My dad made the best food on the grill growing up. As a child, I loved waking up and seeing the dark orange covered tray resting on the kitchen counter because that meant he was marinating something which meant he was planning on grilling something which meant I was going to be eating a lot of deliciousness before the end of the day. Everything tastes better over a charcoal grill, but his marinade took it to the next level.
I was away at college when I first called home for the recipe. I was living off campus and was basically on a non-existent budget. I was so sick of plain old chicken on a Foreman grill (remember those???). So, I called home for the marinade and he gave it to me: garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. It seemed simple enough. Then I asked, Okay. So how much of each?
And his answer was, I don’t know. Just look at it and smell it.
I was like, Whaaaat?!
And he answered, Just look at it and smell it.
Since then, I’ve made a couple small changes to his marinade:
- I swapped out the vinegar for limes. I really like incorporating citrus into my cooking whenever I can, especially with meats. The citrus really helps brighten everything up, especially with all the heavier, sweet, and savory ingredients in this marinate.
- I added a bit of black bean sauce (fermented black soy beans). After discovering black bean sauce, I started trying it in everything – literally everything – and discovered it worked really well in this dish. It just adds another layer of flavor and complexity. If you’re at all hesitant, I would recommend trying it at least once. Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by it’s incredible deliciousness.
The one thing I never did change was utilizing my father’s look/smell method. Most times everything turned out really good. However sometimes, it came out so ridiculously amazing that I would regrettably think, Ugh. I should’ve written it down this time! This is also probably my most requested recipe. Whenever I make this dish for someone new, there’s at least a 75% chance they’re going to ask for it. However, it’s almost impossible to share a recipe when using the look/smell method. I’ve thought about writing the recipe down for year, but never did. Then a couple months ago, I finally did.
My first attempt at writing out an actual recipe was okay, but both my husband I knew that it’s been better. It was a little too salty and the limes weren’t really coming thru. I tried again earlier this week and got it just about right and delicious enough to share. However for my next attempt, I’ll be making these changes:
- More brown sugar. If you’re not really into the sweet meat thing, you’ll probably fine with the recipe as-is but, the Filipina in me (Filipinos are notorious for preferring everything on the sweeter side) wanted something a little bit sweeter to balance out the heavier, salty/savory ingredients.
- More lime. I love what citrus does in savory cooking and although I could taste the lime, I think I would have preferred it to be a little more prominent. So, I’ll probably add the zest and juice of at least 1/2 a lime next time.
- Longer marinating time. I marinated these pork chops over night, but I think I’ve had the best success with two night of marinating. I think this gives the marinade a chance to really seep in. Once grilled, the pork chops develop this beautiful, almost caramel-like glaze which is just, yum.
I like to garnish the pork with cilantro and limes and serve with a simple cucumber & tomato salad and steamed white rice. I actually like to have the pork over a little bit of white rice and the salad over the pork. The dressing sort of gets into the pork and all over the rice. It gets pretty messy but, it’s the most delicious kind of mess.
If you end up trying this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Otherwise, look out for my update in the coming weeks!
- 4 pork chops (I used center cut bone-in), approximated 1/2lb each, 2lbs total
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, pressed
- zest and juice of one lime
- 2tbsp soy sauce
- 2tbsp brown sugar
- 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1tbsp black bean sauce
- 1/4tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you really like heat)
- black pepper
- In a small bowl, add the garlic, lime zest and juice, soy sauce, Worceshire sauce, brown sugar, black bean sauce, and red pepper flakes and whisk together
- Season the pork on both sides with black pepper
- Place the pork into a sealed container (I have these and couldn’t speak more highly of them)
- Pour the marinade over the pork, cover the container, and shake well to evenly distribute the marinade.
- Marinate overnight in the refrigerator
- In the morning, flip the pork around so that all sides have a chance to sit submerged in the marinade
- After about 24hrs (or close to it) of marinating, pull the pork out of the refrigerator and bring it back to room temperature (approximately 20min)
- Grill pork over medium heat until internal temperature hits 140ºF
- Let rest prior to serving
Fun story: My daughter, who isn’t too fond of anything besides roast chicken would not try these pork chops. Then, I told her they were “candied chicken” and guess what? She gobbled it up. 🙂 It’s worth a try if you have a picky toddler. 😉