Thai Grilled Pork Skewers (Moo Ping)

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of surface fat
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro stems
1/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Ground white pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
Chili-lime sauce (jaew), to serve

Place the pork on a large plate and freeze until the meat is firm and partially frozen, 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil and 1/2 teaspoon white pepper.

Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the partially frozen pork into pieces about ? inch thick. The slices will be irregularly shaped; cut them into strips 1 to 1ΒΌ inches wide (it’s fine if the strips are not uniform). Add the pork to the marinade and mix with your hands until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.

Thread the pork onto ten 10- to 12-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing the meat and scrunching it together and packing it quite tightly. If some pieces are too wide, too wispy or awkwardly shaped, fold the meat or tuck in the edges as you skewer. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or in a large baking dish, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the grill.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. For a charcoal grill, ignite a large chimney of coals, let burn until lightly ashed over, then distribute the coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents. Heat the grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.

Place the skewers on the hot side of the grill (if using charcoal) and cook until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the skewers, then brush with some of the coconut milk. Cook until the second sides are lightly charred, about another 3 minutes. Flip the skewers again and continue to cook, occasionally brushing with coconut milk and turning every couple of minutes, until deeply charred on both sides, about another 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve with the sauce.

Tip: Don’t thread the meat loosely on the skewers. The pieces should be scrunched together somewhat tightly. This helps guard against overcooking. If you’re using a charcoal grill, don’t push the meat all the way to the bottom of the skewers; the protruding handle end of the skewers may prevent you from being able to position the meat directly over the coals.

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