A couple years ago I found myself at a street fair and the aroma of grilled kabobs from a Vietnamese food stand caught my attention. Meaty, juicy and flavorful, I asked the vendor what cut of meat he used. The answer was what I suspected but still surprised me: pork shoulder. I walked away determined to figure out how to make this at home.
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1.5″ cubes
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- a pinch of salt, pepper and red chili flakes
I wanted to make sure this marinade was gonna be packed with flavor but I didn’t want to turn this into a trip to the grocery store, especially in the era of Covid-19. With canola oil as a base, I reached for fish sauce for salt and funk, rice vinegar for a sweet tang, brown sugar for caramelization and sweetness, salt and pepper for overall flavor enhancement and red chili flakes for heat.
Plan ahead + cook like you mean it
First off I wanted these kabobs to be bursting with flavor so an overnight marinade was a must. Second, I had to cook these kabobs over a serious open flame but I knew that the sugar in the marinade was a prime candidate for flare ups and burnt kabobs. So I needed to build a strong fire and give myself some heat to maneuver with.
The great thing about pork shoulder, besides being cheap, is that its higher fat content keeps it from drying out, even on the grill. This way you can get a great char without running the risk of a dry kabob. And dry kabob is no bueño.
Pork shoulder makes the cut
Yeah, I scored with these kabobs, and the cut was a huge factor. Pork shoulder makes for a fabulous kabob cut. Upon further research, I found a recipe for pork kabobs in Cook’s Illustrated Mediterranean cookbook. They single out boneless country ribs, essentially pork shoulder that comes cut in long thick strips and readily available at supermarkets, a great pork kabobs choice as well. That’s for next time.
Let’s talk street noodles
With a serious stick of street meat on deck, I kept with the theme: street noodles. Man did I wing these noodles, but they turned out great. After I boiled some Shankxi noodles, I tossed them in a pan with sesame oil, ginger and garlic for a quick sauté. Because Vietnamese Pork Kabobs shouldn’t be alone on a dinner plate.