Asian Fusion Pulled Pork Tacos
I got this idea after binge watching a season of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. There are basically 3 parts to this that you’ll be making – pulled pork, Asian-style teriyaki slaw, and a sauce recipe that I threw together to top the tacos. For the wraps, I used Mission brand soft flour tortilla wraps (the smaller ~5 in. versions) and they worked out great.
The first thing you’ll need is a pork butt/shoulder. Depending on the size of the shoulder and what bowl you’ll be using to marinade it with, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- 10 tbsp soy sauce
- 5 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 4 tbsp minced garlic
- 4 tbsp sesame seeds
- 4 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Coca-Cola (enough to soak the shoulder up to the fatty part)
Combine all of these ingredients (except the Coke) in a large bowl and wisk them all together as best you can. Place the pork shoulder in the bowl, fat side up, and then pour in enough Coke to bring the brine level to just below the fat slab of the shoulder. Cover with cling wrap and let the shoulder marinade overnight in the refrigerator. The next morning, and you’ll want to start early (7 or 8 AM), set your smoker to around 205-215 degrees F and put the shoulder on the smoker fat-side up. When you start really depends on the size of your pork shoulder, but I’ve read that the general rule is 1.5 hours of smoke time for every pound of meat. If you have a thermometer, make sure that the internal temperature of the shoulder gets to over 192 degrees F, as that’s when the shoulder starts to break down and can be easily pulled apart. I generally like to get my shoulders up to around 200 degrees internal temp before I take them off the smoker.
I put my shoulder directly on the grate inside the smoker and didn’t put it above any pan. My smoker has an internal drip tray integrated in to the heater spreader above the burn pot. I noticed when doing jerky that meat cooks differently if you set it on rack just an inch or so above a pan (like a cookie sheet). It doesn’t cook as well and doesn’t look as good when it’s done cooking vs meat that’s placed directly on the grate.
If you start early and time your shoulder right, you should be able to pull it straight off the smoker around dinner time and be able to eat it right away. Pulled pork always tastes much better right off the smoker vs being re-heated later.
You can start the sauce right after you put the shoulder on the smoker. Ideally you’ll make the sauce and then put it in the refrigerator and allow it to cool before serving. Allowing it to cook both thickens it up a bit and it tastes much better as a cool sauce with the cold slaw on top of the tacos. The contrast with the piping hot pulled pork is awesome.
In a bowl, combine the following:
- 1 cup of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup of sesame oil
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp minced garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp minced ginger (I used minced ginger from a tube, worked fine)
- 1 diced granny smith apple
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
Stir all of this very well. Depending on your dicing skills with the apple and your mincing skills with the garlic cloves, you may want to pop this in to a blender to get any large chunks out. Bring the mixture to a simmer on the stove and continuously stir it until it thickens up a bit. I removed from heat when the sauce was at about the consistency of heavy cream. Transfer it to an easy to use container (I used an old glass BBQ sauce bottle) and refrigerate until ready to use.
You’ll want to wait until about an hour before the pulled pork is done smoking before you make this slaw. The slaw is much better when it’s fresh than if it’s been sitting in the refrigerator all day. Though it is edible for about a week refrigerated, the zesty crunchiness of fresh slaw is going to be the best when combined with the freshly smoked pork. Presentation is much better when the slaw is fresh as well, since it tends to go brown in the fridge after 5 or 6 hours due to the ingredients.
- 1/2 head of red cabbage chopped
- 1/4 head of green cabbage chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- optional: sesame seeds for presentation
Add all of the vegetable ingredients to a bowl and mix them well. Add the the olive oil, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar to another container and stir them as best you can. When all of the non-vegetable ingredients are combined, pour them over the cabbage and onions and roll it all together. I used a couple of wooden spoons, but you could also use your hands if you wanted to make a real mess. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.
Bringing it All Together
If you timed everything correctly it’ll be dinner-time, you’ll have been smelling the awesome smell of smoked pulled pork all day, and all of your neighbors will hate you for smelling it too. I won’t tell you how to build a taco with all of the wonderful food we’ve made here because I’m sure you’ll figure it out, especially after smelling everything all day. I’ve only made this meal once, and I haven’t been smoking very long, but I’m finding out that the whole process is almost as rewarding as the end product. There’s something that makes you appreciate the meal more when it takes a whole day to create. In the “right now” society that we live in today, spending a whole day of “care and feeding” to produce a relatively simple result just makes me feel good. Enjoy the process as it’s happening, and the enjoyment that you’ll get from the end result will be that much more rewarding.