Lechon Kawali

There was one time where I was in a cooking frenzy trying to get ready for family and friends to visit. As a new friend with a kid was part of the group, I had the foresight to ask what her son liked and she said “anything crispy”. Lechon Kawali immediately came to mind. Honestly, I never cooked Lechon Kawali before this particular get-together. I have always been too scared of the deep-frying part as it could very well scar you for life as the hot oil could just make a spectacular splatter. Whenever I craved it, I always just go to my good friend Diona, who cooks it so well at Kanto. But then feeling the shame of loving the dish but not knowing to cook it, I then thought, “how hard could it be?” Whenever I ask that question, I tend to get more than I bargained for. Well maybe it is time for me to learn the dish I could never get tired of.

Lechon Kawali, crispy pork belly
Lechon Kawali, crispy pork belly

So I took out all my cookbooks and researched on different recipes of Lechon Kawali. There were so many different versions and tips that I only selected the flavours I liked. I even went as far as watching YouTube videos on how to handle the deep frying part and neat tricks on how to make sure the crispiness of the skin. And I have them all compiled in here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


Lechon Kawali
1 kg pork belly, preferably pre-cut into 3″x 3″ squares
1/2 cup Marca Pina Soy Sauce or Silver Swan Soy Sauce Soy Sauce
2 cups Sprite
3 cups water (add more to keep pork belly squares immersed)
1 tbsp whole black pepper corns
1 medium onion, chopped roughly in big cubes
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp salt, for flavouring after rendering out the fat.
Cooking oil, enough to immerse the pork belly squares after rendering out the fat.

Pre-cooking the pork belly to tenderize the meat
1. Combine the pork belly squares, soy sauce, Sprite, water, black peppercorns, onions, garlic and bay leaves in a big cooking pot. Boil pork belly for 1 1/2 hr or until skin is tender with a nudge of the fork and appears translucent.
2. Dry pork belly squares on a rack and pat with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.
3. Rub boiled pork belly with iodized salt, evenly covering all surface to ensure a well-seasoned pork belly.
4. Store in freezer overnight to dry out the pork belly squares.

Deep-frying the meat
1. Pull out from the freezer an hour before frying and leave to thaw. The pork belly square might still be cold to touch but should not be frozen solid.
2. Heat oil on a deep pan with oil deep enough to immerse pork belly squares. When the oil is hot enough, place the meat in the deep pan. WORD OF CAUTION: This might get caustic and start splattering. Glove pot holders comes handy to protect your hand from oil splatters as you place the pork belly squares into the hot oil.
3. Partially cover the pan with a cover and weigh it down with a ceramic bowl to ensure that sudden splattering would not push the cover off the pan. Covering the pan can help cook the inside of the meat without drying it off.
4. Deep fry for about 10 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the pork belly.
5. Once the skin starts to blister and crispiness sets in, remove the pork belly square from the pan, let it cool down on rack for about 15 minutes. Don’t slice prematurely. Letting it sit after frying helps with the crispiness of the skin.
6. Serve with Mang Tomas All-around Sarsa or UFC Banana Ketchup and pair with steamed rice.

Lechon Kawali, crispy pork belly
Lechon Kawali, crispy pork belly

This is such a guilty pleasure and is so labor-intensive and I savoured every bite. Do you now understand why I never attempted to cook it before and just opt to get it from Kanto?

Tortang Talong

Now let’s talk about breakfast or what we Pinoys call agahan or almusal. There are a lot of dishes I could highlight and I will start with one dish. We tend to like the start to our mornings with something hearty and filling, more salty than sweet. One of my most favourite is what we call Tortang Talong or simply eggplant omelette. It’s pretty simple really, just three ingredients and paired with fresh steamed rice, I am all set to start my day.

Tortang Talong, eggplant omelette
Tortang Talong, eggplant omelette

The key to a good tortang talong is to be able to make the eggplant soft before adding the egg. The original way of softening the eggplant was to roast it over open fire. We normally place the whole eggplant on top of the heating element and let the flames scorch through the skin, turning it gradually to let the flames touch every part and cook it through. It takes a lot of patience and attention to get it done right. But it is very well worth the detail to make a good tortang talong.

My present living conditions present a different problem though as I have a ceramic topped range and I reinvented the recipe to match my condo living. I tried different ways, from placing it in the oven to boiling the eggplant in water to microwaving. I find the best way is microwaving. Just remember to score the eggplant with a fork in ample areas to release the moisture when using the oven or the microwave. That buildup of moisture trying to escape while roasting/cooking the eggplant can give you a magnificent boom if you forget to poke holes on the eggplant.

Do try this very simple dish. It is a comfort food I love and I hope you would start up your day on a positive note like mine.

Tortang Talong

2 Chinese long and thin eggplants
2 eggs, large
2 tbsp cooking oil for frying
soy sauce for dipping, preferably Marca Pina or Silver Swan

1. Score the eggplant with a fork, making holes to release steam while it cooks
2. Soften the Chinese eggplant (stem end intact) for about 2 minutes in a microwave for every eggplant. If using oven, preheat at 500 degrees F for about 20 minutes before roasting the scored Chinese eggplants for another 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. When eggplants are cooled down to room temperature, peel the skin off gently, keeping the stem intact.
4. Break two eggs into a shallow bowl and beat eggs until frothy.
5. Heat a frying fan with the cooking oil for frying.
5. Place the softened and peeled eggplant on the bowl with the beaten egg and fan out the eggplant to thin it out and transfer eggplant to hot frying pan.
6. Fry until golden brown.
7. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice. Use soy sauce for dipping.

Ginataang Gulay

Gata. Ginataan. This is any dish that has coconut cream or coconut milk dish. Gulay in turn is anything that is a vegetable. Coming from the Philippines, it must be rather obvious that we have a lot of dishes where coconuts are part of the recipe. One of the main coconut milk-infused dishes that I love is Ginataang Gulay. I have seen it with so many kinds of vegetable combinations but what I loved the most is the combination of squash (kalabasa) and string beans (sitaw).


Just like any kid, I used to pout secretly when the dinner was something vegetable. It was a staple then to pair fried fish with vegetables as it is cheap and nutritious. But I didn’t mind much when it was a dish with squash. I actually find it comforting. It can just be squash simply sautéed (ginisa) with onions, garlic and seasoned with Filipino soy sauce and I am all set. I found out later that there was a better version, one that was the squash mixed in with long beans and swimming in creamy coconut milk. The velvety texture of the coconut milk marries perfectly with the sweetness of the squash and beans, this is definitely one of my comfort foods.

Ginataang Gulay

500 g Squash, peeled and cubed
500 g String beans, cut into 2 inch strips
250 g pork, cubed (optional) + 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Filipino soy sauce (suggested brand, Marca Pina or Silver Swan)
1 cup water
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 small can of coconut milk (5.5 fl oz or 165 mL)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Render the fat from the pork by placing the pork cubes in the pot with 1/4 cup water. Wait for water to evaporate and for the pork fat to render. Remove excess fat. Maintain enough fat for sautéing onions and garlic.
2. Saute onions and garlic. Add the soy sauce and simmer for a minute.
3. Add the water and let boil then add the squash and string beans and coconut milk. Stir well and let simmer, stirring occasionally until almost done. This should be about 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how crisp you want the squash and the beans to be. I rather like them soft and it takes me about 10 minutes.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be liberal with the salt as the soy sauce is already salty.
5. Serve warm paired with steamed rice and fried fish.