugar marinade. But if you’re like me, I like a hint of sweetness, so a tablespoon or two of brown sugar does the trick.
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Memories associated with the sensation of eating salty-sour grilled pork would have to be with my family at the beach. We would buy the pork on the way, then grill it as soon as we arrive. The nuances are there: sometimes we only rub it with salt and pepper, then the vinegar becomes the dipping sauce, together with soy sauce (toyo), onions, garlic and tomatoes. But whichever way it’s been cooked, it always leaves us full, happy, and bathing in the sun.

So sour it is. And honestly, my cravings have been satisfied. But tomorrow’s another day, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be planning the next time I’ll grill again. I can’t wait (!)
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Salt and Vinegar Grilled Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork belly, sliced 1 ½ inch thick

Marinade:

  • 1 cup white cane vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons brown sugar, optional
  • 3 tablespoons patis/fish sauce

Dipping Sauce

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Knorr liquid seasoning
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, minced
  • A dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons white cane vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients.
  2. Add the pork and make it is thoroughly coated with it. Marinate it overnight, turning once, after a few hours.
  3. Grill the pork on each side until golden brown, with grill marks. Make sure the meat does not burn. The time it takes for you to grill depends on how hot the grill is.
  4. When done, remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces and serve with rice and dipping sauce. Enjoy!
  5. Make the dipping sauce: over medium heat, add oil in a small saucepan. Add garlic and toast lightly. Add red pepper flakes and toast for a few seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust taste to your liking. Remove from heat and serve with the grilled pork.

Pork Barbecue

I’m still reeling around what we had on the table for our New Year’s lunch. I promise, this’ll be the last post about decadence. In a few days, I’ll be posting healthier recipes – like grass salad, steamed grass, grass on a bed of lettuce and more grass, plus a grass smoothie.

I take that back, I haven’t really tested the waters of healthier eating yet. And I’m operating around the forces of procratination and the love of all things pork. You get the idea. But what I do to make up for all the fat I consume is that I jog. I try to jog regularly and I’m proud to say that for three consecutive days I’ve devoted time to jog. Yeah I know it’s not much of a stretch but at least I’m trying to offset the guilt.
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Well, it’s not really guilt. It’s simply that bad feeling I get after eating a whole lot of everything. But I don’t want to dwell on the bad. After all, food is meant to be enjoyed, savored and loved. Sure, sometimes you wish you had another external stomach to digest what you’ve eaten lest it adds to your already expanding curvature. The mantra “all things in moderation” came a little too late.

But at that precious moment of biting into your favorite dish, the universe doesn’t matter. That probably happened to me more than once during lunch when I had pork barbecue.
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What makes this barbecue special, aside from the taste, is that it’s skewered.
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You must be scrunching your brows right about now. You see the only time we get to eat/make barbecue on a stick is during the New Year. That realization came when my dad and I had a conversation of why I needed to cube perfectly good solid pork. I told him that it’s the New Year, that’s the only time we get to do this. A  long second later he realized where I came from and said “Oo nga nuh?” (That’s a “yeah, that’s right” or something to that effect).

Now you hopefully understand why some laws of the universe don’t matter so much to me anymore.
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This recipe is meant to feed a reasonably sized crowd. I mean it. I couldn’t really account how many sticks were produced but the point is it’s meant to feed a family of 12 with leftovers to boot. But you can easily cut this recipe by half and adjust the taste of the marinade to your liking.

I recommend buying whole cuts of pork and if your butcher can help you cube it, the better. Buying the pork whole gives you more control over the amount of meat and fat you want in your barbecue. A typical pork barbecue stick has around 4 – 6 pieces, 80% of which is lean meat while the rest is delectable fat. I used a combination of lean (shoulder) and fatty cuts (belly).
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I’d like to believe this is really a Filipino barbecue. It’s sweet and salty the way our barbecues should taste. The usual components of a marinade include a mixture of ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar/kalamansi juice and sugar but I added a few other things to tweak the traditional marinade a bit.

The resulting pork-on-a-stick is full of flavor. Apart from the strong marinade to begin with, it was alternately brushed with garlic and ginger flavored annatto oil and a sweetened reduced version of the marinade to keep it moist.
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This is so special I wouldn’t really think of doing this at any other random weekend of the year. This is a New Year’s barbecue. Enough said. But since you’re not me, you might want to try it this weekend, or the next, or the next time your father, mother, son or daughter comes home. Either way, this is great stuff. I hope you’ll love it as much as we did. And please, don’t feel guilty after eating a stick, or eight.

Pork Barbecue

  • 50 – 70 pieces bamboo skewers
  • 5 kg pork cubes (we used 2 kg skinless boneless pork, 2 kg shoulder, 1 kg pork belly, cut into cubes)
Marinade:
  • 1 ¼ cup vinegar
  • 1 ¼ cup banana ketchup
  • 1 ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 240 ml/1 can unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons chili oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili garlic paste
  • 1 cup brown sugar + 3/4 cup extra for the sauce
  • 1 whole garlic head, minced
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup warm water (for the reduction)

Annatto oil:

  • ½ cup margarine
  • Half a head of garlic, minced
  • one ¼ – 1/2 inch ginger slice
  1. Put the pork in a large colander and clean it by running it through tap water. Allow the water to drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients (except the cornstarch and water) together in a bowl large enough to hold the pork.
  3. Adjust taste to your preference.
  4. Add in the pork and mix well. Leave it covered in the refrigerator preferably overnight.
  5. A few hours prior to grilling, skewer the pork pieces. Make sure not to overcrowd the skewer (We had around 4- 5 pieces per stick).
  6. 30 minutes prior to grilling, make the two basting sauces.
  7. For the annatto oil: in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine. Do not allow to burn. Add the garlic and ginger and toast until the fragrant aromas are released. Set aside.
  8. For the marinade reduction: In a medium saucepan, add the marinade and cook over medium heat. When it starts to boil, add the sugar and the cornstarch slurry. Cook until marinade reduces. Be sure to constantly watch over it because the boiling marinade might spill out of the pan. Set aside.
  9. When the grill is ready, add the pork skewers and grill until both sides are evenly cooked, slightly charred but not totally burnt.
  10. Alternately baste the pork with the reduced cooked marinade and the annatto oil, every 5 – 10 minutes. We baste only when one side starts to brown and sizzle.
  11.  When done, remove from the grill and baste with the remaining sauce. Serve warm and enjoy!

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