Whole Hog with Balinese Spices

Here's the roast pork that made Ibu Oka ("Grandma Oka") famous. More than thirty-five years ago, Ms. Oka started cooking babi guling (Balinese roast pig) in the courtyard of her home, and selling it to her neighbors. Today her granddaughter runs the business, which has morphed into an internationally renowned open-air restaurant. Home-raised hogs are seasoned with a fragrant paste of lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and turmeric. Babi guling is traditionally served with an aromatic long bean salad.
Published in Gourmet Live 07.18.12


  • 16 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 8 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 8 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 8 to 16 small Asian chiles, such as Thai chiles, or 4 to 8 red serrano peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 piece (3 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 piece (3 inches) fresh galangal, or more fresh ginger, ?peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh turmeric, peeled and coarsely chopped, or 1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 small pig (25 to 30 pounds), gutted and dressed
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (in Bali, they'd use coconut oil)


  • Place the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chiles, ginger, galangal, if using, salt, black pepper, and turmeric, in a food processor and puree to a coarse paste. Add enough water (1 to 2 cups) to obtain a wet paste; the spice paste should have the consistency of sour cream.
  • Attach the pig to the spit and roast it as described below, spooning some of the spice paste into the cavity of the pig and spreading the rest over any exposed meat, like the throat. Start basting the pig with the oil after about 1 1/2 hours, then baste it every 30 minutes. You can also baste the pig with the drippings.
  • When done, transfer the pig to a worktable and remove the spit. Let the pig rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes, before carving it or chopping it into 2-inch chunks using a cleaver. Make sure each serving includes both meat and skin. Serve the pork with rice and the Balinese Salad, if desired.


  • Grilling may not be brain surgery (to paraphrase a popular expression), but a lot of preparations on Planet Barbecue call for trussing birds, tying roasts into tight cylinders, fastening bacon to tenderloins, or otherwise securing with string foods that will be grilled. There are several traditional butcher's knots that are easy to use, but hard to explain. A few years ago, one of my students, Dr. John Wiley from Virginia, showed me a quick and easy surgeon's lock knot, and I've been using it ever since.
  • Loop the string over the food to be tied. Loop one end of the string over the other as though you were starting to tie your shoe.
  • Loop the same end of the string over the other end a second time--again, as though you were tying your shoe.
  • Pull the ends tight. The second loop will lock the string in place so you can make any final adjustments to the meat and achieve the tension you want.
  • Finally, tie off the two ends of the string as you would to seal a package. Cut the excess string off the ends with scissors and you're ready to go.


  • One of the first steps when spit roasting a whole hog (or lamb or other four-footed animal)—and the only step that's remotely tricky—is securing the animal to the spit. This is important, because a whole hog is basically hollow. If you don't secure it tightly to the spit, it will flop around. The skin will crack and the whole grilling process will look amateurish and undignified. Here's how to attach the hog to the spit securely.
  • Pass the spit through the mouth of the hog, through the cavity, and out the other end. Be sure to have one set of prongs on the spit before you pass the spit through the animal.
  • Sew the animal to the spit using a trussing needle and heavy cotton string (like butcher's string). Starting just below the neck, push the needle through the skin on one side of the backbone into the cavity. Loop the string around the spit and push the needle back through the meat and skin and out the other side of the backbone, lining it up with the first hole. As the skin can be tough, it helps to use pliers to push and pull the needle.
  • Tightly tie off the ends of the string, pulling the meat to the spit and using a lock knot to secure the string.
  • Make another loop 1 inch down from the first and then another inch farther down, repeating the process until you have sewn to the spit the length of the backbone that is accessible through the cavity.
  • Place whatever flavorings you are using in the cavity of the hog. Using the trussing needle and string or wire, tightly sew the cavity closed. This seals in the flavorings and helps the hog roast more evenly.
  • Place the other set of prongs on the spit and tighten the set screws with pliers. Your beast is now ready for spit roasting.


  • You can use baling wire or single-strand picture wire to secure the hog to the spit, but with wire, you need to poke holes through the skin with a needle, feed the strand of wire through the holes, then clip and twist the wire closed with pliers to secure it.


  • Secure the pig to the spit, and sew it up tight, using a trussing needle and butcher's string or wire. Using butcher's string or wire, tightly tie the legs to the pig, looping the string around the spit. Pig skin is tough, so a pair of pliers will help you pull the needle through.
  • Light the charcoal and let it burn to glowing embers. Start the first batch of charcoal in a chimney starter, then add more charcoal to the fire as needed.
  • Set up the rotisserie or grill for spit roasting following the manufacturer's instructions. Place a row of aluminum foil drip pans down the center of the grill under and parallel to the spit. Arrange a row of lit charcoal on both sides of the foil pans. Mound the coals a little deeper where the shoulders and hams will be and a little shallower in the center. Note: On some rotisseries, like the SpitJack "Beast," you mound the coals on one side only.
  • When ready to cook, attach the spit to the rotisserie; this is a two-person job. Turn on the motor and spit roast the pig until the skin is a dark golden brown and crackling crisp and the meat is cooked through. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check for doneness. The internal temperature should be 190° to 195°F in the deepest part of the shoulder and ham, but not touching the bone. Add fresh coals as needed to keep the fire going. If you are using natural lump charcoal, you can add it directly to the fire. If you are using briquettes, light them in a chimney starter first. Mound, rake out, or move the coals, using a grill hoe or a garden hoe, as needed to assure even cooking. The cooking time will vary depending on your particular pig, rotisserie, altitude, and the weather. Normally, 5 to 6 hours will do it.


  • To carve a small pig (25 to 30 pounds), use a chef's knife or cleaver to cut under and around each front leg to the joint and remove it from the body. Cut the leg in half (into a thigh and calf section) through the joint. Cut the meat off the bone and slice it across the grain. Next, cut off the rear legs. Cut each leg in half, then cut and slice the meat as you did the front legs. Using a cleaver, cut the body in half and then Greek-style into 2-inch sections.
  • To carve a larger hog, run the knife down the back on either side of the backbone, cutting through the skin and meat to the bone. Lift the skin and remove the loin. Cut it crosswise into slices. Remove the legs and carve them as described above. Cut the ribs into two-rib sections.
  • No matter what the size of your hog, be sure to cut the crisp skin into squares and serve it, too.
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