Pork ears are a delicacy in Asia. In the Philippines, the most popular way of serving them is to cut them into bite-size pieces, thread them with bamboo skewers and grill them over glowing charcoal.
If you buy pork ears an the wet market, chances are you’ll have to torch them then scrape them with a sharp knife afterwards to remove all the hair. If you buy pork ears in the supermarket, the chances that you will have very little cleaning to do at home are better. Not that it’s too much work removing the hair. If you have a very sharp knife, they come off easily when scraped.
Unlike pork meat barbecue, you cannot simply marinate, thread and directly grill pork ears. It takes time for the cartilage (“soft bones”) of the ears to become tender so you need to pre-cook them. The grilling part is only to char them and to give them a crisp texture outside.
I learned from a neighborhood street vendor once that the best way to braise the pork ears is to cook them like adobo. Filipino adobo. With vinegar, soy sauce, peppercorns, bay leaves and plenty of garlic. The ears soak up all the flavors and all they need is a bit of charring and lots of smokiness.
Grill the pork ears at least eight inches from the heat — yes, farther away from the heat than usual. Pork ears are fatty and, combined with the sugar in the basting sauce, they will burn fast. You want them to turn a bit crispy so you have to keep them on the grill for several minutes. They won’t last that long without burning if they’re too near the live coals.
Turn the pork ears often, basting them with each turn. When they are nicely charred and browned, transfer them to a plate and they’re ready to eat.
Skewered pork ears barbecue
- Place the cleaned pork ears in a pan.
- Pour in the vinegar.
- Add the garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns.
- Bring to a boil without stirring. Let boil for a few minutes.
- Season with soy sauce and salt.
- Pour in a cup of water and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half or until the pork ears are tender. Never mind if very little liquid remains after cooking — you don’t need the liquid; in fact, because most of the fat would have melted in the liquid, you really want to discard it after cooking.
- Drain the cooked pork ears, cool and cut into bite-size pieces. If you thread them while still hot, they will be too soft and they will tear. So, be patient and allow them to cool. After cooling, thread them into the bamboo skewers.
- Prep the grill and position the rack eight inches above the charcoal.
- Grill the skewered pork ears for a few minutes, turning them over to lightly char all sides.
- After charring has begun, start brushing the sauce on the pork ears. Brush, turn and repeat until the surface of the pork ears are nicely charred.
- Serve at once.