If you have been to a Filipino party, I’m sure you have seen the grilled pork on skewers that I am featuring on this article. This is a favorite at parties because they are finger foods, looks good and are very delicious. It is popular with children and adults alike.
This is good to make at home on weekends. You can even prepare this on weeknights if you have an indoor barbecue grill like the one I am linking to at the end of this article.
You can make this ahead by marinating the meat (chicken or pork) from 3 hours to 48 hours before you cook it. Most of the preparation time is in cutting up the meat into bite-sized squares.
A Bit Of History
The word barbecue itself came from a mid 17th century Spanish word barbacoa. It meant wooden frame on posts for storing meat or fish. Now, it means any food cooked on a grill, most often, outside,
Grilled food is very popular in the Philippines. We grill seafood, pork, beef, chicken, corn, etc. Street vendors offer a variety of these grilled food, often on skewers. I will not mention the variety of meat parts that are grilled in the Philippines. Personally, I go for the more conventionally eaten parts of pigs and chickens.
The taste and look of this marinade is very similar to the marinade for Southern Barbecue here in the US. The difference is the barbecue in the US are slabs of meat cooked very slow on low to medium indirect heat.
My theory is when Americans came to the Philippines after World War 2, they brought with them this way of marinating meat for barbecue. Ketchup, sugar, garlic is used on both marinades. The only difference is that the Filipino version uses banana catsup and the American version uses tomato ketchup. Also, the Filipino version has soy sauce (Chinese influence) while the American version has Worcestershire sauce.
This is what you need for Filipino Pork Barbecue Marinade.
Serves: 4 to 6 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 lbs. pork shoulder or pork belly – cut up in 1-inch squares
- 5 cloves garlic – minced
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup *banana catsup or tomato catsup
- juice from 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- salt and pepper
- bamboo skewers – 14 to 16 pcs
*For banana catsup, I use Jufran or UFC brand.
How to Cook Filipino Barbecue
- Mix all the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup marinade in a cup.
- Add the meat to the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.
- Soak the barbecue sticks in water for 15 minutes
- Skewer the meat into the sticks, making sure the meat are touching together.
- Fire up the grill. Get the reserved marinade.
- Grill the pork, about 11 to 12 minutes on each side. Baste the meat with the marinade after every few minutes to make sure it is moist
- Take the meat off the grill before the sugar starts burning
How to Serve
Filipino Barbecue is usually eaten with rice but you can serve it with anything. You can grill skewers of mushroom, zucchini, bell pepper and pineapple chunks and serve them together. The advantage of having the vegetables and meat separate is you can make sure they cook at the right length of time without the meat being undercooked or the vegetables being overcooked.
It can be eaten with a side salad of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale with your favorite dressing. Since the marinade is on the sweet and salty side, you can use a tangy vinaigrette dressing to complement.
You can serve it with a dipping sauce of vinegar and soy sauce and Thai peppers.
You can serve it with atchara (shredded and pickled green papaya with carrots) if you can get a hold of a jar in an Asian store or a Filipino store.
This is a favorite appetizer to serve with drinks. In that case, you can use shorter sticks and smaller pieces of meat. The street vendor’s pork BBQ is a common sight in the Philippines where people get a few sticks and then eat them with friends over a few beers.
My Best Memories of Filipino BBQ
Growing up in the Philippines, barbecue skewers were always served on birthdays and holidays. It is commonly served with spaghetti. If you had those two dishes and a gallon of ice cream, life was sweet.
We did not even have a fancy grill. My father had two big rocks and used those as support for a wire mesh. He put coals under it and he was ready to grill.
When I started to work and moved to Manila and was on a budget, I would always order barbecue skewers at food courts. A stick of this eaten with rice and some pickled papaya was more than enough for a meal.
I migrated to the US with my then new husband back in 1993. Before we left, I asked my mom for Filipino recipes as I know I will miss the foods that I grew up on. One of the recipes she gave me was this ( in Tagalog):
Notice the drops of marinade. I have used this recipe many times until I have committed it to memory. It eased the pain of homesickness that we experienced in the first few years we were here.
For a Healthier Version
Filipinos usually make this with pork belly or pork shoulder that has a layer of fat. This makes the BBQ very tender and moist, For a healthy Filipino BBQ, you can use the leaner cuts of pork without fat. Pork tenderloin is a good, lean cut. Basting the meat while grilling will ensure that the BBQ is not dry,
You can eat a skewer with brown rice and vegetables or with quinoa or other whole grains. Serving it with a salad as mentioned above will give you a good balanced meal. Like any other delicious and indulgent food, the key is in portion control.
What do You Think?
Try this recipe for a weekend meal or for special occasions. I’m sure it will be a crowd hit. One hundred (100) million Filipinos can’t be wrong. As I promised above, I am giving you some indoor grill options here in case grilling outside is not available. I’m sure it will be just as delicious.
This indoor smokeless grill has a lot of good reviews. The price is over $200 but it uses infrared heat and is verified smokeless.
If you do not want an appliance and just want a good pan to use on your stove to grill, this is a good one I have personally used: Staub Indoor Grill. This cast iron pan requires no seasoning. It is perfect for two people because the pan is not that big but you can also grill in several batches to feed a family.
Kain Na! (Let’s Eat).