Pork barbecue

Pork barbecue is a true national favourite. It crosses economic boundaries – it’s cheap but classy ­– and appears in a variety of settings as street food, party food, served as a beer snack or a main meal with rice. It is found across the country, in every town, every day. As vendors light up the coals to feed the crowds, it becomes an experience as much as a snack. It’s the arms fanning smoke over skewers and basting the meat and the distinctive sweet, garlicky, chargrilled taste.

There are countless variations of pork barbecue. Generally, meat to fat ratio defines the good ones; this recipe uses half-half pork shoulder and belly for just the right moistness and flavour. And the key ingredient? Pineapple juice or lemonade for flavour and tenderising.

Serves: 6

500g (1 b 2 oz) boneless pork belly, skin on
500g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless pork shoulder
250ml (81⁄2 fl oz/1 cup) pineapple juice or lemonade
125ml (4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) soy sauce
80g (23⁄4 oz/1⁄3 cup firmly packed) brown sugar
1 garlic bulb, cloves smashed
2 long green chillies, thickly sliced
2 red bird’s-eye chillies, thickly sliced
2 tsp salt flakes
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Vegetable oil, for cooking
Toyomansi (soy sauce and lime juice dipping sauce) and steamed rice, to serve (optional)

Trim any excess fat from the pork belly and shoulder, then cut the pork belly into 6mm (1⁄4 inch) thick slices, then into pieces about 4cm (11⁄2 inches) wide. Cut the pork shoulder into 1 cm (1⁄2 inch) thick slices, then into pieces about 5 cm (2 inches) wide.

Place the pineapple juice, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper in a large non-reactive shallow dish and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the pork and, using your hands, massage the marinade into the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

Soak about 25 bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes to prevent them from burning during cooking. Preheat a charcoal or regular barbecue to medium. Drain the pork, reserving the marinade. Alternately thread 1–2 pieces each of pork belly and shoulder onto each skewer (don’t bunch up the meat), then brush both sides with oil.

Cook the skewers, in batches, for 6–8 minutes, turning and basting occasionally with the reserved marinade until cooked through and slightly charred. Remove from the heat and serve with toyomansi and steamed rice, if desired.

Recipe: Yasmin Newman; extract from 7000 Islands
Photography: Jana Leibenstein


Caramelised banana spring rolls

When a bunch of ripe saba (cooking) bananas arrives in the morning at my cousin’s place, afternoons are blessed with crisp banana spring rolls. My family’s cook, Tess, forgoes the oft-added sweet langka (jackfruit) in place of an extra scatter of sugar. When piping hot, a little burst of liquid caramel accompanies each bite; at room temperature, it hardens into a thin sugar crust. Turon is one of my all-time favourite sweet snacks.

For turon, oil temperature is critical to ensure the banana cooks through before the pastry overcooks; a kitchen thermometer gives the best results. Wrapping the filling tightly and sealing well also prevents the caramelised sugar seeping out. While fresh saba is the choice for turon, frozen fruit can be found at specialist Filipino grocery stores. Cavendish are equally delicious.

Makes: 20

10 saba (cooking) bananas or 5 cavendish bananas
20 spring roll wrappers
220g (8 oz/1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
125ml (4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) soy sauce
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Cut the saba bananas in half lengthwise; if using cavendish bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then widthwise.

Place a spring roll wrapper on a work surface. Place a banana piece 5cm (2 inches) from the edge closest to you, then scatter 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar over the top. Fold over the bottom edge, then fold in the sides and roll up tightly to enclose the filling. Run a wet finger over the edge to seal. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, banana and sugar.

Fill a deep saucepan one-third full of vegetable oil and place over medium–high heat until the oil reaches 170ºC (325ºF). Working in batches, gently lower the turon into the hot oil and deep-fry for 4 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towel, then immediately transfer to a clean plate (turon will stick to paper towel if left too long). Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Yasmin Newman; extract from 7000 Islands
Photography: Jana Leibenstein

Tortang talong

Eggplant Omelette

Tortang talong tops my Filipino breakfast list. Smoky bites take me back to a deserted island in Palawan, where our touring banka (boat) docked for the night and the cook charred eggplants over coals the next morning. We woke to a plate piled with these juicy omelettes. While common in Filipino homes, their appeal for me is exotic.

You’ll need flames to char the eggplant, but a stovetop will do; burnt skin infuses smoke into the flesh. The hard stalk (with tongs to grip it) makes life easy; all you have to do is turn. My tip? Sit the omelettes for 15 minutes or so once they're cooked, until they hit room temperature. The wait gives those smoky flavours time to work their magic.

Makes: 4

4 Japanese eggplants (aubergines)
4 eggs
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs vegetable oil
Steamed rice, to serve

Working with one eggplant at a time, place an eggplant over a medium–high flame. Cook for 5–6 minutes, turning often until the skin is charred, blistered and starts to smell smoky. Cool slightly, then peel off the skin (this will be easier when it’s still hot). Repeat with the remaining eggplants.

Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and season with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper. Place an eggplant in the egg and, using a fork, gently squash the flesh so it spreads out but remains attached to the stalk. Scoop the egg over to coat, then top with one-quarter of the onion. Leave each eggplant to soak in the egg for 1 minute.

Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons of the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat. Carefully slide an eggplant and onion into the pan, reserving the eggs in the dish to soak the remaining eggplants. Cook each eggplant for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden. Repeat with the remaining eggplants, egg, onion and oil until all are cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature with steamed rice.

Recipe: Yasmin Newman; extract from 7000 Islands
Photography: Jana Leibenstein