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.
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!
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.
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?