tamarind pork

threading the skewers 

Despite what the weather keeps telling us, it really is summer now, and therefore grilling season. Even if it’s raining, darn it. At least the sun came out for a few minutes while Jon was grilling these Vietnamese tamarind pork skewers – just long enough for us to eat our dinner outside, before getting cold and going back in. Yay, June.

pickled zucchini

pickled vegetables

We had gotten a pork roast out the freezer a few days ahead, but hadn’t quite decided what direction to go with it. Jon pulled out all of our meat cookbooks and finally settled on a Bruce Aidells marinade with tamarind, fish sauce and shallot. He also made the included recipe for pickled shredded zucchini, and since we had a bag of radishes and some carrots on hand, he pickled those as well. All I had to do when I got home from work was cook up some rice noodles.

threading the skewers

The thing that took the longest was threading the thin pieces of meat onto every skewer we had in the house.

grilling pork

Because he didn’t pack them tightly onto the skewers, they only took a moment to cook over the hot charcoal.


We made a sort of modified bún, piling the grilled meat and pickled vegetables over soft rice noodles with a spoonful of reserved tamarind marinade. I could have added lettuce and fresh herbs, but was too lazy. It was delicious anyway, with a minty mojito to wash it down.


The next day we bought a soft baguette at the farmer’s market and made banh mi. This was one of those times when my desire for blogging material was overridden by greed, and no pictures were taken before we had demolished the sandwiches. Take my word for it, they were great. Mayo, tamarind sauce, cilantro, pork, pickled vegetables, all squished into an airy baguette with a chewy crust. We will be doing more of this sort of thing, I think.

grilled pork

Grilled Tamarind Pork

adapted from Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork: A Guide to Buying, Storing, and Cooking the World’s Favorite Meat

Note: I’ve put down the amounts as written, but when Jon made this he doubled the amount of marinade and reserved some before adding the pork, so we would have uncontaminated sauce to add to noodles and sandwiches.

  • 1 Tbsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp shallot, minced
  • ½ tsp Chinese 5-spice powder (we didn’t have this, but Jon made a quick version from equal parts ground clove, cinnamon, fennel, and Sichuan pepper)
  • 3/4 pound pork, thinly sliced (the recipe calls for pork belly, but we used a leg roast with good results)

Combine the marinade ingredients with the pork. Marinate at least half an hour or up to 2 hours at room temperature.

Thread the pork onto skewers and grill over a medium hot fire, about 2 minutes per side.

Pickled Zucchini

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • pinch of sugar

Toss the zucchini and salt together and let sit for half an hour. Rinse and squeeze out the water. Toss the zucchini with the other seasonings and serve.

2 thoughts on “tamarind pork

  1. Actually, the quick 5-spice I made also had mustard powder. 1/4 tsp of each spice (mustard, fennel, clove, cinnamon, and Sichuan pepper).

    1. That’s right, I knew I was forgetting something. Our food encyclopedia doesn’t list mustard powder as an ingredient in 5-spice, though. Not that I’m complaining!

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