Monday, April 5, 2010

A Craving

Glistening golden brown skin blistering in the heat, languidly frying to a crisp like European sunbathers on a Thai beach. My Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly Philippine-style) is in the deep-fryer, on its final hurdle to our dining table.

It began as a craving from Teenage Son #3. According to nutritionist Deanna M. Minich, crunchy food cravings are more about texture than taste. She analyzes the crunch craver as attention-seekers, with every bite saying "hey look at me!" Deanna says, "maybe there’s something they are trying to say, but can’t. Perhaps they are angry and want to “snap” back at someone, but they feel restrained." Is my son trying to tell me something, like Back off on my homework, or The eleven o'clock curfew is ridiculous?

Or is it because Lechon Kawali is simply delicious? No instant gratification for this craving, though, as it takes at least 2 days to meticulously complete the steps toward the proper crunch. The pork belly's journey to deliciousness began fourteen hours ago, marinating overnight in the fridge. I spent the next day boiling, skimming, and simmering the meat for an hour. The tender bellies went straight into the oven for half an hour, and slowly air-dried for another four hours! Then, finally, into a pot of hot oil to blister and crisp the skin.

Your patience has been rewarded, Son. Dig in.

Lechon Kawali
from Memories of Philippine Kitchens
by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

4 pieces Bone-in Pork Belly with skin (about 1 lb each)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Salt
3 Bay Leaves
2 tablespoons Black Peppercorns
1 head Garlic, cloves separated, peeled and halved crosswise
1 large Onion, quartered
1/2 cup Rice Vinegar, or as needed to coat the pork belly
Canola Oil for frying

Rub the pork with 2 tablespoons of the salt, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, rinse the pork, and place it in a large covered pot with cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. Add the remaining salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and onion. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1 hour, covered, until the meat is tender. Add additional boiling water to keep the meat covered if necessary.

While simmering the pork, preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Transfer the pork to a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack, pat the pork dry with paper towels, and brush both sides with the vinegar. Transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes to dry, turning once. Remove and place in a cool place to dry for another 4 hours.

Wipe the pork dry with paper towels. Fill a large pot with enough oil to submerge the pork belly pieces. Using a frying thermometer, bring the oil to 360 deg F over medium-high heat. Fry the pork until the skin is blistered and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, transfer pork belly to paper towels to drain. Pull out the bone, and cut into 2-inch slices. Serve with a soy sauce-vinegar-garlic dip or lechon sauce.


  1. Congrats Annie! I want to eat some right now!!!

  2. let me just say that i look forward to your entries. i think more than being a good cook, you have a natural flair for writing. i love how your words flow and your thoughts concise yet rich and varied at the same time. i think that takes real talent.

    the lechon kawali looks to die for, annie. promise to cook this for me if ever i get the chance to visit you please ;) (might be sooner than you think)... i'd like to add one tip i got from an aunt on how to cook crispy lechon kawali, she said that after you boil the pork, let it cool then put it in the freezer. deep fry frozen, et viola - crispy lechon kawala! haven't tried it myself but i thought i'd share that.

    until next time,

    your avid follower :)

  3. Thanks Miting. Love your restaurant photos.
    Marie Antoinette, merci beaucoup! Looking forward to your visit!

  4. Mmmm, that looks good. Thanks for your comment on my blog.

    About the club, you can contact I couldn't find you email add. I told Trish that you want to join and I gave her your web site. :)