Pork Worship

Lechon_kawali_bagnet

As a food blogger and natural glutton, I’ve often found myself invoking the name of God after my many many stints of pain-inducing overindulgence. For instance, the following phrases have passed through my lips on more than one occasion:

  • “Please God, don’t let me barf all over myself.”
  • “Please God, don’t let me shit myself.”
  • “Please God, don’t let me die.”
  • “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.”

The first invocation above is usually mumbled and slurred after an extended period of alchohol-fueled carousing, or what I like to refer to as “Tuesday.” The second in the list is almost always expressed through clenched teeth and with a cold sweat covering my brow–usually after eating something passed it’s prime that I knew I shouldn’t have eaten. And finally, the third invocation on the list is reserved for when my belly has been stuffed with terribly unhealthy, yet terribly delicious, pork products.

I’ve been asking the Big Guy to spare my life more and more these days as I’ve been clogging my arteries at an alarming rate via the Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique.

You may remember the Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique from such blog posts as Spicy Sizzling Sisig, Pork Belly Adobo, and Paksiw na Lechon.

For my latest foray into pork gluttony, I present to you Deep-Fried Pork Belly: AKA Lechon Kawali/AKA Bagnet/AKA Chicharon.

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In the name of the Skin, the Fat, and the Meat:
The Porky Trinity

Generally speaking, Lechon Kawali is a Filipino dish referring to twice-cooked pork belly: the belly is first boiled, then air dried, and then quickly deep-fried.

Bagnet is the Ilocano (Ilocos region of the northwest Philippines) version of Lechon Kawali where the belly is fried for a longer period of time. Some even say that bagnet is cooked thrice: boiled, air dried, then fried for a longer period of time, then quickly fried again (I’m serious).

And while the term “Chicharon” generally refers to only fried pork rinds, Ilocanos also refer to Bagnet as Chicharon and vice versa (I know this because my family is Ilocano). Confused yet? Of course you are. For the sake of this post, and because most Filipinos can identify deep-fried pork belly as Lechon Kawali, I will also refer to my deep-fried pork belly as Lechon Kawali.

Now, I’ve been meaning to make Lechon Kawali for quite some time. In fact, when I met Marketman of Market Manila last summer, he suggested that I try my hand at Lechon Kawali as it would be fairly easy to make. I even remember asking Marketman that night what kind of oil I should use to fry the pork belly, and without missing a beat he replied, “Well, ideally you should use lard.” Whoa.

Considering I couldn’t find enough pork lard to fill a vat in which to fry, I just used plain ol’ canola oil (I had to keep something relatively healthy). But to make my Lechon Kawali, I did stick to Marketman’s guide to deep-fried pork belly here and here.

To start, I cut a 2-pound slab of pork belly into three pieces and stuck them into a zip-top bag. I then added to the bag some salt (Ilocos sea salt), black peppercorns, bay leaves, and a few smashed garlic cloves. I rolled the pork pieces around in the bag to evenly coat them in the spices, then threw the bag in the refrigerator overnight. This step is basically a “quick cure” of the meat that ensures maximum flavor in the pork. The next day, there was a good amount of liquid in the bag that the salt drew out of the pork. Mmmmm, osmosis.

I then threw all the contents of the bag (the pork, spices, garlic, and even the accumulated liquid) into a large pot. I covered the pork with water, brought everything to a boil, then simmered everything for an hour. I fished out the pork pieces, let them cool slightly, and then patted them dry with paper towels. I also strained the liquid in the pot and discarded the spices and garlic, but I froze the leftover pork broth. Don’t throw that broth out, it can be used later for a great pork sinigang!

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After patting dry the boiled pork, I put the pork on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and placed it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 24 hours. I use a rack because it increases air circulation around the pork. Refrigerating the pork also helps to dry and draw out as much moisture from the pork as possible. This drying step is very important for Lechon Kawali as it helps improve the final crispness and texture of the final dish, so don’t skimp on the drying.

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Chilled pork. Notice how smooth the skin is.

