Inihaw Na Liempo

(Filipino Grilled Pork Belly)

October: National Pork Month

A Filipino fiesta is incomplete without pork: lechon, pata, adobo, sinigang and inihaw! So October is an even more popular month for Filipinos as it is National Pork Month. Whenever we go over to Islander’s relatives’ homes, there is always a Pinoy pork dish of some sort. If there is a family gathering outdoors, and there is grilling going on, then everyone gets to feast on meat sticks and pork belly (this makes sense as both recipes use similar ingredients of mafran/banana sauce and calamansi juice for the marinade). One of Islander’s favorites is inihaw na liempo. The marbled meat looks charred but is still moist and tasty. Grilled pork belly is simply served with hot steamed rice and a vinegary dipping sauce to sop up the flavorful fat. Because it is so rich, inihaw is a rare indulgence now for us. But when we eat it, it is a special treat at those family gatherings and during National Pork Month.


(Adapted from Ang Sarap!)


  • 2-2 ½ pounds pork belly
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup calamansi juice (or lemon juice)
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup banana sauce/ketchup (or tomato ketchup)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil


In a medium bowl, make the marinade by combining the soy sauce, calamansi or lemon juice, garlic and brown sugar.

Season with black pepper. Place pork belly in a zipper top plastic bag and pour the marinade in the bag. Seal well and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pork belly to a plate and pour the marinade in a saucepan. Bring to a boil for a minute to kill off any pork bacteria. Let cool in another bowl and mix in banana sauce and oil.

Preheat the outdoor grill. Cook the pork belly for about 10 minutes on one side, basting with marinade frequently. Turn over on the other side and continue to baste until cooked through (do not overcook or the pork will be tough). Put pork belly on a plate or pan and let rest for about five minutes. Slice into bite-sized pieces. Serve with vinegar dipping sauce.

Bonus Recipe:

Sawsawan (Vinegar Dipping Sauce)


  • 1 cup vinegar (we use a combination of ¾ cup cane sugar vinegar and ¼ cup mirin/sweet rice vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (may omit if using sweet rice vinegar)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 dried chili peppers or ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes


In a mixing bowl, stir together the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, onions and peppers. Store remaining sauce in a jar, refilling with a little vinegar if needed. Refrigerate for up to two weeks.


  • If mafran/banana sauce/banana ketchup is unavailable, substitute with tomato ketchup. If calamansi juice is unavailable, substitute with lemon juice.
  • Search our blog for more Filipino and pork recipes.

Filipino BBQ Pork Sticks

October 1: National Pork Month

Whenever Islander’s Daddy had a weekend work party at the beach with his Filipino Pearl Harbor Navy buddies and their families, BBQ pork sticks were always on the menu. Hot off the grill, these petite pork pieces were one of Islander’s favorites! In fact, she would shamelessly leave her playgroup and hang around the grill with her Daddy until he finished cooking the pork sticks. Her Daddy was super shy so cooking for others while they “talked story” was his way of showing that he cared and knowing that everyone was enjoying themselves. And Islander kept him company for some valuable Daddy-daughter bonding time, too.

This recipe brings back happy “hanabata day” memories of Islander’s time at the beach with her family and friends in Hawaii. Pig out Pinoy style and make Filipino BBQ pork sticks, especially during National Pork Month!


(Adapted from Asian in America)

For the marinade

  • 2 pounds pork belly or shoulder
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup calamansi or lemon juice
  • ½ cup lemon-lime soda
  • ½ cup banana sauce or tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the glaze

  • ½ cup lemon-lime soda
  • ½ cup brown sugar


Cut up the pork into 1-inch bite sized pieces. In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce and calamansi or lemon juice.

Stir in the lemon-lime soda, banana sauce or tomato ketchup and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pork pieces and soak. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, soak 14-18 wooden skewers in water. Thread 6-7 marinated pork pieces on the skewer. Discard the marinade.

Fire up the grill. Meanwhile, make the glaze just before cooking by combining the lemon-lime soda with brown sugar. Lay the pork sticks on the hot grill. Baste with the glaze and turn the sticks occasionally. There will be a little char but grill the meat until cooked through. Do not overcook or the pork will be tough and dry. Serve on a long platter.


  • Make the glaze just before grilling to avoid sugar crystallization which makes the meat harden and not tender.
  • Take care not to overheat/overcook the pork pieces or they will be too dry. Islander’s Mommy liked hers a bit charred, though. Fattier or marble meats are more juicy and flavorful.
  • Search our more Filipino recipes under the Theme Menus.
  • Search our blog for more pork recipes.

Kālua Pua’a

(Hawaiian Pulled Pork)

October: National Pork Month

Let’s luau, everyone! Whenever we have get-togethers with ‘ohana (family) and friends and need to feed the crowd, we make kālua pua’a (Hawaiian-style pulled pork). Pigs represent a “bounty of blessings” at a buffet because the animal is big and can feed plenty of people, so they are served at many huge celebrations around the world.

In Hawaii, traditionally (and touristically), kālua pig is prepared in an imu, a type of underground oven. A pit is dug in the earth and heated with rocks from fire using sandalwood/mesquite. Meat simply seasoned with sea salt is wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed in the pit. Then it is buried in a layer of sand or soil and left to cook-steam for several hours until the meat is tender, smoky and juicy. Mmmmm…’ono!

Obviously, it is impractical for us to build an imu without ample space, fire-safe facilities and permission from the strict homeowners’ association to do it in our backyard. A crockpot has become a handy and convenient substitute to cook kālua pig at home for a smaller group. We take a piece of pork shoulder/butt, rub Hawaiian sea salt all over it, place it in a crockpot with liquid smoke flavoring and leave it to cook slowly for several hours. It is so easy to “fix it and forget it”—and the result is tender, smoky pulled pork that tastes almost like the ones served at luaus.

Cook kālua pua’a in a crockpot for a little luau and celebrate National Pork Month. Aloha!



  • 5-7 lbs. pork butt or shoulder (boneless)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hawaiian sea salt (or coarse salt)
  • 2-4 tablespoons liquid smoke (depending on taste)


Line crockpot with slow cooker bags for easy cleanup (see Notes). Rinse the pork in water and pat dry. Cut slits in the pork (or pierce with the tines of a fork) then rub the sea salt and liquid smoke all over.

Place in a slow cooker/crockpot. Cover and cook on low setting for 8-10 hours or until meat is tender all the way to the center. Shred with fork. Drain off some of the fat and liquid and serve over rice or between slices of Hawaiian bread.


  • Lining the bottom of the crockpot with clean banana leaves will impart a nice tropical flavor, too.
  • Adding more liquid smoke to the recipe depends on one’s preference for a smokier flavor.
  • Instead of kālua pig at parties, we sometimes serve a whole roast pig.
  • Our Texas friends like to add barbecue sauce on our Hawaiian pulled pork for a Southern-style sandwich (served on Hawaiian sweet bread/buns).
  • Saute some sliced onions and chopped cabbage with leftover kālua pig and serve with steamed white rice for a filling meal.
  • Search our Theme Menus for more Hawaiian and local recipes.