On my 2019 trip to Thailand I had a chance to capture some video of a pig roast in a local village. Although the video is not of professional quality it does show a very interesting way to roast a whole pig and I really thought the process from beginning to end was interesting & amazing.
So, this blog post will actually appear in two places, it will be posted to my photography blog and it will also be on my BBQ blog. I am a professional barbeque chef going into my 24th year of business and I have been a working photographer for about 10 years as well.
Let me first give you the setup of this story and before you click on the video, I will tell you it is not a short video. Personally, I don’t like short videos when it comes to something like this, I want to see everything that is going on… or at least as much as possible. Today we live in a world of short attention spans and instant gratification however I’m an old school dinosaur and my video is a bit longer.
I am married to a wonderful Thai lady and I promised her before we were married that every year, she would travel back to Thailand to be with family and friends. Myself, I try to go as often as my budget will allow, usually every other year. Sadly, it had been three years since I had been to Thailand. So, I decided 2019 was a “must do” year for Thailand and I would stay for the full 30 days of my visa. I spent 11 on Kho Kood (island) and then I traveled by pickup truck from the boat dock at Trat all the way to Ban Kamin (village) in the Kalasin Province. It was an epic trip and took a lot longer than planned due to poor planning on my wife’s part and too much stopping along the way. But we had fun.
So, after an epic 26 hours without sleep I arrived in the village around 8:00am on November 30, 2019. My Thai family was extremely excited of me coming to visit and that I would be staying for two weeks. I love my Thai family so much, they are all just the most awesome, kind and caring people, I truly am blessed to have them all in my life.
After arriving in the morning and meeting with some family members I put my things in my room and started to unpack camera gear. Quickly, I ran out of energy and tried to sleep a little. It is very hard for me to sleep when the sun is up, even if I am tired. So, I just gave up on the quest to sleep and started drinking coffee in hopes to some how salvage the day and be a bit productive. I don’t speak very much Thai although I usually understand what is going on around me. I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house although my wife’s little house is just around the corner. We could not stay at our house because the toilet was not working (due to lack of use).
I walked outside about 10:30am and Mi had just arrived back from Kalasin City (about 20 minutes away) with a small pig. I first thought it would-be put-on ice for cooking later… I was dead wrong because he went right to work preparing this pig for roasting and to eat later that night. It was at this time I realized that they (the family) were planning a big meal in honor of my arrival and I was really taken back by this. I have been part of this family for ten years now and it seems like the love only grows stronger every year.
So, when I see the pig, I ran quickly to grab a camera, I had several cameras with me from small to large, from simple to complex. I wished I had known there was going to be this pig roast and I would have certainly been more prepared. I really would have liked to shot the scenes on the Blackmagic 6K camera. But, the Blackmagic 6K takes time to setup and assemble sadly, I had broken down the setup to make it easier to travel. Being tired when I first arrived, I figured I would assemble the Blackmagic the next day when my mind was fresh. So, I was left with the DJI Osmo Action camera. I had never owned and action camera and I kind of thought “it might be a good time” to buy one seeing’s as how I would be traveling to Thailand and all. So, out the door I go to the side of the house where they are preparing the pig, all the while I am not even thinking about how they will cook the pig. Well, that question was soon answered when I seen Mi start to prepare a spot right there in the dirt next to the driveway. Instead of asking questions I just stood off to the side and watched everything that was going on. I started to record video of anything that I thought would be an important step in what he was doing. I might also mention Mi works at the University in Kalasin City. It is an agricultural University and he takes care of the livestock in the Swine division. Needless to say “this guy knows all things about pigs.”
