Inspired by a sweet Supermom who busted her chops for hours like a Hebrew slave to cook and serve pulled pork to 60+ people from her son’s choir group, I made an Asian BBQ pulled pork in the slow cooker around midnight-ish last night. Having never made pulled pork in a slow cooker before and wanting to test out different combinations of Asian ingredients I already have on hand, the outcome would render a reasonably delicious meal or the family was going to endure 2 days worth of dreaded food from a 4.5 lb. hunk of meat. Fingers and toes were crossed.
After 4+ hours on low and slow, the BBQ pork was fork-tender and very flavorful from bathing in the slightly thickened, caramelized BBQ sauce. Once the slow cooker cooled down for a few more hours, I placed it in the fridge so the excess pork fat on the surface could solidify. As lunchtime approached, I removed the thicken surface fat. With a shallow ladle, the cooked sauce was generously poured over the top of the pork shoulder. Using 2 forks, I broke up just enough pork meat for 2 servings and ladled more sauce over it. And with that, I made what I called Vietnamese style pulled pork Banh mi for today’s lunch.
Condiments used for the banh mi were freshly pickled green mango, cucumber, and carrot matchsticks. This pickling recipe was inspired by Andrea Nguyen’s daikon/carrot pickling recipe from her Banh Mi Handbook I purchased recently. Instead of butter inside the bread, I slathered freshly smashed avocado (trying something new here). A few fresh chili slices tucked inside the Banh mi gave it an extra punch in the face. Some cilantro sprigs were added for freshness. Typical of my Vietnamese madness when I eat a banh mi of any kind, my finishing touch always included a few dashes of Maggi Seasoning sauce, some cracked black pepper, and one thin line of sriracha hot sauce to “seal the deal”.
A Cook’s Note:
This pulled pork was intentionally made to introduce my young yet picky girls to the delicious world of BBQ in general. As such, I kept the BBQ sauce fairly neutral. I steered clear of anything too tangy, too sweet, and definitely too spicy. All the heat came from the fresh chilis, after the fact. Yet, honestly, this pulled pork is BEST when sliced fresh jalepenos and dried chili flakes are added to the pork shoulder prior to cooking. The spicy flavor would have penetrated beautifully into the meat and the sauce from the slow cooking, thus, yielding a richer, more complex BBQ sauce.
For the banh mi component, I often prefer a french style butter or a liver pate as a base, to be slathered generously on one side of the bread roll. However, for this pulled pork banh mi, I’m using fresh avocado as a healthy alternative. I actually enjoy the buttery avocado texture next to the BBQ pork but my hubby prefers to skip this step altogether. To each his own.
Here’s my recipe. Yields 6-8 servings when served with a side or two, or lots of banh mi
ASIAN BBQ PULLED PORK – INGREDIENTS:
4.5 lbs pork shoulder bone-in
1/2 cup light soy sauce
4 Tbsp fish sauce (used 3 Crabs brand)
1/4 cup wine/sake/dry sherry (used a leftover Pinot Grigio)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 cup BBQ (used KC Masterpiece Original – very neutral)
1/8 five spice powder
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried chili flakes (optional but HIGHLY suggested)
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1/2 of sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped (like Vidalia or Maui)
3 stalks green onions, chopped into 1″ pieces
1 fresh jalepeno pepper, roughly chopped (optional)
ASIAN BBQ PULLED PORK – STEPS:
1. In a bowl or large measurement cup, add soy sauce, fish sauce, wine, honey, sesame oil, BBQ sauce, sugar, five spice powder, black pepper, and dried chili flakes (if using). Mix marinade well and set aside.
2. Place bone-in pork shoulder in slow cooker. With a sharp knife, prick pork shoulder a few times on both sides (optional). Add the following aromatics on top of pork: minced garlic, ginger, jalepeno pepper (if using), chopped green and yellow onions. Coat pork shoulder on both sides with aromatics.
3. Pour marinade mixture over pork shoulder and aromatics. With clean hands, work marinade into nooks and crannies, and on both sides of pork shoulder.
4. Close lid. Set slow cooker on LOW for 4 hours (preferably, for fork tender but not mushy meat) or 5-6 hours if that kind of meat texture is your thing.
