Thai Grilled Pork on Skewers (Mu Ping หมูปิ้ง)


Thai Grilled Pork on Skewers
From the looks of it, you wouldn’t think something like Thai-style grilled pork on skewers would require a year of recipe testing. But that’s exactly what had happened between May 2010 and last weekend. It’s not just the marinade formula which I feel must replicate the flavor of what was served at my favorite Mu Ping (often transliterated Moo Ping) stall in Bangkok; it’s also the way the pork is threaded onto the skewers, the best cut of pork, etc. And we all know the “simple” things are usually the hardest things to get right.

I don’t know if it’s incompetence or perseverance, but a year and somewhere between 10-15 experiments later, we’ve got it — the skewered grilled pork that transports you back to the streets of Bangkok. So make this, would you please?

grilled pork
Mu Ping is often served with a dipping sauce which seems to vary from vendor to vendor. Jaew (แจ่ว), dried chilli dipping sauce, is one of the common accompaniments, and you can certainly serve it with this grilled pork. However, I have devised this recipe in such a way that the pork is more than adequately seasoned and — at least for me — does not need a dipping sauce at all. In fact, I find that the flavor of a dipping sauce detracts from the flavor of the pork. But this is up to you.

The best cut of pork, in my opinion, is pork butt or pork shoulder with its excellent composition of lean meat, fat, and muscle. Please don’t use a lean cut for that will most definitely prevent you from achieving the kind of grilled pork found at respectable Mu Ping stalls in Thailand. Don’t use pork belly either; it’s too tough when cooked this way.


Another important factor is how the pork is threaded onto each bamboo skewer. Let’s examine the photograph above.

Exhibit B shows a skewer with one large piece of pork in the style of Thai-style pork satay. When skewered this way, the pork is susceptible to becoming dry and tough. A lot of vendors do this, but I don’t recommend it. Exhibit C shows the kind of up-and-down threading technique, exposing the bamboo skewer, which is often found in English-language cookbooks from the 70s in places where recipes for “oriental beef skewers,” or “Asian meat appetizers” are found. I don’t recommend that either.

Exhibit A is what you want. Bite-sized pieces of pork (this minimizes the length of the meat fibers making it easier to eat) are threaded onto the skewers kabob-style. The pieces are scrunched up together quite tightly, forming a compact body that’s made up of multiple pieces of pork. Not only does this help the meat stay moist, it also prevents the bamboo skewers from being exposed to the fire. This makes it easy to eat as well; you bite off one whole bite-sized piece of meat at a time as opposed to tearing off meat fibers mid-piece with your teeth.

thai grilled pork skewers
Then it’s just a matter of grilling the pork over medium to hot coals. Use wood charcoal if you can find it (mangrove wood charcoal is almost always used in Thailand), but regular briquettes are fine too. I like to do what some Mu Ping vendors do which is brush some coconut milk on the pork while it’s still uncooked. This keeps the pork moist and increases surface caramelization. Once the pork develops slightly-charred exteriors, stop brushing; you don’t want your finished grilled pork to look like it’s been dipped in coconut milk.

Mu Ping is best served with warm sticky rice. Thai papaya salad, Som Tam, would be great with this as well.

 

thai grilled pork

See that one friendless skewer? The meat is not threaded correctly.
 
5.0 from 3 reviews
Thai Grilled Pork on Skewers (Mu Ping หมูปิ้ง)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree, Main, Meat, Grill
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 4.5 lbs pork shoulder, cut against the grain into ¼- to ½-inch thick bite-sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons (30 g) finely-chopped cilantro roots (or stems)
  • 7 large garlic cloves (30 g), peeled
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) white peppercorns
  • 132 g palm sugar, grated finely (or melted in the microwave)
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons thin/light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda as tenderizer (optional)
  • Approximately ¾ cup of coconut milk with which to brush the pork
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked for 2-3 hours
Instructions
  1. Make the marinade paste by pounding the cilantro roots, garlic, and peppercorns together.
  2. Put the pork, the paste, and the seasonings into a large bowl; mix well, cover, and let marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.
  3. Thread the pork onto the skewers as explained in the post and grill over medium coals until slightly charred on the outside and cooked through on the inside. Brush the coconut milk on the pork occasionally while it’s on the grill.
  4. Serve warm with sticky rice. I find the grilled pork marinated this way flavorful enough unadorned, but you can also serve it with dried chilli dipping sauce (Jaew) on the side.

