Asian BBQ Pork Kabobs
An Introduction to the Kabob
At its most basic interpretation in most countries, a kabob, or kebab, is a grilled meat dish; within the English-speaking world, the term is usually limited to describing either a shish kebab or shashlik - meat that is skewered and left to cook on a grill - or a doner kebab, which is meat that is cooked within a vertical rotisserie and shaved off into thin slices; "doner" is Turkish for "rotating." It is worth mentioning that the word shish is derived from the Turkish word for "sword;" it is claimed that camping soldiers would use their swords as a means of stably cooking their food.
The kabob is a comparatively ancient means of cooking meat that originated within the Middle East but proliferated and changed into the eastern countries of Asia, thanks in no part to trade offered by the Silk Road. There are a surprisingly large number of variants when it comes to kebabs.
- A "sosatie" is a South African variant that commonly uses cubed beef, chicken and lamb, intermingled with dried apricot, red onion and different varieties of peppers. This is one dish that is skewered.
- Armenian khorovat consists of grilled meat, usually pork, on flat skewers. Unlike normal shish kebab, the meat is usually in larger portions and remains on the bone. While the meat is sometimes seasoned with herbs, onions, pepper and salt prior to grilling, it never calls for a vinegar marinade. Khorovat never includes vegetables.
- The Republic of Azerbaijan has tika kebab, which involves preparing the meat in "basdirma," a gravy involving onion and thyme, before skewering and grilling. The meat may then be served, removed from its skewers and placed within lavash flatbread and accented with condiments like a pomegranate sauce.
- Native Chinese kebabs are called chuan and frequently use lamb or mutton as their head protein, though any other sort is fine. Chuan uses small meat, skewers it, and then will either roast or deep-fry it, commonly seasoned with cumin, pepper, and both the seeds and oil of sesame.
- The Greek gyro or souviaki, previously known as doner kebab, is the result of Turkish immigrants fleeing to Greece after World War II. Gyros commonly feature lamb meat that is then placed in pita bread and often drizzled with yogurt-based tzatziki sauce.
- While India is no slouch when it comes to variants of kabob, the high population of vegetarians means that there are many who trade the animal protein for potatoes or other hearty vegetables local to the area.
- Mention kabob in Iraq and people will assume you're describing a dish of seasoned and ground lamb that is served on skewers.
- Southeast Asia greatly favors satay, which is meat that has been seasoned, skewered and grilled with a sauce. The skewers for satay are usually derived from coconut trees or bamboo. Peanut and soy sauce has become such a common sauce for satay that peanut sauce developed the pseudonym of "satay sauce."
A Step-By-Step Guide to Barbecuing Pork Kabobs
Now that you are aware of just how many variations you can do with kabobs, I'm going to showcase a handful of different recipes involving BBQ pork skewers for those of you with an interest in something as a nice change of pace for a grilling session.
Recipe #1: Korean Garlic Ginger Pork Skewers
- Honey, 2 tbsp.
- Gochujang, 2 tbsp. Gochujang is a quintessentially Korean pepper paste.
- Soy sauce, 2 tbsp.
- Sesame oil, 2 tsp.
- Garlic powder, 1 tsp.
- Ginger, ground, 1 tsp.
- Pork chops, center-cut and boneless, 1 lb, cut into eight diamond shapes.
- Green onions, thinly sliced, two.
- Sesame seed, 1 tbsp.
- Blend everything but the pork, onion and sesame seeds into a bowl until its is evenly mixed. This will partly serve as a marinade, which 2 tbsp should be set aside for brushing the pork chops with. Place the pork into a large zip-lock bag and pour the remaining amount of marinade in with the bag. Turn the meat over a few times to give it an even coating of marinade and give it a follow-up massage withint he bag for 4-5 minutes.
- Place the bagged pork into the fridge for at least half an hour.
- when its time to grill, remove the pork from its marinade bag and use run one skewer through the center of each piece of pork. Discard the marinade bag.
- Grill over medium-high heat for 2 minutes a side; you want fully cooked pork. Remember to brush the meat with the 2 tbsp of marinade you set aside in step 1.
- Sprinkle skewers with the onion and sesame seeds.
- Serve and enjoy.
Recipe #2: Spicy Garlic Ponzu Pork Kabobs
This is a very different take on the premise of pork skewers. Remember that cooking is an art, suitable for experimentation; taste as you go and feel free to play around with the amount of each ingredient you are cooking with.
- Pork loin, 2.5 lbs., sliced into 1" cubes.
- Honey, 1/3 cup.
- Sugar, 1/4 cup.
- Sherry, 1/4 cup.
- Yuzu Ponzu, 1/4 cup. Ponzu sauce is soy sauce that has had citrus added, normal soy sauce can be used as a substitution.