5. After pork shoulder is cooked, skim off excess fat from surface. Pour cooked BBQ sauce over the pork shoulder. With 2 forks, break off meat into chunky, bite size pieces (my preference) or shred finely for a true pulled pork texture. Drizzle some sauce over the meat chunks.
6. Serve hot with a favorite side or two, or on a burger bun/slider. For a cool twist, serve it in a Vietnamese style banh mi with pickled veggies (recipe below), smashed avocado, fresh chilis and cilantro sprigs.
PICKLED CUCUMBER, GREEN MANGO, CARROT MATCHSTICKS – INGREDIENTS:
1 Cup green mango, peeled and thinly cut into matchsticks (should be unripened, very hard when finger pressed down on the green skin, & interior will be mostly white when cut, not yellow, often found at Asian markets). Good substitute is white daikon.
4 small cucumbers, thinly cut into matchsticks
2 small carrots, thinly cut into matchsticks
2 fresh jalepeno peppers, cut into matchsticks (optional)
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp dried chili flakes (somewhat fine, not flakey) or 2 fresh Thai chilis, slightly smashed, kept whole
1 1/4 Cup distilled white vinegar
1 Cup hot water
1/2 Cup granulated sugar (to mix with vinegar later)
PICKLED CUCUMBER, GREEN MANGO, CARROT MATCHSTICKS – STEPS:
1. In a large bowl, add cut mango, carrots, and cucumbers matchsticks. Add kosher salt and 2 tsp sugar. With clean hands, mix well, ensuring all cut veggies are evenly coated with the sugar/salt mixture. Set aside for 15 minutes. Return occasionally during this time to give veggies another toss or two. After 15 minutes, pour veggies into a mesh strainer. Quickly rinse under running water and drain excess water thoroughly. (I found pressing veggies into a few paper towels was helpful in the drying process.)
2. In a separate stainless steel bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar, hot water, and vinegar. Mix well to dissolve sugar.
3. Add mango, carrot, cucumber matchsticks, dried chili flakes, cut jalepeno pepper, and Thai chilis to sugar/vinegar water. Mix well. Dump cut veggies and enough pickling liquid to cover the surface of the veggies in an air-tight container or canning jar. Pickled veggies will be ready to serve within 30-45 min (approximately) when left at room temperature. Store unused amount in fridge.
CONDIMENTS FOR MY VIETNAMESE STYLE BBQ PULLED PORK BANH MI:
fresh avocado, smashed up (with back of a fork or spoon)
pickled veggies – cucumber, mango, carrot matchsticks, jalepenos (if using)
fresh thai chili cut into small rings (optional)
fresh cilantro/coriander sprigs
kosher salt & black pepper, pinch or 2
Sriracha hot sauce
ASSEMBLY OF VIETNAMESE-STYLE PULLED PORK BANH MI MADNESS:
1. Lightly toast a small bread roll (i.e. bolillo, ciabatta, kaiser, or a baguette from an Asian market, etc.)
2. With a bread knife, make a slit on the side of the toasted bread roll, start from top to bottom. Open the cut bread roll. If necessary, hollow out some of the interior to make ample room for pork meat and condiments.
3. (Optional) Slather some smashed avocado on one side of the roll. Sprinkle a pinch of ground black pepper & kosher salt over smashed avocado. Alternative: skip this step, or use softened butter or a good garlic mayo.
4. Add pulled pork (be generous) to bread roll. Drizzle some of the cooked BBQ sauce over the pork.
5. Add plenty of pickled cucumber, carrot, & mango matchsticks (and cut jalepeno peppers if using) over the pork. Throw in a few thai chili rings and some fresh cilantro/coriander sprigs.
6. Add 5-7 small drops of Maggi Seasoning from top to bottom, over the pork and pickled veggies. Use Maggi sparingly; its flavor can be overpowering. Add a pinch of cracked black pepper atop.
7. (Optional) Squirt a thin or thick line of Sriracha chili sauce over the pork and veggies. With all the fixings, it’s now officially a “Banh Mi” sandwich.
8. Now, Pig Out!