Tocino—simple but good

I was always a picky eater while I was growing up. In fact, one of my Mom’s constant frustration then was finding food I actually like eating… One of those dishes that made it to my very short list of favorites at that time was tocino.

Tocino is a sweet cured meat dish that is traditionally served as either breakfast or brunch, but can also be served during dinner. It is often made using pork, although chicken and, more rarely, beef can also be used.

During my childhood, my Mom used to buy the tocino already prepared and ready to cook. So, I always thought that it was a dish that was quite difficult to prepare. I recently found out, though, that such is not the case. The ingredients were pretty easy to find in any grocery store and the curing procedure itself was also simple, although it could get a little time-consuming.

Below is my first attempt at my own home-made pork tocino—still one of my favorite dishes today.


Adapted from Foxy Folksy

500 g pork tenderloin, sliced into medallions about 1/4 inch thick

85 g brown sugar

3/4 tbsp salt*

2 cloves garlic, minced finely*

     * Alternatively: 1 tbsp garlic salt, or 3/4 tbsp salt + 1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar instead)

2 tbsp pineapple/apple juice (optional; I didn’t use any)

1/2 tsp black pepper, finely ground

1/2 tbsp rice flour (optional; I didn’t use any)

1/4 tsp annatto powder (atsuete, for color; optional)

  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients, minus the pork slices. Mix until thoroughly blended (I used a balloon whisk for this purpose).
  • Pour the marinade into a 5 liter-capacity plastic bag. Add the pork slices, then seal the bag (tie a knot at the open end).
  • Press/massage the bag between your palms until all the pork slices are coated with the marinade.
  • If necessary, transfer the coated pork slices into a covered container and place in the refrigerator to cure for 24-72 hours.** The meat can then be frozen afterwards and stored longer.
** A Kapampangan version would leave the meat slices out at room temperature overnight prior to refrigeration.

How to cook and serve

  • The traditional way of cooking tocino is to first boil it in a pan with about 1-2 cups of water (just enough to cover the all the meat). When most of the water has evaporated and the sauce starts to thicken, you can add about 1-2 tbsp of cooking oil (there is, however, no need to do this if your meat has enough fats on it). Continue cooking und
    er medium heat until the sauce is caramelized and the meat is browned.
  • Tocino is traditionally eaten during breakfast, but there is no written rule that says you can’t eat it during lunch and dinner as well 😋  It is usually served with garlic rice and a side of fried eggs (sunny-side up) and tomatoes.

Pork tocino

Pork tocino served with curried rice and cherry tomatoes.

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