48 Responses to Thai Grilled Pork on Skewers (Mu Ping หมูปิ้ง)

  1. Angry Asian May 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    as always, you are so detailed with not only the recipe, but also with how to put the meat on the skewers and how to cook it. it makes for approachable cooking without sacrificing quality. thank you.

  2. J.C. May 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    I have been google-ing for Thai recipe blog. Not one with recipes only, but tips and personal experience of Thailand and I am so so glad to stumble upon your blog! The tips are great and the photographs are stunning! I love Thai food and want to learn more on how to prepare them. Hope I would learn a lot from your postings. Thanks for the sharing!

  3. innerkitchen June 1, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    Looks lovely, Leela!

    What would you say is the difference between moo ping and moo yang?

  4. The Café Sucré Farine June 1, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    These look just amazing! Thanks for doing all the footwork! I am doing a Thai party next week and will include these on my menu!

  5. Leela June 1, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Inner Kitchen – Thanks. Both ping and yang mean “to grill” or “grilled.” And as much as I wanted to draw a firm semantic line between the two, I can’t. Having said that, yang tends to be used when referring to grilling in general whereas ping is often used when the objects are small or cut into small, individual pieces (or skewered or wrapped in some sort of packet). For example, when I hear “mu yang,” my mind goes to grilled whole pieces of pork but when I hear “mu ping,” I think “pork on a stick.” This doesn’t always work, though. But in general, ping has that connotation. Cf. Khao niao ping vs. (the nonexistent) khao niao yang, kluay ping vs. (the nonexistent or rarely-used) kluay yang, khai (egg) ping, luk chin (meatballs) ping (never luk chin yang), etc.

    Anyone else have input?

    Many of these names are similar to what linguists call “frozen forms,” i.e. some things are called/named such for no other reasons than that they’ve always been called such.

  6. raquel@erecipe June 4, 2011 at 6:51 am #

    I enjoy reading this post I like your opinion in chosing the ingredient we used pork belly in skewers now I will try the shoulder part of pork. free nutritional Information for your recipe

  7. Dorrie June 5, 2011 at 1:53 am #

    Leela, as always, I love your posts!

    Just one question, even if late: Can you explain what the difference is between “ping” and “yang”? My friends here can’t explain, I think for them it’s something as clear as breathing!

  8. Leela June 5, 2011 at 2:16 am #

    Dorrie – Thanks! Scroll up a little bit to see my answer on Ping and Yang in my comment from June 1st.

  9. Dorrie June 5, 2011 at 7:06 am #

    Leela, thanks!

    I should not ask questions before I had my morning coffee…

  10. Leela June 5, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Dorrie – Haha. No worries. It’s a good question and one of those questions only people who know and care about the language and culture ask.

  11. The Duo Dishes June 20, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Lots of great tips, especially about the threading of meat. That’s a good tip for other skewers as well. Isn’t it crazy how long it can take to get something spot on?

  12. Charlotte August 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    So I am going to be making a CRAZY amount for a picnic. How many skewers (approx) does this recipe make? Also if I am going to be transporting the skewers onsite to grill, does that mean I should marinate only for 3 hours before skewering, since they will be in the cooler on the way to the picnic?

    Or should I skewer first then marinate?

  13. Admin August 19, 2011 at 2:23 am #

    Charlotte – My skewers are about a foot long and the pork occupies about 3/4 of the length — so about 30. Definitely marinate before skewering since the pork pieces will be threaded tightly and the marinade may not be able to get into the nooks and crannies. I’d marinate the pork for 2-3 hours, skewer it, then let it sit and marinate some more in the cooler on the way to the picnic. More marinade time is usually better than less.

  14. 1973 September 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    That is so – damn – sexy. For a man born in 1973 and lived in Bangkok, one block away from the liberty monument, this dish is the essence of Thai street foods.

  15. 1973 September 10, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    And I really like the grams measurement. 132g! Awesome. Does ‘dark’ soy sauce refer to the sweet black soya sauce?

  16. Admin September 10, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    1973 – Dark soy sauce here refers to the darker kind of soy sauce (not sweet but darker than “white” soy sauce). Use this one.

  17. 1973 October 16, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    I just read your post on http://www.shesimmers.com/2010/01/soy-sauces-used-in-thai-cooking-and-how.html and got a little confused.

    And just to make sure: I should use Poo Khao Tong, do not use See-Ew Kao.

  18. Admin October 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    1973 – Yes, use Golden Mountain with the green label and cap which is dark soy. (See-ew khao is light soy sauce.)

