Lechon Kawali is a popular Filipino pork dish deep-fried to golden perfection. Golden and crunchy on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside, it makes a tasty appetizer or main dish.
Call me cray cray. After discovering the crispiest rind and the moistest meat on a lechon sa hurno, you’d think I’d never cook lechon in a kawali again.
I mean, really. Who in her right mind would tackle hot oil splattering all over the place when she could have a slab of pork belly crisping nice and quiet in the oven?
In my defense, it was awfully hot this weekend and I didn’t want the oven on all day long to cook one lone piece of pork. Besides, before the advent of lechon sa hurno in my life, I’ve been praised by my adoring fans (AKA daughter and partner-in-life) for the meanest, best-est lechon kawali ever.
My friends, lechon kawali is not an easy feat and I implore you to practice caution. But believe me, every sinful morsel of this delectable meat is worth the effort.
See that blistered skin above? Boy, that golden piece of pork belly dream is nothing short of a masterpiece! A series of simple but important steps all contribute to achieving that coveted crackling so read on and learn the secrets. 🙂
- Pork Belly– with or without ribs will work, but make sure to choose one with a nice cap of skin for the best results.
- Aromatics– I like to add crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns when boiling the meat to infuse flavor.
- Vinegar– the acid helps draw out moisture from the skin for better crackling.
- Salt– adds flavor as well as draws out moisture for better crackling.
- Oil-using the right kind of oil is essential in deep-frying. Choose oils with a high smoke point such as canola, grapeseed, safflower, peanut, or vegetable oil.
- If you’re using bone-in, have the butcher partially cut through the ribs so the pork will be easier to chop once fried.
- Boil the pork until fork-tender but not falling apart. This is to keep the meat moist and not dry and stringy. Remember, it will still continue to cook during the deep-frying.
- To add more flavor, you can replace part of the water with Sprite.
- Let the cooked pork cool to the touch and pat dry. with paper towels.
- Score the skin using the tines of a fork or a knife, making sure not to pierce through the meat. Then, brush the skin with vinegar.
- Season the pork belly all over with salt and top the skin with a thin film of salt.
- Place the pork belly skin side up on a wire rack and refrigerate overnight, uncovered, to chill and air-dry completely.
- For safety, use the right pot for the job! Make sure it is deep and large enough to hold the oil and the added volume of the meat without dangerous overflows and splashes.
- Have a splatter screen handy to protect from oil splatters.
- To prevent wild splatters, dry the pork belly well.
- Use enough oil to cover the pork belly during deep-frying, and keep the temperature at an optimal 350 F to 375 F range.
- I was taught years ago to continuously sprinkle cold water in the sizzling hot oil while the meat is frying to promote crackling. Definitely not for the faint of heart! Although the method does work, you can achieve the same crunchy texture without the risk of painful splatters by cooling and drying the pork well.
- You can cut the slab into pieces for faster cooking. I suggest, however, cooking it whole to keep the meat moist longer.
- After frying, let it rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before chopping for the juices to redistribute.
Condiments and dipping sauces
Lechon kawali is commonly served as an appetizer or main dish. It’s best enjoyed with a choice of Filipino sawsawan like the following:
- Lechon Sarsa
- Spiced Vinegar (1/2 cup cane vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 chopped shallot, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 minced bird’s eye chili peppers, salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste)
- Banana Ketchup
- Sweet and sour sauce
Like most fried foods, this crispy pork belly is most delicious when freshly cooked as the skin loses its crunch over time. To extend crispness as long as possible, store any fried pieces uncovered.
For best results, fry just enough for a meal. Transfer the remaining boiled pork to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw when ready to fry.
What to do with leftover Lechon
- Turn into crispy sisig or lechong paksiw
- Add to pinakbet or ginisang munggo.
- Use as topping for pancit palabok or pancit guisado
- Make into a crispy version of pork binagoongan or tokwa’t baboy