These pork barbecue skewers are tender pieces of pork, glazed with sweet and savory sauces, and freshly grilled. These are a Filipino favorite.
What does pork and BBQ mean to Filipinos
The Philippines has a lot to offer in terms of food culture and cooking, including barbecue and grilling. Nearly a decade ago, I enjoyed street food in Cebu. Many street food were prepared quickly and grilled right after you order them.
You can even buy rice from the web in puso hanging rice. This is made by weaving palm leaves into a shape that looks like a diamond, then adding rice and steaming it. Puso was paired with BBQ skewers in brown paper bags for a perfect meal on the move.
These are also food experiences that I have been fortunate enough to be a part of in America. You should have a lot of BBQ and grilled foods if you’ve ever been to a Filipino party or even a boodle fight in America.
It’s not surprising that pork is an integral part of Filipino cuisine and culture. This is especially true since pigs are an native animal to the Philippines. It was believed that pigs were used as offerings to Gods in the past. Although not all Filipino Americans love pork, there are still interesting data about pork consumption in the Philippines. 2017 showed that the average Filipino consumed more than 30 pounds of pork per year (compared to 28 pounds for the rest of the world).
American BBQ vs Filipino
Filipino barbecue shares many similarities with American barbecue, but it’s just as delicious and satisfying. Although Filipino barbecue is traditionally cooked over charcoal, gas can also be used in restaurants and at home. Many American BBQ marinades rely on thick sauces and dry rubs that you add to the meat after it has been cooked. Filipino BBQ uses wet marinades, which are made with ingredients that are specific to Filipino cuisine.
Many marinades include Sprite or 7-up to tenderize meats, or banana ketchup to sweeten the dish. Banana ketchup is a great marinade or glaze to use while I cook. Filipino Americans are starting to notice interesting fusions in Filipino BBQ, and this recipe reflects that.
What is banana ketchup?
It can be difficult to understand banana ketchup for those who haven’t grown up with it, as most people only know about tomato ketchup. It’s basically a condiment made from bananas, sugar and garlic. There are no tomatoes in it.
Banana ketchup can be found in many Filipino American homes. This ketchup was inspired by American ketchups during colonization. It can be eaten with eggs or rice, or in a marinade like this one.
What does it taste like? It tastes sweeter than traditional tomato ketchup. However, you can’t really taste the banana flavor. There are also spicy options. Jufran is my favorite brand. It can be found in many Asian grocery stores and online due to its long shelf life.
Many traditional marinades for pork barbecue skewers include 7-up (or Sprite), soysauce, vinegar, brown sugar and banana ketchup. These skewers have been made many times before and I decided to add more ingredients to enhance the flavor.
To give it a little more kick, I used chili oil and black bean sauce instead of fresh chilis. You can substitute fresh chilis if you don’t have the sauce or leave it out. A Filipino brand of vinegar, Datu Puti is also used. This vinegar has a lower acidity and is sweeter than regular vinegar. Regular distilled vinegar can be used if you don’t find it at your local supermarket.
Add the following ingredients to a large bowl: 7-up, banana ketchup and sprite, soy sauce, vinegar (or sprite), oyster sauce, chili oil, black bean sauce, brown sugar and lots of garlic. Before adding the pork, mix all ingredients well.
Pork shoulder or butt is my favorite choice when picking pork. It’s got the perfect combination of lean pieces and fatty bits-perfect for bbq, and other dishes such as sweet and salty pork.
It is also cheaper than pork belly in my local grocery store. Cut your pork shoulder into small cubes at home. So that every bite is delicious, I make sure all pieces are seasoned with some fat.
After cutting the cubes into pieces, place them in an airtight container. Pour all marinade on the top of the meat. Make sure that all pieces are covered. You can marinate the pork for up six hours in the refrigerator to preserve all the sweet and savory goodness.
Make the glaze right before you grill. In a small bowl, combine banana ketchup and oyster sauce with sesame oil. To add more flavor, glaze the skewers before placing them on the grill.
The traditional method of cooking the BBQ skewers is to use charcoal grills. However, a gas grill will work just as well. Learn how you can start a charcoal barbecue. To prevent your wooden barbecue skewers from burning on the grill, soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to grilling. It isn’t fun, and I have seen wooden sticks catch on fire from not having soaked them.
Make sure you take your marinating meat out of the fridge and place it on the counter to keep it from getting too cold while grilling. They should be cooked evenly.
After marinating and soaking your wooden skewers, add five to six pieces meat to each one. To ensure that each stick has an even amount of meat, I prefer to use a mix of lean and fat pieces. The Philippines adds a bit of fatty pork to the end of each stick. It almost feels like a treat!
Keep the heat at 80% to prevent skewers from burning immediately. The skewers should be cooked for approximately four minutes each side, then flip it and continue cooking for four more minutes.
After eight minutes of cooking, glaze one side, then turn the grill on to the other side for another minute. Depending on the size of your meat cuts, the cooking time will vary. To check doneness, you can use your thermometer (pork should reach 145 degrees F). When the pork is done, remove the skewers.
While traditional pork barbecue skewers come with a side dish of vinegar sauce, which is made from vinegar, garlic and salt, I like to eat them with Filipino pickles called Atchara (you can replace it with Vietnamese Đồ Chua).
If you are looking for healthier options, I recommend yakitori (or Japanese Skewers), smoked salmon and 3-2-1ribs.
Authentic Filipino BBQ Pork Skewers Recipe
- Pork shoulder, 3 lb, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 c banana ketchup
- 1 c Sprite or 7-Up
- 1 c soy sauce
- 1/2 c Datu Puti vinegar White vinegar
- 1/4 c oyster sauce
- 2 Tbsp Chili oil with black beans
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 TSP ground pepper
- 1 c minced garlic
- 16 (12-inch) bamboo skewers
- 1/4 c banana ketchup
- 1/8 c oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 tbsp sesame oils
- The pork shoulder should be cut into small cubes, approximately one inch across. Place the meat in an airtight container that is larger than the contents, and leave room for the marinade.
- Combine the 7-up, banana ketchup and soy sauce with vinegar, oyster sauces, garlic, chili oil, black bean sauce, brown sugar, ground ginger, and garlic in a large bowl. Mix the ingredients together and ensure that the brown sugar is dissolved.
- Mix the marinade and meat together. Marinate for at least six hours. Refrigerate after eight hours.
- For at least 30 minutes, soak the bamboo skewers with water. Let the marinade cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before adjusting the temperature. This will make it easier to skewer the bamboo skewers.
- Combine the peanut butter, banana ketchup and oyster sauce in a small bowl. Mix well.
- To make the BBQ skewers, add approximately five-six pork pieces to each skewer. You may want to alternate between leaner and fattier pieces. Continue this process until all meat pieces are skewered.
- Pre-heat the grill to medium heat (about 80%) Cook the skewers for four minutes each side on each side. Turn the skewers over. Cook for an additional four minutes.
- You can brush the glaze onto one side of the Skewer. Turn the skewer over and cook for 1 minute. Continue to cook and basting. To check if the meat is cooked through, you can check the temperature (145 degrees F). A knife can be used to cut the pork pieces and check for any cracks. The finished pork skewers should still be firm but not too dry. If the skewers are finished, adjust the cooking time or take them out.
- Serve with rice and sweet Filipino pickles.