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Trinidad Garlic Pork, Wise Monkey's Blog

I’m moving some old blog posts around, and at some point I had linked to Fernando’s Wise Monkey’s Blog Trinidad Garlic Pork Recipe. That link is now the Internet Archive version, and I’m reproducing it below, including the thumbnail image that conveniently got saved to my WP server account.


The small tropical island of Trinidad has passed through the hands of 22 European occupiers since Christopher Columbus claimed it for the Spanish in 1498, accidentally discovering it on his third voyage to the New World.

Portugal was never an occupying force but one of the country’s classic dishes Carne de Vinha d’Alhos is deeply rooted in Trinidad’s culture as a traditional Christmas dish known as Calvinadage or Garlic Pork.

How Portuguese food found itself entrenched in the local eating habits can be explained primarily by migration of Portuguese labourers from Madeira in 1834 who were lured by the promise of a better life during a period of famine, unemployment and religious persecution. However, by the late 1800s many people of Portuguese origin left Trinidad for Brazil, the USA and Europe. As a result, Trinidad’s Garlic Pork has become one of the lasting symbols of Portuguese ethnicity in the region.

The Portuguese root dish Carne de Vinha d’ Alhos involves marinating over a few days followed by a slow braise. Trinidad’s Garlic Pork shortens the process with a quick shallow fry.

Apple cider vinegar (rather than wine) is used as a souring agent, and local alterations include chadon beni, an edible plant (also known as ngo gai, culantro or sawtooth herb), lots of thyme, and habanero chilies for heat.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 1 hour 30 mins

Total time: 1 hour 50 mins

Preparation involves pickling pork with vinegar and aromatics, then leaving it all to cure in a sealed jar for a few days, followed by a quick pan fry until the meat is golden brown. The result is crispy, tender chunks of meat, sharply acidic, deeply infused with garlic, herbs and chili heat.

Author: fmed

Recipe type: Entree

Cuisine: Trinidad

Serves: 8


  • 3 Ibs pork butt
  • ½ cup thyme, stripped from the stem or 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 habanero chilies, deseeded, chopped
  • 5 heads garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 40 leaves chadon beni (aka ngo gai, culantro or sawtooth herb)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar


  1. Wash the whole pork in ½ cup of vinegar.
  2. Cut up, and wash again in another ½ cup of vinegar.
  3. Blend garlic, chadon beni and 1 cup of vinegar, then add thyme, salt and habanero chilies.
  4. Mix with pork and seal in a jar. Let cure for 3-4 days in the fridge
  5. In batches, squeeze out excess moisture from pork and pat dry with paper towels.
  6. Add oil to a shallow pan over medium-high heat and fry pork until golden brown.
  7. Drain on paper towels.


  1. Garlic Pork is traditionally served in a bun, but it’s perfect over rice or with a side salad.