After all those seafood posts, isn’t it about time for some PORK? Heehee. The first of 4 different pork barbecue on a stick versions we cooked over the holidays at the beach, to complement the seafood that is, and before Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, of course. I have toyed with pork barbecue many times before, but always there was something just not right. Too tough, too dry, not flavorful enough, not juicy, lacked that street like hit of I don’t know what. In the same manner that streetside bananaque just seems better than homemade, homemade barbecue typically disappoints, or at least it had, until now.
A few tips that apply across all our recent experiments. First, soak your barbecue sticks for several hours in water AND wrap the exposed areas in foil to prevent burning the sticks. Contrary to many folks suggestions that I use “kasim” or pork shoulder, I insisted on using “pigue” which has less connective tisue and gristle it seems, though has a tendency to dry out. We sliced the pigue about 1/3 inch thick, and intentionally “bunched up” the meat on the stick to help it keep its moisture. I also added some sliced pork belly for those pieces of FAT. I also eschewed the common practice of really long periods of marination, sometimes overnight, as I was worried about the impact on the integrity of the meat. So a couple of hours at most of marination. With thin and small slices of pork, that should have been more than sufficient.
For the purposes of experimentation, no mentioned pork barbecue ingredients except MSG was off limits. I was open to bottled banana ketchup, sprite or 7UP, baking soda to tenderize, etc. My goal was to get a lip-smacking equivalent of the streetside barbecue you purchase from the “best” purveyors, and to learn some other options along the way as well. Party barbecue and party spaghetti would make most gourmands cringe, but they hold a special place in my memory and taste banks… must have just been to too many children’s parties as a kid. :)
For about 800 grams of “pigue,” sliced thinly, mixed with roughly 200 grams of pork belly sliced thinly, I added 10 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped finely, 1/2 cup coconut vinegar, 1/2 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar, lots of freshly ground pepper, 1/3 cup of kikkoman soy sauce, a teaspoon of baking soda, a bit of salt and about 1/2 cup of Sprite. Mix this well and let it marinate for an hour or two before placing on the soaked barbecue skewers. After a couple of hours, I tested one piece of pork, by frying it in a little cast iron pan. It tasted quite good but I added a touch more soy sauce to the marinade. If you are not a frequent cook with a SLAM DUNK recipe for pork barbecue, I strongly recommend this little “taste test” to ensure you have a properly seasoned batch. This would apply to chorizo, tapa, tocino, etc.
While the sticks were soaking and the meat marinating, I concocted my “basting sauce”… I eventually arrived at this mixture of ingredients… about 1/3 cup of the marinade after the pork was skewered, strained through a fine sieve, about a cup of banana ketchup, straight out of a bottle, and in this case a “tamis-anghang” or sweet and spicy variant, several tablespoons of pure lard for flavor and moisture retention and a bit more brown sugar and touch of vinegar and lots of pepper and a bit of salt. Bring this all to a simmer and whisk until it is well mixed and has the consistency of a basting sauce.
We grilled the barbecue sticks over a charcoal flame until it had some slight grill marks and was partially cooked. Then we brushed the sticks liberally with the basting sauce and returned them to the fire. A second bastin basting with the nuclear red orange sauce and the sticks were removed when they were cooked through.
They looked pretty darned good to me and the crew and after a couple of minutes of cooling, we bit into the barbecue. The meat was nicely flavored and the texture was nice to the bite, but just a touch drier drier than I would have liked. It was much juicier than previous attempts, but I think the lower FAT content of the meat was showing at this point. It wasn’t a deadly thing, just gave away the homemade status, as we held back on the fat that makes the street version just so heavenly sinful… :)
I think the lard was a good call, and it added a subtle porkiness that most people would have been unable to pinpoint unless you told them. The banana ketchup succeeded in giving the barbecue that otherwordly artificially colored tinge, that wasn’t as bad as I had previously thought it would be… but it did not look natural. And the meat literally took on some of the dye. Bananas are obviously not red, so to get the ketchup a bright red, there is a LOT of RED DYE in the ingredients list.
The verdict? Maybe an 8.25-8.50/10.00 on the Marketman scale. Not bad for a home effort. And frankly, there must be other potentially evil things that street or commercial vendors must add to their recipes that perhaps I just don’t really want to know about. To make your version sing, just look the other way and add more sugar, salt, ketchup, vinegar, pepper than you think is necessary. More is better, in this case, apparently. A hungry crew and I wiped out this entire platter in a matter of minutes. :)