- Food coloring, red, 1 tsp.
- Sesame oil, 2 tbsp.
- Garlic, cloves, crushed, 2.
- Ginger, ground, 2 tbsp.
- Red chili paste, 4 tbsp.
- Pepper, white, 1 tsp.
- Chinese Five Spice powder, 2 tsp.
- Add all of the wet ingredients, including the food coloring, into a bowl, with the honey going in last to ease its dissolution. Add the sugar to the bowl and mix until it has completely dissolved.
- Peel the ginger and crush the garlic, then grate these ingredients.
- Add all dry and grated ingredients into the bowl of wet ingredients and mix until everything is evenly combined. Give the marinade a taste test before progressing.
- Add the pork into the bowl and mix everything up again.
- Allow the pork to marinate for at least three days, stirring around the mixture at least once each day.
- On the fourth day, drain the marinade and give the pork a rinse.
- If using wooden skewers, soak them in water to mitigate burning during the grilling process.
- Transfer the pork to paper towels and pat it dry.
- Evenly distribute the meat along each skewer.
- Turn on your grill and get it to a high temperature.
- Place the BBQ kabobs on the grill and remember to rotate them as the meat browns on one side. It should take no more than 5 minutes for the skewered BBQ pork to fully cook.
Recipe #3: Teriyaki Sesame Sriracha BBQ Pork
- Teriyaki sauce, 1/4 cup.
- Balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp.
- Sesame oil, 2 tbsp.
- Honey, 2 tbsp.
- Either Srirachi chili sauce or hot pepper sauce, 2 tsp or 1 tsp, respectively.
- Pork tenderloin, 1 lb, cut into 1" cubes.
- Onion, quartered, 1.
- Sweet red pepper, 1, cut into 2-inch chunks.
- Combine the wet ingredients into a small bowl and mix until evenly combined.
- Pour 1/3 cup of the marinade into a large ziplock bag and add your pork to the bag.
- Seal the bag up and jostle it around until the pork is thoroughly coated.
- Refrigerate the marinated pork within its bag for a 2 hour minimum.
- Cover the remaining marinate and refrigerate it.
- When it’s time to grill, remove the pork from the marinade bag and discard it.
- Thread your pork, onion and red pepper along a quartet of metal or water-soaked wooden skewers in alternating fashion.
- Grill the pork kabobs on medium heat with a cover for 10-15 minutes, just until the meat turns tender. Remember to turn the pork skewers ever few minutes and use the leftover marinade, the portion not used to directly marinate the pork, to frequently baste the kabobs.
- Serve and enjoy!
Side Dish Solutions and Drink Decisions
While pork kabobs can feel like they are their own meal, this simply is not the case. Here are a handful of side and drink pairing for BBQ kabobs.
- Couscous with feta, mint and roasted red peppers.
- Spinach tabbouleh.
- Red cabbage slaw.
- White wine.
- Lemon-lime soda.
That about does it for my how-to on making BBQ pork kabobs from a variety of Asian styles. Look into what you like in a marinade and coat your pork with that deliciousness. Don't forget to pair whatever you concoct with a suitable drink and side dish, just make sure the side's ingredients do not overlap with the kabobs' offerings.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best meat for kabobs?
Kabobs are a very versatile way to cook meat and vegetables because you can use almost any ingredient! If it can fit on a skewer, you can cook it as a kabob. Beef and chicken are very popular meat ingredients for kabobs, but we like using pork for these Asian BBQ kabobs. The flavor of the pork goes really well with our spicy marinade.
What is the difference between kebab and kabob?
Kabob is the US spelling of kebab, which is more common in British english. The different spellings do not distinguish two different dishes; both are dishes that use skewers or spits to roast meat and vegetables, usually over the grill.
Is stew meat good for kabobs?
We wouldn’t recommend using stew meat or pork shoulder for these Asian BBQ pork kabobs because they are tough. These types of meat contain a lot of connective tissue, which requires low and slow heat to slowly break them down to create a tender bite. These kabobs won’t be on the grill for long enough, and we’re using higher heat. That’s why we recommend using pork loin or pork tenderloin.
What can I use instead of Gochujang?
Gochujang is a spicy condiment that’s made with red chili peppers, fermented soybeans, salt, and sometimes glutinous rice. It has a very unique flavor and adds a ton of depth to these Asian BBQ pork kabobs. You can find Gochujang in most grocery stores today, or you can look to a specialty Asian grocery store. If you can’t find it, you can substitute a paste made from red pepper flakes, Thai chili paste, or Sriracha chili sauce.
What is ponzu sauce made of?
Ponzu is a really interesting sauce that tastes similar to soy sauce. It has a very fresh citrusy flavor. It’s not as popular as teriyaki sauce, but it’s much healthier because it usually doesn’t contain very much sugar.