He was a “man with a plan” and I could tell this was not his first time roasting a pig. Actually, I had heard and seen pictures of him roasting pigs and my wife had said that someday they would cook a pig while I was in the village… and today was that day. Mi had already prepared some sort of a marinade of sorts. I could tell be the smell it had garlic and lemon grass in it but, I also knew there was so much more. He used a strainer to separate the mushy herbs from the liquid. Mi soon recruited his teenage son and another young male family member to help with injecting the marinade while he moved on to preparing the cooking location. After marinade injecting was done everybody was working on constructing the roasting oven. I found this to be quite interesting. It was nothing more that a rectangle box made from corrugated tin roofing. It looked very odd and make-shift but, not all that unfamiliar. I had actually seen something very similar here in the USA about 30 years ago when I had attended a pig roast at a local Rod & Gun club here in Hunterdon County New Jersey.
(side story) It was really kind of funny because I go (as a customer) to this local public pig roast that was a yearly event at the local Rod & Gun Club and there were three old timers cooking three pigs, each was cooking his pig a different way and all three pigs were huge about 200 lbs. One old guy had constructed a little “hut” of sorts, made from tin roofing. The coals were directly on the ground and the pig had been cooking since the day before. He would remove a few pieces of the tin and hack away at the meat until he seen bloody meat, then he would replace the tin and keep cooking. This all took place about four years before I started my own pig roasting business and I always used this memory as a benchmark of “how not to cook a pig.” Ironically enough earlier this year that Rod & Gun Club hired my business to do their yearly pig roast. The old timers are long since gone and it was time to move on to a better way of cooking pigs.
Now back to Thailand… He I see Mi is constructing a similar tin roof cooker but somehow, I just know this tin roof oven is going to work just fine. First off, the pig is a lot smaller and I know Mi has done this many times. Once it was finished, I could see the dynamics of how it would work. It was a box with heat in the bottom, a lid to keep the heat in and the pig would be rotated above the heat source. And the heat source would be hardwood charcoal. It doesn’t really take a lot of fire to cook a pig if the oven is closed, too much heat the pig will cook too quick on the outside and not be done on the inside. So, soon the oven was finished and the pig was cooking. The pig actually went on the fire at 12:45pm and I knew it would several hours of slow cooking. Now my eyes were getting heavy and the heat of the day plus the lack of sleep were all taking their toll on my body, it was time to get some much-needed rest. I found my way to the little “couch” as they called it. Actually, it was a small “loveseat” but in this Thai village they were calling it a couch. I knew when nightfall came my wife would prepare Thai pillows on the floor as an actual bed but for now, I had to make this loveseat work. Impossible? Nothing is impossible when you have been awake for 30+ hours. I slept on the loveseat for 4 hours, a small fan on the floor blowing a gentle breeze my way and when I awoke, I was a new man. It was the best 4 hours of sleep and somehow, I found that little loveseat to be very comfortable.
November days are short, I wake about 5:00pm and it is dark already. I can hear lots of voices coming from the back of the house and I slowly make my way back there. As I step out, I see lots of food being prepared… what a relief because this means I have not really missed any of the fun. And how about that pig?… I already had my camera in hand as I walked towards the pig. Nobody was around, everybody was in the back of the house so I just stood there and looked at the tin roof oven. The aroma coming from the roasting pig was amazing, the garlic and lemon grass… as they say in Thai sap sap.
Around 6:00pm the lid came ff the pig. It was done and it looked so good. But it had to wait because we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Not everybody had the day off work and the ones we were waiting for are some of my most favorites people to be with. Soon everyone was there and it was time to eat. Eating with my Thai family is a joy beyond compare to anything I would do in the USA. First of all everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood when my family would all sit and eat dinner together… it seems like a dream when I think about how different times were here in the USA when most all families spent time together on a daily basis. With my Thai family it is still that way, we are all together and there is always lots of talking and the mood is always good.
Oh, and that pig… It was cooked to perfection. The taste was out of this world. The skin wasn’t super crispy but it was editable. The meat was over the top delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it and that is really saying something because, while I cook pigs for a living, I rarely eat a lot of pork. I will eat from the pigs I cook at a party but, it is usually just a few little pieces. With Mi’s pig I could have just kept eating… and made a pig of myself lol.
So, there you have it a pig roast in my honor, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family in Thailand, I love them all so much.