Known as muu bping sapbparoht (หมูปิ้งสัปปะรด) and translated as grilled pork with pineapple, this dish showcases cubes of grilled pork meat and firm fat with fresh pineapple. The pork meat is marinated in light soy sauce and an array of dry spices, giving it earthy and slightly spicy notes. The cubes are then threaded onto skewers, interspersed with evenly sliced pieces of firm pork fat. When grilled, these pieces of pork fat introduce an additional layer of richness and juiciness to the meat. The preferred cut of choice for this dish is pork neck, a cut highly valued for its optimal ratio of lean meat to fat, culminating in a pleasingly succulent texture when grilled.
In Thai cuisine, it is common practice to sprinkle grated coconut over glowing charcoal while grilling. The heat-induced combustion of aromatic fats within the coconut introduces an additional dimension of sweet, smoky richness to the dish. Meanwhile, the charring of the edges of the meat catalyzes the caramelization of its natural sugars, yielding a delightful sweetness that further enhances the smoky undertones of the meat.
Once properly cooked, the tender grilled pork cubes and pork fat, glistening from the rendering of their own oils, are served with fresh, sour-sweet pineapple. This tangy fruitiness underscores the sweetness of the grilled meat and provides a textural and flavorful counterpoint to the rich and fatty meat. The pairing of pineapple with grilled or fried meats is often seen in traditional Thai recipes. For example, in the memorial book for Thanpuying (Lady) Gleep Mahithaawn (1876-1961), the wife of Jao Praya Mahithaawn – a justice minister in the 1930s – a recipe for Galloping Horse (Maa Haaw) (ม้าฮ่อ) was printed. The recipe calls for minced pork belly, garlic, coriander roots and white peppercorns; the mixture is seasoned with ground coriander and cumin seeds and then deep-fried into small, round balls and served with fresh pineapple or tangerines.
This dish is inspired by a 1933 recipe from Jeeb Bunnag, the daughter-in-law of Lady Plean Passakornrawong, and presents a slightly different take on the tradition. The pork is marinated in a spice blend comprising white peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, Siam cardamom, cloves, licorice root, nutmeg seed and mace. The process of roasting and grinding these spices releases their complex aromas, resulting in a flavor profile that is warm, earthy, slightly spicy, and filled with undertones of sweetness and citrus, thus embracing the fruity character of the pineapple.
I like to add pineapple to the pork marinade, as it helps tenderize the meat and introduces the pineapple sugars to the pork early on in the cooking process. While the pineapple is meant to be eaten raw with the grilled pork, there is nothing wrong, taste-wise, in serving the pineapple grilled.
When grilling pork neck on skewers, it is important to remember that the meat may undergo some shrinkage due to its fatty nature. Therefore, take this into account when cutting the meat into pieces, to ensure that the final cooked size meets your desired outcome.
Additionally, I always recommend using freshly roasted and freshly ground dry spices. It is best to roast and grind each spice separately using a mortar and pestle. Following this simple rule can greatly enhance the quality of your cooking. The flavors and aromas of freshly roasted and ground spices are more vibrant and intense, and provide the high quality that your dishes deserve!
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- pork neck meat (สันคอหมู)
- firm pork fat (มันหมูแข็ง)
- pineapple (สัปปะรด)
For the marinade:
- light soy sauce (ซีอิ๊วขาว)
- white peppercorns (พริกไทย) (S1) roasted and ground
- coriander seeds (malet phak chee) (เมล็ดผักชี) (S2) roasted and ground
- cumin seeds (malet yeeraa) (เมล็ดยี่หร่า) (S3) roasted and ground
- Siam Cardamom pods (luuk grawaan) (ลูกกระวาน) (S4) roasted and ground
- clove (กานพลู) (S7) roasted and ground
- liquorice (ชะเอม) roasted and ground
- nutmeg seed (ลูกจันทน์เทศ) (S5) roasted and ground
- mace (ดอกจันทน์เทศ) (S6) roasted and ground
- skewers (ไม้เสียบ)
- charcoals (ถ่าน)
- grated coconut (มะพร้าวขูด)
- Prepare the pork: Cut the pork neck into 1 – 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 cm) cubes, considering the potential shrinkage during grilling. Cut the firm pork fat into similar-sized pieces.
- Roast the spices: Individually roast the dry spices in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant.
- Grind the spices: Allow the roasted spices to cool down, then grind them separately into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Working with the spices individually allows you to adjust the marinade’s aromatic intensities according to your preferences.
- Prepare the marinade: In a mixing bowl, combine the ground spices with light soy sauce.
- Add pineapple to the marinade: Dice the pineapple and add it to the spice and soy sauce mixture. Gently crush the pineapple to release its juices and sweetness into the marinade.
- Marinate the pork: Thoroughly coat each piece of pork neck cube with the marinade. Let the meat marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to penetrate.
- Prepare the skewers: Thread the marinated pork cubes and slices of firm pork fat onto skewers, alternating between the two. This step enhances the richness and juiciness of the dish.
- Prepare the grill: Light up the charcoal, and wait until the flames subside; wait until the charcoal is properly heated up before starting the grilling process.
- Add coconut smoke to the charcoal (optional): Sprinkle grated coconut over the glowing charcoal to add a smoky nuttiness to the dish.
- Grill the skewers: Cook the skewers on the charcoal grill, turning them occasionally, until the pork is cooked through.
- Check for charring: While grilling, observe the edges of the meat for charring. This indicates the caramelization of natural sugars, enhancing the smoky undertones.
- Rest the pork: Once the pork is cooked properly, remove the skewers from the grill and allow them to rest for a few minutes.
- Serve the dish: Serve the grilled pork cubes and pork fat skewers with fresh pineapple. Cut the pineapple into triangles or spoon-like slices and place a piece of grilled meat and fat on each slice. The pineapple provides a tangy contrast to the rich and fatty meat.
- Optional: Grill the pineapple: For additional flavor, you can also grill the pineapple and serve it alongside the pork.