That Elusive “Perfect” Pork Barbecue…


There are several dishes that I simply have never mastered to the point that I was satisfied to write and publish a good recipe for it. White puto is one of those dishes, so is a classic Boholano torta with lard, pancit Malabon or palabok and for some reason, despite my obsession with pork, I am still struggling with that everyday street food classic, pork barbecue on a stick! We make and cook this dish at least 3x a year, often with great intentions, and multiple versions being experimented with simultaneously, but there is always something missing…


Maybe my ideal is just a figment of my imagination. I want meaty pieces of tender pork, balanced with a savory flavor or salt, a hint of sweetness and a bit of tang. I want the pork to be soft, but not artificially so, with crunchy bits of extremities charred while the rest of the meat is juicy and cooked just right. I do like the tradition of a piece of fat at the bottom of the stick, more because it is an excellent way to self-baste the barbecue as you lift and turn in on the grill.


I think we prefer the pork shoulder that is meaty and not too fatty (we have tried all liempo or belly ones that are just too oily), cut into thin slices and coated with a marinade that sits for an hour or two at most. I like the addition of a touch of baking soda, that seems to tenderize the meat just so, but fear having too much of it or leaving it on for too long results in overly “pulpy” meat. I suppose that’s why some opt for soda like 7Up instead. And I do like the skewers slathered in barbecue sauce or marinade. Personally, I love eating barbecue meat like this with a dipping sauce of vinegar and chili when consuming it with rice, but otherwise can work my way through several sticks as is for a protein laden snack… :)


The last time we “experimented” with barbecue, we made at least four versions, and the crew gamely exhibited streetside vendor flair with the basting, turning and salestalk to anyone watching. They all seemed giddy with excitement and commented that it all LOOKED fantastic. Truth be told, they were pretty darned good. But I still have this nagging feeling that I am missing something. Oh, and one of my secrets? Some good lard added to the basting sauce — for obvious reasons.


In the end, this was another good batch of barbecue, but it wasn’t “the slam-dunk OMG that is amazing barbecue!!”. Every time I go back and look at my archives and reader suggestions, I think to try something new the next time we have pork barbecue on the menu. But maybe I should just ask my dentist (and his partners) that bought Aling Nene’s barbecue (the famous one on the south super highway) last year for some expert tips. :)


23 Responses

  1. Yum.

    It happens often enough when recreating a remembered favourite dish that the perceived elusive element you just cannot put a finger on is the exact situation it was served in, in other words, the original ambience.

    With new recipes you are venturing into, the problem is matching the result to expectation. Certain dishes are preceded by so much ballyhoo that the actual dish simply cannot fulfil.

  2. Try treating the meat with baking soda and then washing it off. The tenderising effect is so natural, it might be just what you’re looking for texture wise. Plus, the baking soda cleans away any undesirable smells.

  3. mr marketmanila, maybe you are just trying too hard.

    as for aling nene, it would be nearly impossible to exactly get the same taste, since their grill is fully seasoned from daily use. the accumulated taste from all the years of cooking the same bbq day in day out accounts for the difference.

  4. Because marketman has been so generous with his posts. I would like to share with you my special 3 ingredient recipie for pork or chicken barbecue as my birthday gift to you.

    1. good quality patis
    2. sugar
    3. hot sauce to taste
    marinate for no more than 3 hours. other wise meat will be too soft.

    use a small amount of patis and little sugar. too much patis stinks the meat, too much sugar makes it too sweet. but given the right portions and marinating time you will have a product that tastes similar to the sheet barbecue meat sold in macau and Hk.

  5. I don’t know if it is just me, or we always have had this easy. Maybe the memory is way better than the actual anyway. We don’t even have measurements for ours. All to taste. Just a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, banana catsup, calamansi juice, sugar, and black pepper. Same ingredients and proportions are used for marinade and basting. Always the kasim, never the pigue. We have never have had a bad barbecue. Of course are standards might be different, but we have always been happy with ours! :)

  6. MM, try adding kalamansi in the marinade and 7-up. so far the combination always deliver that inihaw sa kalye taste. :)

  7. Hi MM, someone told me that the “secret” to tender pork bbq is a drop (literally) of papaya dagta. Apparently, too much of it will pulverize the meat but just a drop will make it tender enough such that it still has the grainy meat texture, and not the over-tenderized texture that Ineng’s usually has.

  8. My Bacolod City pork barbecue saga began in grade school in the early 80’s when an entrepreneurial artist/plaza photographer started grilling pork barbecue in a driveway in an apartment complex across our school. The thick perfumed smoke would waft through our classroom windows and render us hypnotized and hungry. The “secret’ recipe then spread to other entrepreneurs who rented nearby stalls and started barbecue businesses that fed us from grade school until today. The meat is tender, smoky, sweet, and is not slathered with thick sauce. The flavor and texture has always remained consistent through the years but the portions and cuts of meat are not really “standard” sized and would at times be a hit and miss. Bacolod City is known for Chicken inasal, cansi, batchoy, kadyos baboy langka, piaya, etc. but an often overlooked food experience you must all try when visiting Bacolod City is pork barbecue at Galo Street near La Consolacion College.