Once the pork has dried in the refrigerator for 24 hours, it’s time to fry! Because I didn’t want to have a giant pot of scalding oil on my own stove, I actually put my pork in a cooler and drove to my parent’s house over the holidays because they have a deep fryer, and also because it was the holidays, but mostly because they have a deep fryer.

Of course, my mom made me fry outside on the patio. She even made sure I put some newspaper down because, well, because she’s Filipino.

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Mom’s got a deep fryer? I want to go to there.

I heated the oil to 375 degrees F (that’s as hot as my mom’s fryer got), then plopped in the cold pork pieces. I think keeping the pork cold allows it to fry in the oil for a longer time, ultimately leading to crisper, puffier skin. I fried the pork belly for 45 minutes; I could have probably gone longer but the fam was getting hungry. Yes, 45 minutes is a long-ass time, but the long frying is due to the Ilocano in me.

And don’t worry, because of the pork’s initial cold core temperature, it ain’t gonna burn anytime soon. And don’t worry, the pork won’t be (too) greasy either. As long as the pork is sizzling in the hot oil, that means that moisture within the pork is turning into steam and pushing outward–keeping oil from seeping inward. I’m blinding you with science!

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Blissful blisters.

After 45 minutes in the hot oil, the pork belly becomes golden brown with beautifully blistered skin. The Lechon Kawali should then be chopped into bite-sized pieces and served immediately.

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Lechon Kawali and KBL.

Trust me on this, the long process of salting, boiling, drying, and frying is worth it. As far as flavor goes, Lechon Kawali is heavenly–it’s deep-fried pork belly for chrissakes! The skin is wonderfully crisp and crunchy, while the luscious fat keeps the meat plenty moist.

Lechon Kawali is nearly perfect on its own, but it can also be served with cold beer and a side of Kamatis, Bagoong, and Lasona–also known as KBL, also known as tomatoes, fish sauce, and onions (Ilocos Style, son! What?! What?!).

Lechon_kawali_bagnet8

God help me.

Lechon Kawali/Bagnet/Chicharon

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds pork belly, cut into three pieces
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
3 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

Place all of the ingredients in a large zip-top bag, making sure pork is coated evenly in all the spices. Place the bag of pork in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, place all of the contents of the bag into a large pot and discard the bag. Pour enough cold water into the pot to cover the pork by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Skim any scum from the surface of the water.

Using tongs, remove pork from the water and place pork on paper towels to dry. Optional–strain pork broth from pot and freeze broth for later use.

Place the pork on a wire rack over a cookie sheet and into the refrigerator. Allow the pork to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 24 hours.

Heat oil in a large dutch oven, or deep fryer, to 375 degrees F. There should be enough oil to completely submerge the pork. Place the chilled pork into the hot oil and fry for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pork skin becomes blistered and golden brown.

Remove pork from oil and drain on paper towels. Chop the pork into small pieces and serve immediately.

The Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique:

  • pleasurepalate February 11, 2009, 12:31 am

    Whoa! I want some of that now! 😛

    Reply
  • Jaja February 11, 2009, 4:28 am

    wow! sarap! Makes me want to go to the grocery now and buy some liempo and cook lechon kawali. My dip of choice is vinegar(the native kind) with lotsa garlic and chili. yummy!

    Reply
  • Joy February 11, 2009, 6:56 am

    looooooks sooooooo gooooood! love your blog, btw!!!!!!

    Reply
  • veron February 11, 2009, 7:35 am

    darn you marvin, this is not what I need right now. I am drooling all over my keyboard.

    Reply
  • Manggy February 11, 2009, 8:28 am

    No no no, Marvin, shrimp paste, not fish sauce! (which is patis.) 😉 Okay, now that that’s out of the way… I WANT TO GO TO THERE. I will bring you tons of bottled lechon sauce cos I won’t have it any other way 😉 (a lie. I’ve been known to use sweet chili sauce too.)
    My Kapampangan grandma does something to pork belly wherein she super-salts it after boiling it in brine, then deep-fries it. It is not for the hypertensives but it is super-delicious and goes well with the tang of banana ketchup :)

    Reply
  • Wandering Chopsticks February 11, 2009, 8:40 am

    I think my cholesterol just jumped 200 points, but I want! I want! All the goodness of crispy roast pig, but with some of the fat fried out. Err, maybe?

