Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lechon Kawali (Crispy Pan-Fried Roasted Pork)

I have very fond memories with lechon kawali. A favorite of my late Lolo (Grandfather), the dish was a staple anytime my grandparents visited. I used to watch him eat this peasant dish with a quiet relish, a fascinating and unusual degree of dissonance in dining culture and class. For the most part, my family ate food with casual abandon, using our fingers to scoop up sauce and rice, reaching for plates over other diners, and laughing and talking with our mouths full. I like to think we weren't uncultivated beasts; we ate with relative politeness in other public spaces. We just felt comfortable enough to be ourselves. My grandfather was the unusual refined square peg around a table of messy round holes. He even ate pizza with a knife and fork!
My Lolo invented the "tall, dark, and handsome" convention

Lechon kawali is not for the faint of heart - it will give you heartburn, no doubt. It's one of those dishes in which you already know you're going to have to pay for it after, so stock up on your Tums before tackling this dish.
Basically, you boil the pork belly (or any super-fatty part of the pig) in a marinade, let it rest, then deep fry that sucker.

I will not apologize to you, stomach, for eating this. 

1 lb. pork belly (If your family can eat more than this, I applaud you.)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
A few cloves of crushed garlic
Neutral oil for deep-frying

Marinate the pork belly with all of the ingredients (except for the oil, obviously) overnight. Around lunchtime, dump the contents into a deep pot. Add water so there's just enough water to touch the top of the pork belly. Bring to a boil, then cover, turning the flame to a low heat. Let the belly simmer for about an hour. Once the meat is nice and tender, let it rest for a few hours.
When the meat has reached room temperature, fire up the deep fryer - though I use the same pot and just add a *lot* of oil. Make sure the flame isn't too high or you'll burn the meat too quickly. Stick the belly in the pot slowly, place a spatter screen, and step back - seriously. There will be an oil rave in that pot and the oil will spatter all over your kitchen. I rarely make this dish, not because it's so unhealthy, but because of the inevitable cleaning I'll be doing afterwards. My mother suggests sprinkling a few drops of water to give the skin a nice crackle, but I haven't tried it, too fearful of a visit to my local burn unit.
When one side of the belly has a nice golden brown crispiness to it, turn to the other side. You'll know it's done when the meat is nicely browned all over and the skin is crispy. Remove from the pot and let it rest on the spatter screen to drain the grease. Slice and serve with either some Mang Tomas, a popular pinoy "all-purpose" sauce, or some vinegar and crushed garlic.

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