  9. That’s the civic spirit Lee, talk up your city’s culinary charms. Which reminds me of this old Tagalog tale: A poor man who gained weight by smelling the aroma emanating from his neighbour’s kitchen was confronted by the skinny rich neighbour demanding payment for it so the poor man then paid the neighbour by making him listen to the poor man jiggle the coins in his pocket.

  10. @Footloose. That story is in Carlos Bulosan’s book The Laughter of my Father. I bought an old copy of the book online last year after remembering having read that when I was younger.

  11. Good morning, MM, Footloose, at mga Mrs!

    Pasensiya na at really been too busy gardening these days! Allow me to share my barbecue recipe with you…have not ever tasted Aling Nene’s! I don’t use baking soda on meat except when cooking Chinese food at home. But when cooking Vietnamese pork lemongrass or Kahlbi, I use another everyday ingredient commonly found in your household….ONIONS! Not only does it add flavour to the marinade but it tenderizes the meat as well.

    Baking is an exact science so tancha method will not work in baking. However, you can get away with the tancha method in cooking!

    So for 10 pounds of pork butt….

    2 cups soy
    1 cup vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    4 large lemons, juice only
    4 large onions, puréed
    2 large bulbs garlic, pounded in admires
    3 1/2 cups sugar
    Fresh ground pepper
    1 small bottle Worcestershire
    100 6 inch bamboo skewers, soaked in water

    Cut meat thinly, season lightly with salt and add the pepper and finely pounded garlic. Add the puréed onions and massage into the meat. Let it sit in the cooler for about 4 hours. After 4 hours, add the rest of ingredients and let it sit in the cooler overnight. Next day, thread the meat in skewers and grill. For basting, I make another marinade…smaller quantity let it boil and reduce and add catsup.

    This is the recipe I use since I was a teenager and sent to KCTS COOKS together with the Grilled Salmon in Corn Husk on their ON THE GRILL EPISODE. They chose the Salmon recipe over our Pinoy Barbecue for me to do a demo on TV in Seattle.

  12. Maraming Salamat, erehwon! Am glad for liking the recipes I have shared. This barbecue recipe above is one that I make solely for my family, my doctor and physiotherapist and one of the recipes I have compiled to leave for my children, doctor and physiotherapist as promised. So it is especial! But as we grow older and start having health issues, I know they will tweak it esp. my doctor and physio so it will evolve into something else. Just like any other recipe I have, I have a few versions to suit different people.

    For instance, my benchmark for a good cheesecake is Cheesecake, etc. based here in Vancouver and in business ever since I came here to live in Vancouver. So I have accomplished my goal of trying to replicate it and have succeeded. If you tell me you prefer Montreal style cheesecake, then that is what I will share with you!

  13. 7up is one ingredients that I vividly remember from my mom on her pork BBQ. I was able to recreate it among other ingredients that are common in a pinoy BBQ and apply some modern cooking technique in marinating and cooking to attain an umph in the elusive BBQ. But then a pork bbq is almost like adobo where every place, city, household has their own distinct taste and recipe. It will always be an elusive greatness to pork BBQ. For me I just enjoy pork BBQ with a baragge of choices of dipping sauces that gives different flavor to every stick of pork BBQ. Maybe MM, that is where you should concentrate with your art in presenting and plating that will give that unique experience of eating BBQ :)

  14. I’ve always wondered if a well seasoned grill (e.i. the grill of barbeque vendors) also imparts its own version of “wok hei” on barbecued meats. Maybe it really does.

    As always thanks for the recipe Ms. betty q. I like the ala Chaliapin Steak treatment of the meat in your recipe. Would definitely give it a try, alas in half quantity of your original recipe. :D

  15. ros, I completely agree with you on grill, with layers and layers of fat burned and coated on the metal. It’s the same reason bananaque made in several times re-used oil seems more authentic than those made at home in clean oil. :)

    bettyq, boopsie et al, salamat for those recipes and tips, will keep trying…

  16. my sister-in-law who makes good bbq uses the following: soy sauce, ground pepper, 7-up or Sprite, calamansi or lemon juice, garlic, brown sugar and yellow mustard. all done with the tantsa method. she of course would taste the concoction before putting in the pork.

  17. Hi betty q, do you mind sharing your cheesecake recipe? :) I’ve tried a few already but it frustrates me that there always seems to be something missing… Thanks in advance!

  18. Hi MM, my brother in law brought some bbq from GenSan that is rumored to be marinated in vanilla ice-cream. It was the best tasting bbq I had in a long time. Strange rumor though!

  19. Hi Khew, how exactly does one “treat meat wih baking soda”? Thanks in anticipation…

    Thanks a mil Ms Betty. I will try your recipe.. Have you tried using the marinade for chicken bbq?

  20. @Ms bettq, thank you for the recipe. Will certainly keep this in my recipe book as it is filled with your recipes.



Subscribe To Updates

No spam, only notifications about new blog posts.