Phuket Pork — Bathed in Coconut Milk and Curry, Wrapped with Banana Leaves and Slow-roasted Over Coals

| August 12, 2010 | 2 Comments

Hawaiians and Thais have this thing in common — cooking foods wrapped in banana leaves. The famous Hawaiian pig, kalua pig, is wrapped in banana leaves, then buried in the ground with coals. In the country, Thais will roast wild boar, chicken and other game on top of coals after they’ve been wrapped in banana leaves. There’s something about the aroma of banana leaves when they get charred and infused into the meat. 

Thais will also steam a lot of foods wrapped in banana leaves. 

If a kalua piggy went to Phuket for a vacation, I figure he’d end up soaked in coconut milk, curry, and then surrounded by chunks of onion and pineapple before being wrapped in banana leaves and taken for a walk over hot coals. Forget digging a hole in your backyard to do this. No need to ruin the landscape. I’ve figured out how to do this in a Weber kettle charcoal grill. The lawn and roses get to live another day! 

This turned out to be a great dish to serve for company because it’s one of those things that takes a while to cook, but you don’t have to actually do anything to it while it’s cooking. Plus, it uses a very inexpensive cut of pork, the shoulder roast. Ideally you’ll want at least a 3- to 5-pound roast with the bone in so it won’t dry out. Plan on serving 8-10 people with a 5-pound roast. 

When I came up with this, I was thinking kalua pig meets pork satay. Hence the coconut milk and curry…and to top it off I served it with a traditional Thai-style satay sauce made with peanut butter and…you guessed it, more curry and coconut milk! When you peel back the banana leaves and foil, be prepared for your guests to start salivating and picking apart your pig! 

Phuket pork, mouth-watering and tender.


Phuket Pork 

  1. 3- to 5-pound pork shoulder roast with bone in
  2. One 13.5-ounce (400 ml.) can coconut milk
  3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) curry powder
  4. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) fish sauce
  5. 1 pineapple, peeled and chopped into chunks
  6. 3 large yellow onions, sliced into rings
  7. 4 large banana leaves

For the sauce: 

  1. One 13.5-ounce (400 ml.) can coconut milk
  2. 2 cups chunky peanut butter
  3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) Thai red curry paste
  4. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) Nam Prik Pao (Thai roasted red chili paste with palm sugar)
  5. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) fish sauce

Note: when preparing the pork for roasting, another pair of hands will come in handy when wrapping the pork. 

  • Mix together coconut milk from one 13.5-oz. (400 ml.) can, 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) curry powder, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) fish sauce.
  • Put pork in a self-sealing plastic bag and pour the coconut milk mixture into the bag. Force as much air out of the bag as possible and seal it. Turn bag over a couple of times to evenly coat the pork with the coconut milk marinade before refrigerating for at least two hours.
  • Start coals and arrange lit coals around the edge of your kettle grill’s bottom so there is a space in the center where there are no coals. Place an aluminum pie dish in this space and fill with water.
  • Place your metal grate over the coals.
  • Place 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, each about three feet long, on your working surface so they overlap in the shape of a cross.
  • In the center of the cross, place two banana leaves.
  • On top of the banana leaves, place a layer of onions and pineapple.
  • Remove the pork from the plastic bag and place on top of the onions and pineapple.
  • On top of the pork, place a layer of onions and pineapple.
  • Have your helper hold up the two pieces of aluminum foil to form a cup around the pork while you fill the spaces between the sides of the pork roast and the aluminum foil with the remaining onions and pineapple.
  • Pour the remaining coconut milk marinade over the pork, then place the remaining two banana leaves over the top of the pork roast and try to completely encase the roast with the banana leaves. Seal the aluminum foil snugly around the roast. Take out three to four more long sheets of aluminum foil and wrap the pork roast completely so that it’s sealed as tightly as possible.
  • Place the roast on top of the grill and cover with the lid, leaving all vents open, and cook for 3 hours. Check the pie dish occasionally and fill with more water as necessary. You may also need to add more coals around the edge of the grill bottom. Carefully lift the grate by the handles and set it on the ground along with the roast so that you can safely add coals.
  • After three hours, using oven mitts, remove the roast from the grill and place it on a large cookie pan or baking dish while you make the peanut sauce.
  • To make the peanut sauce, add the peanut butter, red curry paste, fish sauce and Nam Prik Pao to a saucepan over medium heat. When the peanut butter starts to melt, add a can of coconut milk and keep stirring until the sauce begins to simmer and is thoroughly mixed. Turn off heat and place the sauce in serving bowl.
  • Using kitchen scissors, cut open layers of foil at the top of the roast and pull apart. Remove and discard the banana leaves.
  • The pork should be thoroughly cooked and falling off the bone. You should be able to pull most of it off the bone using kitchen tongs, but you may have to use a chef’s knife to cut up larger pieces of pork that are closest to the shoulder bone. Place all the pork in a large serving bowl or platter with sides, add the cooked pineapple and onions from the roast and use a spoon to transfer as much of the liquid from the roast as you wish to serve.
  • Serve with steamed white rice as a side and the peanut sauce.

Let the foil-wrapped pork roast cool while you make the peanut sauce.


Use kitchen scissors to cut a slit through the layers of foil on the top of the roast and then gently pull apart.


Remove and discard the charred banana leaves before carving up the pork and serving along with the cooked onions and pineapple from the roast.



P.S. Thanks to our dear friends Sharon and Robie Furlong for being my guinea pigs for dinner, and to Robie for helping me wrap the darn pig! 

— Vic

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Category: Meat, Pork

About the Author (Author Profile)

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 10 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (2)

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  1. that is bloody delicious looking. I could hardly read that post I am all over this.

  2. linda says:

    when i have these 2 huge beautiful banana trees all summer and I bbq so often…..why did I not see this before. I can’t wait till summer and my dormant banana plants come alive again to try this out. Yummy

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