Often when planning meals I ask my family what they want for dinner. Inihaw na Baboy – Grilled Pork Belly has been a favorite. Other answers have varied. They have ranged from easy to difficult dishes. But one thing is for sure, my guys always ask for some of the old classics I’ve cooked again and again.
A few weeks ago, the sun was shining, the weather was warmer and so we decided to fire up the grill. One of the easiest grilled dishes I make is Inihaw na Baboy (say ‘eeh-knee-haw- na-bah-boy’) which in Pilipino means Grilled Pork. I have posted this delightful grilled pork dish in the past using a large slab of pork shoulder. This time, I had a huge hunk of pork belly. Taking the cue from an aunt’s advice, I marinated the big pork belly piece overnight with basic ingredients of salt, black pepper and minced garlic. The next day, we started grilling.
The origins of Inihaw na Baboy – or in our home,’Inihaw na Babi’ ( Capampangan dialect phrase translates to Grilled Pork Belly) are not clear. But the fact that the recipe’s name in my recipe notebook is in the Pampango dialect means I learned how to make this from my mom and aunts who served it often. Pork-based dishes dominate the Pampango menus. I attribute this to the fact that the swine industry in the Luzon provinces account for a large chunk of the agricultural industry in the Philippines, coming close to rice farming in the country. So even if my family and I now live in America, our backyard barbecues revert to cooking favorite dishes we grew up with in the Philippines. It’s the simplicity of the recipe and the familiar savory-garlic flavors that brings us back to this dish.
Once the pork belly was on the grill, the smoke that floated upwards was an enticing blend of garlic-vinegar scents. I clutched the grill’s handle on the cover and opened it to take a peek. There on the grill, the pork pieces were sizzling, the skin popping with large blisters, the scent irresistible.
As I sliced the cooked pork belly strips on the chopping board, I remembered how much my late dad enjoyed these ‘inihaw na baboy’ pieces long ago, with a mug of ice-cold beer. This entrée was a mainstay at my childhood home. Thoughts of my dad came to mind as I plated the pork belly strips along with grilled eggplants and sweet corn. He always reminded me “your family comes first.”
I arranged the platter of grilled pork belly strips at the center of our dining table. My family hungrily grabbed the grilled pork. I was glad I asked them what they wanted for dinner.
How to make Inihaw na Baboy - Grilled Pork Belly
- 2 pounds pork belly whole slab, fat trimmed
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic divided, use 1 teaspoon for dipping sauce garlic, rest for marinade
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar for marinade
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice from fresh lemons
- 1 cup ginger ale
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup cider vinegar (or white vinegar) for vinegar dipping sauce
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic for vinegar dipping sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 to 3 pieces bird's eye chilies
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper powder
- boiled rice for serving
- The night before, prepare the pork belly by marinating with the minced garlic, salt and black pepper. Place in a plastic bag and keep refrigerated overnight.
- The following day, just before grilling, pour into the pork the half cup of vinegar and juice of a lemon. Blend this well with the rest of the marinade on the pork.
- Preheat the grill to a high temperature. Prepare the glaze for basting on the meat while grilling by mixing together in a bowl : ginger ale, vegetable oil, soy sauce.
- Grill the pork over medium-high heat, at a total cooking time of 30 to 35 minutes per pound. For this amount of pork, cook on the grill for about 55 to 60 minutes. Keep turning the meat for even grilling. Baste all over every few minutes, for a shiny and moist grilled pork belly piece. Cook meat thoroughly till no pink parts remain.
- Place the cooked pork slab on a chopping board. After pork rests a few minutes, slice the pork pieces. Serve the grilled pork with a spicy side dipping sauce of vinegar filled with garlic cloves, bird's eye chilies and peppers plus a big bowl of rice.
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