Grilled Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork Kebabs

If you leaf through the new February issue of Coastal Living magazine, you’re sure to stop in your tracks to admire the recipe and full-page, color photo of  “Grilled Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork Kabobs.”

Well, at least I hope you do, because it’s my very own recipe — my first one published in the magazine.

It’s part of the story, “Fresh Tropical Flavors! Pineapple,” which I helped developed recipes for.

I solicited well-known chefs, including legendary Hawaiian toque, Sam Choy, for favorite dishes that showcase fresh pineapple.

I also came up with my own — a riff on everyone’s favorite take-out dish of sweet ‘n’ sour pork. Instead of greasy, battered, fried pork, though, I lightened the dish by threading skewers of pork with red onion, green and red peppers, and chunks of fresh pineapple that get thrown on the grill.

The pork is first marinated in soy sauce, mirin, grated ginger, sesame oil, a pinch of sugar and pineapple puree to make it even more tender and juicy.

After grilling, brush on the accompanying homemade sweet and sour sauce for a contemporary update of the old classic.

Grilled Chinese Sweet & Sour Pork Kebabs
(Serves 6)

For marinade:

1 pineapple, cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks, divided use

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons mirin, white wine, or dry vermouth

1-inch knob of ginger, grated

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

2 pounds pork loin, cut into 1 ¼-inch cubes

For sweet & sour sauce:

½ cup ketchup

½ cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

4 tablespoons pineapple puree

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

½ cup packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 teaspoons warm water

For kebabs:

2 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks

1 red onion, cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks

Vegetable oil

Kosher salt

To make marinade: Place 1 cup of pineapple chunks in a blender with 1 tablespoon of water. Whirl until pureed. You will end up with about ¾ cup of pureed pineapple. Reserve the rest of the pineapple chunks for threading on the skewers.

In a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons pineapple puree with soy sauce, mirin, grated ginger, sesame oil, and ginger. Add pork loin cubes to marinade. Cover and refrigerate, allowing to marinade for 1 ½ hours. (Note: Do not marinate past 2 hours, as the enzymes in the pineapple will cause the meat to break down too much, resulting in a mushy texture when cooked.)

Prepare a grill to cook the kebobs on medium direct heat. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about half an hour beforehand. You’ll need approximately 18 of them.

To make sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together ketchup, rice vinegar, remaining pineapple puree (approximately 4 tablespoons), Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.

Bring to a boil, then stir in cornstarch-water mixture. Turn down to a simmer, cooking for about 2 minutes, until sauce thickens. Keep sauce warm or use at room temperature. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.

To prepare kebobs: Remove pork cubes from marinade. Thread pork onto skewers, using about five pieces for each, and alternating with chunks of peppers, onions, and pineapple. Allow to stand at room temperature about 20 minutes before grilling.

Lightly brush vegetable oil over kebobs, and season with a little salt. Grill kebobs over direct medium heat for about 10 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking. Remove kebobs from the grill to a serving platter. Brush kebobs with sweet & sour sauce. Serve additional sweet & sour sauce on the side.

From Carolyn Jung

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