Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Filipino Pork BBQ (Barbikyu)
Crunchy on the outside. Caramelized. Sweet, sour, and salty at the same time. That's Filipino Barbikyu.
Heaven on a stick.
So you say, "Where are the skewers?"
Well, they're here.
But they're not right. And I knew it. But I had people over for dinner, so I bit my tongue (now that's unusual!). And we ate bland, soft skewers that were pale imitations of Filipino BBQ.
I was crushed. These were not the Q I remembered from when I was a kid. My dad would partially freeze pork butt and slice it into thin slivers. Pounds and pounds of pork, as Filipino Q is always party food. We would get a big plastic bag, throw the pork in and then pour in a liter of Seven Up, glugs and glugs of soy sauce, lots of garlic, and lemon juice. After the pork had marinated, a bunch of us would thread the pork on an army's worth of bamboo skewers and then my dad would grill them until they were crunchy and browned.
No matter how much you made, these skewers would fly off the table until there was just a bunch of sticks in the trashcan. You'd have to be careful not to poke yourself with one of those errant sticks when you took out the garbage.
Fellow Pinoys, you know what I mean, don't you?
To get back to my Q predicament, it wasn't my husband's fault that he didn't grill them to crispy goodness. He's not Filipino, so how could he know?
I also didn't have the pork as thin as it could be. I took a shortcut since I didn't have a lot of time. Instead of a pork butt, I bought packages of thin cut pork chops, and my daughter and I pounded them thin, before I sliced them into one inch strips. Good idea except we should have pounded them more until they were 1/3 as thin as the skewered pork in the picture.
Thin means the pork cooks fast and you can cook it over a little higher heat without worrying about burning it to a cinder. Since they were fatter, my hubby cooked them over medium-low heat, which totally makes sense. But then they aren't barbikyu.
After dinner, I unthreaded the leftover pork from the skewers and put them in the fridge, saying a silent apology for their unglamorous appearance on my dinner table and misrepresentation of Filipino food.
The next night, I took the leftover pork,cut them into bite size pieces, and put them in a new small batch of marinade. Then I took them out of the marinade and stir fried them in a skillet until the sugars in the marinade caramelized and the pork took on a beautiful reddish-brown color and were crispy.
Like I remembered, this pork flew off the plate into my daughters' mouths. There wasn't enough to go around.
Now that's Filipino barbikyu.
1) This sauce is based on a ratio 2 parts Seven Up to 1 part each soy sauce, brown sugar, ketchup, and 1/2 part lemon juice, which means this sauce is a little tilted toward the sweet. If you're a salt or sour lover, then adjust the ratio to up those flavor components. The rest -- garlic, onions, salt and pepper, and any hot sauce -- is to taste. If you don't have fresh garlic and onion, use powdered. If you don't have Seven Up, use Sprite, ginger ale, or some other sweet liquid like apple juice, pear juice, apple cider, or orange juice. No fresh lemon? Use bottled lemon juice or vinegar. No brown sugar? White sugar, honey, agave nectar -- fine. No ketchup? BBQ sauce, hoisin sauce (use 1/2 recommended in ratio) or a little tomato paste (use 1/4 recommended in the ratio) will do. Filipino food is not fussy, and if you go with the idea (sweet, sour, salty), you'll get something good. Of course, no matter what you do, you always want to taste your marinade and adjust it, so the taste is balanced and calibrated to your taste buds.
2) You can substitute chicken thighs for the pork. Instead of skewering, you can cut the meat into thin slices or cubes, marinate, and stir fry as a quick variation. Or just marinate chicken thighs or pork chops, for even less fuss.
3) If you buy a pork butt, partially freeze it so that it's easier to cut. Cut the bigger cut of meat into 1-inch slabs and then cut very thin slices of meat against the grain.
4) What does it mean to cut them thin? I think slices should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick, but to tell you the truth, I've never measured them before. Other comparisons I could think of are like Philly cheese steak but a tad thicker because you're going to skewer it. Or a little thinner than pre-pressed Gyro meat. Or like thick cut bacon. Next time I make this I'll post a picture, but in the meantime, if you google "Filipino pork skewers" in images, you can see what the skewers might look like.
5) If you're using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for a few hours.
6) When cooking on the grill lay out a piece of foil on the grill, and when you put down the skewers, put the skewer handles above the foil. This will help them not burn.
7) This recipe is scaleable, up or down. Having a big party? Make more. Just cooking for a few people, scale down. No problem.
Filipino Pork BBQ
For printable recipe, click here.
3 lbs thin cut center cut pork loin chops, pounded until very thin (between 1/8-1/4 inch) and cut into 1 inch wide slices against the grain (or you can use pork butt, partially frozen for easier cutting, and slice thin)
1 can 7-up (12 oz.)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup ketchup or banana ketchup
6 tbs. lemon juice (about 2 lemons, squeezed)
8 garlic cloves, smashed
4 big scallions, chopped or 1 small-medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
Ground black pepper
If you like spice, add 2 tsp. sriracha hot sauce or more, or 1-2 tbs. Frank's red hot sauce, or any chili sauce or fresh chilis.
1/2 cup Seven up
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs. lemon juice
Prepare the pork as noted above. Mix the marinade ingredients together well. Combine the pork and marinade in a Ziploc bag. Seal and put in the fridge for a minimum or four hours, but better yet overnight or up to 2 days.
Soak bamboo skewers in water for a few hours or overnight to avoid burning when cooking.
When getting ready to cook, slide pork onto skewers, putting several pieces on each skewer as fits with room on the bottom to hold the stick.
Barbecue over medium-high heat over hot coals or gas grill until pork is done, basting as necessary to put a nice glaze on the meat. Depending on the thickness of the pork, you can char the meat first and then move it to a cooler side of the grill to finish cooking. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.