    Just curious, which part of the soy sauce post confuses you? If something is not clear, I’d like to fix it. Thanks.

  19. 1973 October 17, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    It’s about the get more confusing.

    My confusion is on the Soy Sauce article, you mentioned ‘sweet dark soy sauce’ called see-ew-waan but then followed by two bottles, one of which is labeled ‘thin soy sauce’ with translation of see-ew-kow. But then the next section deals with ‘light or thin say sauce’ also called see-ew-kow, followed by the trio bottles, followed by the ‘dark soy sauce’ called see-ew-dum.

    Growing up in Bangkok and Chantaburi, I understood that see-ew-dum and see-ew-waan were the same, and see-ew-kao and poo-kao-tong were different.

    On this whole note, imagine the effect if these sauce makers were to suddenly cease production or go out of business. Chilling isn’t it? The entire basis of modern Thai cooking would disintegrate.

  20. Admin October 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    1973 – I’m open to redacting that soy sauce post, but would like to see more people being confused by it first.

    There are two kinds of see-ew dam: the non-sweet one (the one you should use in this recipe which I’ve linked to in my earlier answer to you) and the sweet one (which is not called for in this recipe). To prevent confusion, people call the former see-ew dam and the latter see-ew dam waan. After a while, it seems see-ew dam waan has been shortened to just see-ew waan while see-ew dam remains unchanged.

    Regardless, use the unsweetened dark soy sauce here.

    Golden Mountain makes many different types of soy sauce and seasoning sauce, referring to a particular kind of sauce, pukhao thong, only adds to the confusion, I think. That’s why I don’t refer to a sauce by its brand name, but by its kind.

    Not sure how to take your last comment, but that hypothetical scenario applies to any ingredient that’s heavily used in any cuisine at any period in history.

  21. 1973 October 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm #

    The general point is true about any crusine requiring crucial ingredients characteristic of that country/culture. But in my view, Thai crusine is very seasoning sauce dependent (Buddha bless Thailand), even more than Chinese, which is a brew of multiple complex secret ingredients.

    Take for example the uniqueness of Italian cooking, clearly you’d know that the plate you’re eating has an Italian flavor – tomatoes, garlic, basil, cheese, maybe a daring anchovie. But these are singular components that make the dish. How about American: dough, meat, egg, onions, black pepper, salt, more cheese etc. But beyond that, what is there? Lowry’s, Worchestershire, A1, white wine, red wine, ketchup; all of which American crusine would survive without.

    Imagine trying to get the pad-see-ew flavor into that dish without the see-ew sauce, you’d just have ‘pad’.

    BTW, I’ll try the peanut sauce V2 as mentioned.

  22. Admin October 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    1973 – Ah, thanks for the clarification. I can now see your point, but respectfully disagree.

    First of all, the example you use, Pad See-Ew, is largely influenced by Chinese cuisine. This is the case with almost every stir-fried noodle, actually. They don’t represent what Thai cuisine is; they’re merely a small subset. Without these noodles and the seasoning sauces contained therein, would modern Thai cuisine as we know it collapse? I don’t think so.

    Until the Chinese immigrants have introduced their bevy of soy sauces to our cuisine, we did just fine with our herbs, spices, fish sauce, and other local ingredients. For example, we have pad kra-phrao which can be made without any sauce other than fish sauce (on the other hand, it can’t be made without the garlic-chili paste).

    If Thai cuisine is dependent on anything, it’s the nam prik (น้ำพริก) and krueang kaeng (เครื่องแกง) ingredients, not seasoning sauces.

  23. Shiva January 1, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Can’t wait to make this ,thanks.
    Now if you could please tell me how to cut chicken breast correctly for Satays .I’ve been making them for years but I know I’m not cutting them the right way.

  24. Admin January 1, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    Shiva – Try cutting the breasts into long, thin strips against the grain.

  25. 1 January 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Is this Satay or are there many skewer dishes used in Thai Cuisine?

  26. Admin January 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    1 – This is not satay, and it’s one of the many, many skewer Thai street dishes.

  27. Hagan July 10, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    I tried this a few times in Bangkok, the best one I found was from mr moo ping on the street corner by the 7/11 diagonally opposite O’Reillys in Silom. I’ve tried this recipe tonight and the meat is spot on but I found the marinade much too salty. I would recommend halfing or thirding the Soy and Oyster sauce and instead using real salt as it gets into the meat more deeply without the bitterness and add coconut milk to the marinade to balance it.

