Global Barbecue: A World of Flavor
Brought to you by the National Pork Board.
Giving the term “barbecue” a broad interpretation, restaurant chefs and noncommercial foodservice directors are exploring flavorful pork recipes from around the globe. From the long-smoked pork shoulder of the Carolinas to Vietnamese marinated pork loin to Russian pork tenderloin skewers, there’s a barbecue style for every type of operation. And don’t forget the cross-cultural creations that food trucks are dishing up, such as Korean-style spicy grilled pork on corn tortillas.
In fact, the latter item, dubbed Spicy Pork Tacos, is a top seller of Marination Mobile, a popular food truck in Seattle. Inspired by Korean bulgogi, it features thinly sliced pork butt marinated for a day in a mixture of soy sauce, chili flakes, ginger and garlic. The pork is griddled with sliced onions and jalapenos and folded into tortillas for service. Another specialty, Aloha Sliders, adapts the traditional Hawaiian method of roasting pigs buried in a pit with hot stones. In this case, well-marinated, highly-seasoned pork shoulders are wrapped in luau leaves and oven roasted for 16 hours, then sliced and served with slaw on little Hawaiian sweet rolls.
“There are those purists who believe there is only one form of barbecue, but I think there is room for all types,” says Kamala Saxton, Marination Mobile’s co-owner.
At Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Korean barbecue pork wrapped in lettuce leaves is a hit with trend-savvy collegians, reports Martin Breslin, director of culinary operations.
“It is very popular,” says Breslin. “They absolutely love it.”
Adds Breslin, “If you serve pork more as a street food, students are drawn to it. But if you serve it in a very traditional way, like a simple carved loin of pork, they are less interested.”
Breslin uses frozen presliced pork butt that takes just 10 minutes to marinate because it is so thin. It is flavored with a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, dark sesame oil, minced garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and sesame seeds. The pork is seared and held on a self-service food line along with pans of leaf lettuce, sticky rice, kimchi, scallions and red bean paste sauce. Students roll up the tasty pork slices in the lettuce leaves with the toppings of their choice.
Relatively quick and simple ethnic barbecue preparations like those may be the solution for operators who want to serve pork with vivid, authentic flavors, but lack the time or the facilities to tend a smoldering wood fire like regional American barbecue mavens.
“We have quite a few pork recipes, but BBQ in the truest sense of the technique is a bit difficult for us,” says Ida Shen, assistant director of culinary for Cal Dining at the University of California, Berkeley, in an email. More typical are dishes like grilled Vietnamese and Thai pork chops, Hawaiian barbecue pork and Mexican carnitas. The latter, a dish of tender braised pork morsels, “is not quite BBQ, but really, really tasty,” Shen says.
Authentic Thai flavors are achieved with just two hours of cooking in Sweet-n-Spicy Pork Ribs, a recipe by chef Robert Danhi, author of Southeast Asian Flavors and Easy Thai Cooking. The night before he brushes baby back ribs with a mixture of fish sauce, soy sauce, Thai palm sugar, black pepper and coriander stems. He cooks them in the oven until tender, then coats them with Thai sweet chili sauce and sriracha chili sauce and glazes them on the grill.
Operators in many other settings are succeeding with ethnic-tinged pork barbecue. At Roka Akor in Chicago, executive chef Ce Bian gives his Glazed Pork Ribs with Spring Onions and Cashews added flavor and texture with a brush of hoisin sauce and a spin on the Japanese charcoal robata grill.
The lemongrass pork banh mi sandwich at Bamboo Asia, a fast-casual eatery in San Francisco, begins with pork loin bathed in a tantalizing marinade of Vietnamese fish sauce, garlic, green onions, salt, pepper and brown sugar. It is grilled with a sauce of lemongrass, hoisin and sesame oil and served on a French roll topped with pate, mayonnaise, peanut sauce, cilantro and pickled vegetables.
Boston-based Silk Road BBQ has won barbecue competitions with its 12-hour-smoked, North Carolina-style pulled pork and praise from émigrés of the former Soviet Union for its Russian-style shashleek. The latter are skewers of pork tenderloin marinated with onions, thyme and black pepper grilled to order over a charcoal fire, served with a squeeze of lemon and optional pomegranate chili sauce.
“When you say shashleek to a Russian speaker, you will make them smile,” says Ed Cornelia, co-owner of the kiosk concept. “It connotes happiness, family and charcoal-grilled skewered meat.”
For more information about global pork barbecue applications, visit the National Pork Board’s website, www.porkfoodservice.org, and sign up for their monthly e-newsletter, The 400.