This is an updated version of a recipe originally published in 2006.
The name of the dish sounds Spanish but, surprisingly, it is also a staple in most Chinese restaurants in the Philippines. I’m pretty sure that the Chinese don’t call their version of this pork dish asado. It’s more probable that Filipinized Chinese used the term asado to refer to a Chinese pork dish that has a similar sweet-salty flavor. Of course, I’m guessing…
Filipino asado is a slab of pork braised uncut in a sweet-salty liquid, cooled and sliced, then served with the thickened braising liquid. The Chinese asado — at least, in Chinese restaurants in the Philippines — is roast marinated pork loin, sliced thinly and served as an appetizer, usually as part of an assorted cold meat dish.
In a comment thread in another post in some other part of this blog, there is a comment about how this dish could not be an asado because “asado” is derived from the Spanish word “asar” which means to roast, broil or barbecue. I forget in which post the comment was made although I am sure it is there somewhere because I always remember the really annoying comments. The person who posted the comment is not a Filipino. The thing about asado being derived from the Spanish word “asar” is correct but it is stupid to tell a population to call a dish something else because its name is grammatically incorrect in the context of another culture and language. It’s like saying that there is one universal definition for “asar” which would, again, be pretty stupid as there are, at the very least, five other meanings of “asar”:
1. A 19th century transcription of the name Osiris, an Ancient Egyptian deity of the underworld and resurrection
2. Asar, a horse-god revered in ancient Palmyra, possibly of Arabian origin
3. Asar, Aligudarz, a village in Aligudarz County, Lorestan Province, Iran
4. Asar Party, a former Kazakhstani political party
5. ASAR (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Envisat satellite
In the Filipino language, “asar” means annoyingly irritating or irritatingly annoying, whichever you prefer although both definitions are correct. And that person who said that Filipino asado cannot be asado is really beyond annoying and irritating.
So, again, Filipino asado is basically a braised dish, period.
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 to 1.5 kilograms roasting pork in one piece (belly, shoulder or loin), preferably with a thin layer of fat on one side
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup soy sauce depending on the saltiness of your brand of soy sauce or whether you’re using light or dark soy sauce
- 2 star anise
- 2 laurel leaves
- 12 peppercorns
- 4 to 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 whole garlic
- 1 whole onion
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 2 to 3 tablespoons tapioca starch or corn or potato starch
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- Prick the meat with a fork in several places.
- Heat the cooking oil in a large heavy pan. Lightly brown the pork, rolling it in hot oil to brown all sides evenly. Pour enough water to reach about half the height of the pork. Pour in the soy sauce and add the rest of the ingredients. What you’re looking for is an agreeable balance between the saltiness of the soy sauce and the sweetness of the sugar. So, use more or less of either ingredient to suit your taste. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer the pork, fat side up, for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on its thickness. Flip the pork halfway through the cooking time.
- Lift the pork out of the liquid, place on a plate and cool to room temperature, Cut into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on a serving platter.
- Strain the braising liquid. Reheat. Dissolve the starch in 1/8 cup of water. Pour into the braising liquid and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the hoisin sauce and sesame seed oil, and stir well to blend.
- Pour the sauce over the sliced pork and serve.
If you want to dress up the everyday pork asado dish to serve for a special occasion like a Christmas party, arrange the pork slices on one side of the platter and fill the other half with some greens like stir-fried kangkong (water / swamp spinach) with oyster sauce.
To make the stir-fried kangkong with oyster sauce, cut one to two bunches kangkong into two-inch lengths. Stir fry in a couple of tablespoonfuls of very hot oil until just wilted, season with a little salt and pepper, add a couple of tablespoonfuls of oyster sauce and stir to blend.