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.

Chicken and Pork Adobo

Another iconic Filipino dish is the Chicken and Pork Adobo. When the word has its Spanish origins, it is very different from what it means in Spain than what it means to a Filipino. In Spain, the word comes from “Adobar” which means “soaking raw meat in a marinade to enhance the flavour”. Ask any Filipino and they would give you an entirely different explanation which would be mostly that it is a dish that is cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. While there are different spins to this dish from my country’s oh-so-many regions, what is common is that every Filipino embraces it as the unofficial national dish, finding comfort at its flavours and taste.


Even if I am here in Toronto for a while now, it is still a dish that I have regularly. I normally cook it in a big batch and save the rest for later. The dish could hold itself for a long time and the flavour actually gets better and better over time. Even with my own recipe, I tend to like it two ways. There are days that I like it to be saucy, smothering fresh steamed rice with its salty gravy to whet my appetite. And then there are days that I reduce the sauce to completely dry it up, concentrating that salty, garlicky flavour to bits and eating it kamayan style.

I find that it is the most memorable dish that non-Filipinos remember trying in a Filipino household. I am often asked where they can find a Filipino restaurant so they can have the dish once again. So if you want to try it, here is my own personal recipe of Chicken and Pork Adobo.

Chicken and Pork Adobo Recipe
1 1/2 lbs (6 – 8 pcs) chicken thighs or chicken legs, bone-in and skin-on
1 1/2 lbs (approximately 650 grams) pork belly, chopped in cubes
1 medium onion, diced
1 head garlic, minced
2 cups water
3/4 cup vinegar, white or sugar cane
1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably Marca Pina or Silver Swan brand)
3 pieces dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons whole peppercorn
3 tablespoons cooking oil

In a deep sauce pan or wok, heat 3 tablespoons of oil and sear the meat enough to give a crust and texture to the chicken and pork cubes. Put the seared chicken and pork aside. Sauté the diced onions and minced garlic.
Add the seared pork and chicken back to the pan. Add 2 cups of water, 3/4 cup of vinegar, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes or until meat is tender. Serve Chicken and Pork adobo with freshly steamed rice.

Adobo flakes option:
Set aside cooked chicken and pork adobo pieces and mince to smaller pieces. Cook further in about 1/3 cup adobo sauce until sauce runs dry. This would really concentrate the flavours of the dish. As you reduce the sauce, it is also a good idea to add more minced garlic according to your preference. This would then be what we Pinoys call as adobo flakes. 🙂

Pinoy Tip:
Filipino Soy Sauce brands Marca Pina and Silver Swan is saltier than the more popular Japanese brand Kikkoman. Kikkoman has a degree of sweetness that can alter the taste of adobo.

Of course you can use just chicken or just pork, depending on what your favourite is. The combination of the other ingredients remain the same if you use the same amount of meat. I hope you can find comfort with this dish like we do. It is a piece of home that I would not part no matter where I go.