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[Recipe] Lechon Kawali (crispy pork belly slices)

Lechon kawali is twice cooked slices of pork belly. There are 3 distinct steps in making it (which is actually very similar to the dish crispy pata but pata refers to a whole pork leg instead of belly slices). These steps are cooking the pork in water with seasoning until it is tender (oftentimes only salt and pepper), letting it thoroughly dry, and then finally deep frying in high heat until the skin becomes nice and crispy. Having the word lechon in its name aside, it should not be confused with the lechon which is another dish altogether (a whole roasted pig with crispy skin typically cooked in a bamboo spit over an open bed of glowing charcoal). The word kawali is a big shallow rounded bottom pan resembling the Chinese wok. The dish is very simple to make although if you want to achieve the right crunch on the skin, you need to make sure that the braised pork is properly dried first (it also prevents the splattering of the hot oil when deep-fried) and to have the temperature just right. A close relative of this dish is the bagnet which differs slightly in the cooking process. Lechon kawali is often served with a pork liver based dipping sauce (the venerable "Mang Tomas all around sauce" is perfect for dipping if you don't want to make your own liver sauce).

Lechon Kawali (Crispy pork belly)

Ingredients:

1/2 Kilo Pork belly slices, about half an inch to an inch thick
salt and pepper
sufficient oil for deep frying

Directions: Clean the pork belly slices inspecting carefully to see that there are no hairs on the skin (you can pluck them out using some kitchen tweezers). One preparation that is optional is to make cuts on the skin at regular intervals (about half an inch apart). This is to prevent the pork slices (especially if they are on the thin side) from curling up too much during cooking.

In a pot, boil the pork pieces in enough water to just barely cover the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the pot covered. Check for tenderness after 20 to 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the cut. For thicker cuts (and also for making whole crispy pata), I make use of a pressure cooker but take care not to overcook the meat as it will just start to disintegrate and will just look like pulled pork. 

Drain the pork slices and pat them dry with a paper towel. Place them in a wire rack and put the whole thing inside the refrigerator overnight to let it completely dry out.

Deep fry at 198 deg C (390 deg F) until golden brown and the skin is very crispy. Place the fried pieces in a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy with freshly cooked steamed rice.



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