If you probably saw tocino on a menu as a breakfast side item you would probably say something like ‘what the heck is tocino?’ and quickly pass it up. Note to yourself… don’t pass up on the tocino. I was introduced to tocino many years ago, and to be honest I enjoyed it however I thought it was a bit too sweet (whether is was store bought or homemade), but it was good. Don’t get me wrong. What I learned over the years is that tocino is essentially ‘bacon of the Philippines. Sure the Philippines are known for their outstanding pork, and you can probably have a pork vacation of your dreams in any of their islands, but tocino is something very special and one that is commonly served for breakfast known as tosilog. In a nutshell tosilog consists of tocino, sunny side up eggs, and garlic rice. It’s a pretty bad ass breakfast and one that is right up my alley.
So, tocino… Do I have you interested yet?
Tocino is lightly cured with sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and either annato (would would be traditional) or red food coloring, stored to marinate and cure for a few days in the refrigerator, then lightly fried low and slow style in batches, and served alongside breakfast. Think of it as your American bacon deliciousness. You can also buy a package of Mama Sita’s Tocino mix if you just want to make your life easier. Granted I have not tried the mix but know many others that simply use that packet.
This is really easy to throw together and really the only labor intensive part is slicing pork shoulder into thin slices (about 1/4 inch thick or so), and waiting for it to cure for a few days. Planning is necessary but plan to make a few pounds and freeze the tocino for later use.
Let’s get started.
- 2 lbs pork shoulder, boneless preferred, sliced into 1/4 slices
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 tsp red food coloring
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
Start by adding everything but the pork to a large mixing bowl and stir with a whisk to break down the sugar. Set aside.
I prefer to place my pork in the freezer for about 1 hour prior to slicing. It’s a lot easier to handle and you can get some better slices when it is partially frozen. Your call, but I think it helps.
Slice the pork into 1/4 inch slices. Think of this like bacon, but it will not be as uniform in some of the slices.
Add all of the pork into the marinade, and using your hands (food safety gloves a huge plus), otherwise use some tongs, and mix everything extremely well. You want to coat both sides of the pork. Place in a sealed bag, into the refrigerator, for three days.
After three days remove the pork from the marinade, however most of the pork will have sucked up most of the marinade, place into another bowl. This is the time to freeze some as it makes a lot. If freezing, place what you need into a sealed bag, seal tightly to remove as much air, and freeze.
Now to the cooking. Consider eating this in a traditional sense which is sunny side up eggs, garlic rice (or jasmine), and tocino. Heck if not, the tocino can go in so many different ways and I will let you think of what to do on that front.
Heat a large skillet on medium-low heat.
Add about 1 tablespoon of neutral oil. Let that come to temperature, then lay a handful of slices, flat, into the skillet. Let this begin to cook. Remember it is just pork, however you do not want it to chewy. Remember the pork shoulder still has fat on it which is a thing of beauty, hence why this slow render in the skillet, along with the brown sugar in the marinade, will caramelize the fat, and the pork. It’s a thing of beauty.
Control your temperature, raising or lowering it gently to cook the tocino until you get nice caramelization and the pork cooks through. Really only a few minutes or more on each side.
Please keep in mind that if you don’t want to heat up the kitchen in the morning, by all means cook this on the grill. I’ve yet to go that route, but I’m certain the grill would be top notch and add a bit of some smokiness.
Regardless, this stuff is like bacon. If you want three pieces, you may as well cook seven pieces because you are going to want more and more of it, and when paired with creamy eggs and rice, well heck it takes you away to a wonderful flavor place, only for a short period of time and that is all good in my book.