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.

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.

What makes this barbecue special, aside from the taste, is that it’s skewered.

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.

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).

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.

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)
  • 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!



Feast (An East Meets West Barbeque)

2011 has been one big blur for me. I have become a lot of things this year. A student, a graduate, a nurse, a teacher (while I was waiting for the nurse exam results).

Things just happened so fast that there’s this slight worry if I’m not at the right pace in my life right now. So I might say I’ve also become one big question mark right now.

I’m really one big ball of emotions right now. The semester is about to end and I can’t really see a light at the end of the tunnel just yet. I teach part time and I don’t know if I’ll be back next semester. Yet, I have also become emotionally distant at the thought of being a nurse. So it’s not as if I’m being forcefully tugged at two divergent directions; the problem is I’m not really moving. Yeah, that really puts it in perspective.

But one thing is for sure, cooking tugs me at a direction I’m willing to go to. Whereas the thought of an uncertain future makes me stuck at one point, there’s a certainty in the kitchen, well, for me that is.

OK, enough of that. Even if life brings us to certain lows, we can almost always find a reason to stop for a while, sit down, and eat an extremely hearty meal and celebrate whatever glorious moment we’ve been given. And everything tastes so much better with barbecue sauce.

Speaking of which, I’ve always wanted to make a barbeque mix. One of my major goals in life is to create a line of barbecue sauces. And I think I just found sauce # 1. It’s not the traditional ketchup-y barbecue sauce. Sure, the ketchup is there but the soy sauce adds another depth of flavor to it. When I first tasted it I thought I screwed up and went straight to China when I was aiming for Texas. But really, it’s China and Texas = Chexas or…Tina. Chexas it is. Plus on the side we have buttered mushrooms and peas. Really really Chexas.

I was amazed that cumin is actually the little star of the barbecue. I’ve browsed a lot of barbecue recipes that needed cumin. It can overpower the senses in large amounts, but the perfect balance adds that smoky earthy aroma that hit the nail on the coffin…or grill…or oven.

Oven “Barbecued” Baby Back Ribs with Buttered Mushrooms and Peas

(serves 4 – 6)

for 1 1/2 kg pork baby back ribs

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked pepper
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves
  • 2 tsp paprika
  1. Mix the seasoning ingredients together and rub all over the meat. Place in the refrigerator and leave overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 190 C. Place in a roasting pan with a rack. Cover the pan with tin foil and place in the oven.
  3. Cook for about an hour. After an hour, remove the tin foil and brush with the sauce. You may want to remove the pan from the oven to brush the meat evenly.
  4. Return it to the oven covered with foil and bake for another 45 minutes.
  5. Then brush it with the sauce for the second time and return to the oven, this time without the foil.
  6.  Bake for another 15 – 20 minutes or until there is no more blood from the bones.
  7. When done, remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice into individual pieces or serve whole with the sauce and buttered mushrooms and peas. Enjoy!!!

for the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium sized red bell pepper, cleaned and sliced into strips
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups tomato ketchup
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan and toast the garlic. Add the bell peppers and fry for a minute.
  2. While the pan is over low heat, add the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch in water. Stirring frequently until everything is incorporated well. Allow to cook for one – two minutes.
  3. Add the cornstarch slurry and mix well. Allow to cook and reduce until thick.
for the buttered mushrooms and peas
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1 large can button mushrooms (sorry, threw the can away and didn’t get the amount – whole, pieces and stems or sliced, it’s your call), drained.
  • 1 pack frozen green peas
  • a dash of salt and pepper
  1. Melt butter in a pan. Add the garlic and allow to toast.
  2. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add the peas and cook for another minute or two or until peas are tender. season with salt and pepper and serve warm with the sauce.