  28. Superzona September 13, 2012 at 4:44 am #

    Thank you thank you thank you for this recipe. I’m Thai, in London, living a Moo-Ping free life for a year now but this recipe come along and I’m able to introduce these delicious skewers in our summer barbeques. It’s gone in no time. Will try turmeric chicken next time:)

  29. Nanna January 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Made this today, and it almost took me back to BKK! Thank you.

  30. Nanna January 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Couldn’t rate it from the phone, but its a definite: *****

  31. Chris Wotton February 23, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    What an awesomely detailed recipe – you’re right, the way you cut and thread the meat (whether for this, satay, other skewered dishes or even the cut in a simple red or green curry) is as important as the ingredients you use; if you don’t get it right it just doesn’t taste the same. I’m living in Bangkok so I’ve got no immediate need to make moo ping at home, but I’ll give it a go sometime soon anyway. For the first time recently I saw a street vendor’s attempt to translate moo ping into English as ‘honey grilled pork’ – so now I’m left wondering if there are some vendors who use a honey-based recipe instead? There are definitely some spots where it’s got more of a marinade to it, and larger pieces of pork with more of a bite to it, versus generally smaller skewers with less pork and more of an emphasis on fattier, presumably cheaper (but equally delicious) pieces of meat – but seemingly less marinade. The former tend to cost 10 baht a stick whereas the latter are 5 baht – it’s the only way I’ve found to tell them apart when describing them! Finally, I agree entirely with your distinction between ‘ping’ and ‘yang’, but I also again think that moo ping or gai ping (forget luk chin, gluay and kai for a moment) has far more of an emphasis on marinade – they’re both a lot moister than say gai yang which, while I realise it is still marinated, tastes a lot closer to literally what you’d imagine ‘grilled chicken’ to be – grilled chicken, and a little drier. Just my thoughts, anyway!

  32. A Canadian Foodie August 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Holy moly –
    I was just looking for a great Thai meat on a stick. What an incredibly detailed and respectful to the flavour post… and then the discussion. Phew! I learned one heck of a lot… and probably will give it a go!
    🙂
    Valerie

  33. Blue August 25, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Dark soy sauce? You mean seasoning sauce (green cap) or sweet dark soy sauce (used in pad-see-ew)?

    • Leela August 25, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      Blue – Neither. Since people seem to have a hard time finding Thai (unsweetened) dark soy sauce in their area, I’ve altered the recipe instructions to say thin/light soy sauce. You can use seasoning sauce (Golden Mountain, Healthy Boy, etc.). Don’t use the sweet dark soy that’s used in pad-see-ew.

  34. nicole April 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

    Sawasdeeka.
    Please advise if this marinade/recipe can be use on chicken, beef?

    • Leela April 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm #

      nicole – Absolutely. You just can’t call it ‘mu ping’ with the ‘mu’ no longer in the picture.

  35. connie May 19, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    Would it be okay to marinate longer? maybe overnight?

    • Leela May 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      connie – Not ideal. The sodium in the marinade would draw too much moisture out of the meat leaving it tougher and drier. If you need to leave marinate the pork overnight, marinate it without the fish sauce, oyster sauce, and soy sauce; then add them to the pork 3-4 hours before grilling it.

  36. Jenn July 3, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Love this recipe! I’ve been making this since I found the recipe a few years ago and it’s just so darn yummy. The last time I made this, I used a pork shoulder chop so I was able to scale down the meal considerably (we are only two people). I don’t use my palm sugar often but I recently bought a vacuum sealer – that combined with small pellets of palm sugar has made it very easy to store and grate on my microplane. Glad I read the new comments – I actually didn’t realize that there was also Thai soy sauces… just added the thin kind to my collection yesterday 🙂 And also thanks for the comment about not marinating overnight… I usually think that longer is better but I guess it’s not in this case!

  37. Rosine July 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Tried the recipe and it came out DELICIOUS!!!! I want to know if it is possible to use the same marinade with beef.
    thanks

    • Leela July 10, 2014 at 5:14 am #

      Rosine – By all means. Just be sure to use cuts appropriate to make grilled steak.

  38. audg August 16, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Hi,
    I’m in a small town and doubt I’ll be able to find palm sugar. Can I use white or brown sugar as a substitute? thanks!

    • Leela August 16, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      Yes, I’d use about 1/2 cup brown sugar. Pack it down lightly when you measure.

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