Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When Life’s Iffy, Grill Pork


When I’m not slaving for hours on end over the keyboard or stuffing myself senseless with Jan’s cooking, you will most likely find me refueling my brain cells in a bookstore. While in Cebu, Jan and I spent some time in Fully Booked a new three-story gym for mental acrobatics.

While I was absorbed in shelves of Filipiniana and classical literature, Jan immersed himself in scores of comic books, history, trivia and novelty. The highlight of the day was his encounter with the Book of Answers.

Jan: What should I do with my life?
Book of Answers: No.

When life gets all iffy and uncertain, there’s only one thing to do, grill pork. Jan inherited this healing remedy from his parents. His mother used to be able to spring straight out of the sick bed with the aroma of grilled pork.

My mom didn’t have her own grill in Cebu so we had to wait till we got back to Cagayan de Oro to get Jan into therapy. For this week’s therapy session, we grilled pork cuts from the thigh area. In the Visayas and in some parts of Mindanao, any kind of grilling is known as sinugba. The simplest traditional way to grill is to simply rub salt on the raw cut and then cook it on an iron grill.

For this version, Jan rubbed salt and pepper on the thigh cut and brushed butter over it. After plating, he drizzled it with a little olive oil. I have no idea why he did that but the oil seemed to have added a bit of a leafy flavor that merged well with the smoky taste of the meat.

Grilled Pork Tips: I once wrote for a client about grills. If I’m not mistaken, in some residential areas in the U.S., only gas and electric grills can be used. I’ve never tasted anything cooked over a gas or electric unit because here, we always grill over hot coals. Those who have tried both ways of cooking swear that grilled pork over coals always tastes better.

Jan’s father who is also an excellent personal cook to his family follows strict rules. He sticks to grilling only the stomach portion because he says this is the best part to use. To make sure the cuts are well done and a bit crunchy on the skin and fat area, he cuts the meat extra thin. Also, he never serves pork cut in small squares because he says there’s nothing like eating a cut of grilled pork whole with your bare hands.

For the sauce, I’ve found nothing tastier than the usual Filipino preparation. In a bowl, mix vinegar, soy sauce, calamansi (or lime), chopped onions and chopped tomatoes. Chili peppers are optional.

When there’s grilled pork on the table, there’s just nothing life can throw at you that you can’t handle.

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