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.

Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe ingredients 1
Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe ingredients 2
Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe ingredients 3

Ingredients

  • 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

Marinade essentials

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.

Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe ingredients 4

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.

Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe grilling 2
Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe grilling 1

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.

Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe kabob and noodles 1

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.

Vietnamese Pork Kabob recipe kabob and noodles plate

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.

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