An ode to our love for the flavors of Thailand, this recipe is an adaption of a typical street food dish called moo ping. It is also inspired by “tacos al pastor” – a taco made with spit-grilled pork based on lamb shawarma brought by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.
The marinated pork in this dish reminded us of shawarma pit roasts, so we decided to accompany it with a pungent Thai sauce made with fish sauce, coconut sugar, tamarind, chilies and cilantro. Inspired by the gyro, we served with grilled pineapple, simple slaw, pea tendrils, lime yogurt, cucumbers and naan (a substitute for tortillas).
The unique blend of Thai, Middle Eastern and Mexican cultures brings together sweet, salty, spicy, sour and fatty flavors. It’s amazing how these cultures use spice to create such flavorful meals from inexpensive cuts of meat.
Thai pork skewers al pastor
For the pork marinade
- 2-2½ lbs. pork shoulder or pork butt (to make slicing the pork easier, place in freezer 30-60 minutes in advance of slicing)
- 5 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
- 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro, stems included
- 3 Tbsp. fish sauce (we use Red Boat)
- ⅓ cup coconut sugar
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil (substitute with a neutral oil like canola, sunflower, etc.)
- 1 cup coconut milk for basting
For Thai chili-lime sauce
- 1 medium-sized shallot, finely diced
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 2½ Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1½ Tbsp. coconut sugar
- ¼-½ dried chili flakes, depending on heat tolerance (substitute with fresh Thai chili pepper)
- 1 Tbsp. white rice or rice powder
- ½ tsp. tamarind paste (we use Rani’s) (optional)
- 1 cup full-fat, plain Greek-style yogurt (substitute with non-dairy coconut yogurt)
- 2 cups shredded white cabbage (remove ribs of cabbage and cut thin slices to make a slaw)
- 1 cup Juice 1 lime
- 1 cup yellow or red bell pepper (cut thinly into 2 ½-inch slices)
- 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cucumber cut into match sticks about ½” thick and 3” long
- 1 pineapple skinned and cored. To make it easy to grill, remove the thick core from edible flesh (as if coring an apple) and cut into 4 large segments.
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or neutral oil
- 2 cups pea tendrils (substitute with other greens like watercress, arugula, spinach)
- 6 pieces of naan bread (we use Whole Foods’ 365 Tandoori Naan)
- For the pork marinade: in a bowl, mix the fish sauce, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, grapeseed oil and ⅓ cup of coconut sugar. Reserve.
- Trim fat from top of pork roast and begin slicing into ¼” thick slices from top to bottom of roast. Do not worry about uniform shape or length but try to keep thickness to ¼”. It’s okay to include some fatty pieces, as it will flavor the meat when skewered.
- In a large bowl, place sliced pork into marinade making sure it coats all pieces. Cover bowl and let marinate in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 24 hours.
- For the chili-lime sauce: toast 1 Tbsp. of white rice in a dry pan on medium heat until golden. Let rice cool and grind to fine powder in a clean coffee or spice grinder. (Or if using rice powder instead, add 1 Tbsp. powder to a dry pan and toast it until golden brown). Cool and reserve.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add coconut sugar, shallots, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, cilantro, chili flakes, tamarind paste (optional) and cooled rice powder. Mix together and reserve in fridge for at least one hour to let flavors meld and rice powder thicken the sauce.
- For accompaniments: – In a large mixing bowl, add sliced cabbage, pepper, salt and red wine vinegar. Mix well and reserve in fridge.– Mix yogurt with fresh lemon juice and reserve in fridge. – In a medium-sized mixing bowl, coat pieces of pineapple with soy sauce and oil. Reserve in fridge.
- When ready to cook dish, turn on gas or charcoal grill on high heat. Make sure grill is clean.
- Thread pork slices onto 12” metal skewers or wood skewers (if using wood, soak in water for at least 30 minutes before skewering). Pack the pork slices fairly tight together while leaving 1” open at bottom and top of skewer. This should result in about 3-4 tightly packed 12” skewers.
- On a large platter, arrange cucumber, pea tendrils and slaw (be sure to drain most of the liquid from the slaw in advance so it doesn’t end up on platter). Add chili lime sauce to a small bowl; add lime yogurt to a separate small bowl.
- Bring the pork skewers, pineapple, coconut milk and a basting brush to your grill. Rub the hot grill grates with oil using a cloth or folded paper towel soaked in oil.
- Place skewers and pineapple on hot parts of grill. Baste skewers and pineapple with coconut milk, close grill and sear for 2 minutes. Open grill and flip the pineapple skewers (but not the pork skewers). Close grill and sear for another 2-3 minutes.
- Open grill and remove pineapple, checking to first ensure it has sear marks and has softened a bit (but is still firm). Reserve to cool.
- Meanwhile, flip pork skewers and baste again with coconut milk. Close grill top and sear for another 4-5 minutes. Continue to flip pork skewers and baste with coconut milk. Pork should be browning and even charring in certain areas. Total time cooking pork on grill should be about 20 minutes.
- As the pork cooks, cut pineapple in batons and arrange on platter.
- With a few minutes of cooking time left for the pork, place naan pieces on grill to warm on all sides. Once warm, remove from grill and place onto towel. Fold top of towel over naan to keep it warm.
- Remove pork from grill and arrange on platter with other accompaniments. Pour any run-off juice from the pork over the pea tendrils. Spoon about ¼ cup chili lime sauce over top of the pork skewers.
- To serve: lay down a slice of naan and add pork. Top with a dollop of lime yogurt, cucumbers, slaw, pineapple, cucumber, pea tendrils and chili lime sauce. Fold like a taco or gyro and enjoy. Make sure you have napkins on hand as this is a blissful mess!