Introduction: Best "Thai Pulled Pork" Under the Sun

About: A lowly geologist who likes to build stuff.

Since building my Portable Fresnel Solar Oven I've been experimenting with recipes, trying to find culinary creations that are suited to solar cooking (lower cooking temperature). Pulled pork is a great candidate because of the long cooking times; I added some traditional Thai ingredients, and the result was amazing. I am not of Thai origin, nor am I an expert on their rich culinary tradition (let me know if I'm off base with the recipe, or you have any suggestions). If you don't already have a solar oven, then you can quite easily build one. There are tons of great INSTRUCTABLES to give you some ideas, and a few commercially available units too.

Step 1: Ingredients

Here is what you will need:

  1. Pork shoulder (2-4 pounds)
  2. Pineapple (or pineapple juice)
  3. Fresh ginger (a lump)
  4. Lemon Grass (a few stems)
  5. An onion (I used a shallot because I had them on hand)
  6. Garlic (a few cloves)
  7. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  8. Fish sauce
  9. Sriracha sauce
  10. Some buns
  11. Cilantro (a few sprigs)

Don't sweat it if you are missing some ingredients, salt, something sweet (even ketchup) some garlic and a little kick, and you are sure to impress.

Step 2: Sauce

If your pineapple is ripe is should be nice and juicy; our coring tool leaves quite a lot of good fruit behind. I wrenched out about half a cup of juice from it; if you can't get this much juice out, you can supplement with pineapple juice or even ketchup. Dice the onion, garlic, ginger and combine with sugar and the juice. Add a teaspoon of fish sauce and Sriracha sauce (to taste). Place a few pieces of pineapple at the base of your pan and lay some sliced lemon grass on top.

Step 3: Pork

Cut the excess fat off the outside of the pork shoulder. I cut the shoulder into three pieces along fatty pieces and cut that stuff out too; this might be overkill. Place the meat on top of the lemon grass, salt liberally, and pour the sauce over the meat. I had about 1/3 of the meat covered with sauce, but by the end it was more like 2/3 due to shrinking meat and fat rendering). The sauce helps to keep the temperature more stable as clouds come and go overhead, and helps to flavor the meat as is cooks through.

Step 4: Cook and Enjoy

Place your cooker to maximize the efficiency (perpendicular to the sun rays). You can tell how efficient my cooker is by the size and darkness of the shadow below the lens. I probably moved the bowl every 20 minutes, and the lens once an hour to keep everything running at maximum efficiency. The air in my cooker got above 200 degrees Fahrenheit within 20 minutes and reached 325 degrees at its peak. I eventually took the towel away from the base to keep the temperature closer to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I left it cooking for 4 hours, although the meat was probably cooked through after 1.5 hours. I turned the meat over just once to give more sauce exposure and sun-braise the other side.

Carefully take the meet out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board (it may fall apart!). Take two forks and shred the meet to make a pile of stringy pork goodness. Pour some of the sauce over the meat for extra flavor.

Stuff some of the meat into fresh buns, add fresh cilantro, mayonnaise and Sriracha and serve immediately. Please let me know if you have tried this recipe or you've got some ideas on how to improve it.

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