    Reply
  • Joelen February 11, 2009, 9:07 am

    Um, if you have any leftovers, I’d gladly take them. Seriously! Looks awesome and maybe, just maybe I’ll pick up some pork belly to roast and fry up next week – lol!

    Reply
  • Efren February 11, 2009, 9:45 am

    Damn–that’s exactly how my dad makes his bagnet, though he always called it Lechon Kawali (even though we’re also Ilokano, go figure). In an attempt to make it healthier when I was growing up, he would broil it, but it wasn’t the same. I noticed that after I moved out of the house and it was him and my mom, they would deep fry the sucker–and have hella bagnet to the point where there was always some lying around in the kitchen. I would resist eating it, but then that lasted all of 2 minutes.

    Reply
  • Erin February 11, 2009, 10:17 am

    Oh my gosh, I think I need a cholesterol cleansing glass of wine after reading that. Yum!

    Reply
  • roland February 11, 2009, 12:09 pm

    that was almost better than porn…

    Reply
  • Jeano February 11, 2009, 12:20 pm

    My Kapampangan mother (who now rocks in heaven) made what our extended family deemed to be the best lechon sauce to go with lechon kawali, regular spit-roasted lechon, paksiw na lechon, heck even pieces of cardboard, it was that good!

    Reply
  • raissa February 11, 2009, 12:29 pm

    Those look so good but having just gotten my lab results back (not good) I think I am going to be staying away from lechon kawali for the time being =( or maybe just eat the meat and skin but not the fat in between =(.
    lechon kawali + lechon sauce = yummy!
    side note: I almost got a heart attack seeing a man eat lechon kawali with bagoong rice. Yikes!! He might as well have joined you in your third invocation.

    Reply
  • Bong February 11, 2009, 1:29 pm

    It’s always a pleasure reading your posts! Thanks for sharing. I’ll have to try it with KBL. It sounds good with it…. something to cut through the nice tasty fat!

    Reply
  • joey February 11, 2009, 4:14 pm

    AAAAHHHHH!!! Your lecon kawali/bagnet looks like perfection…truly! I want to jump into my screen and grab it!
    When we visited Ilocos, the guy who was taking us around also refered to bagnet as chicharon and vice versa…and he looked confused when I said I was confused!

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia February 11, 2009, 5:06 pm

    Thanks pleasurepalate! I’d give you some, but it goes pretty quick around here;)
    Thanks for visiting my blog Jaja. Sukang Iloko vinegar is good with this.
    Thanks joy!
    Pictures of fried pork have the same effect on me too, veron!
    Yes, yes, yes, Manggy. Generally speaking, bagoong is shrimp paste. But Bagoong in Ilocos is also fish sauce and shrimp paste. And I figured you would be the one to catch the Liz Lemon reference;)
    Hey Dub C! Hmmmm, I guess some of the fat fried out, but not that much. It’s deadly stuff!
    Sorry, no leftovers Joelen. But it’s super easy to make yourself, it just takes some time.
    What’s up Efren?! There’s no way I’d be able to resist even for 2 minutes;)
    Hi Erin. Mmmm, I’m guessing a full-bodied red would be great to cut through the fat of this dish.
    Best compliment I’ve ever gotten! Thanks roland!
    Hi Jeano. If your mother’s lechon sauce could make cardboard edible, you should bottle it and sell it!
    Hi Raissa. This is why I don’t get cholesterol tests or any lab results. But I’ll probably regret it later:)
    Thanks very much, Bong. KBL is definitely my choice of condiment.
    Thanks Joey! No matter what it’s called, it’s dang tasty pork!

    Reply
  • Eat. Travel. Eat! February 11, 2009, 5:14 pm

    This looks SO delicious! Every photo is so tantilizing. Somehow this looks a little bit like the chinese roast pig too, but this looks even more scrumptious and fatty!
    Very informative article like always; I never knew about this dish before I read your post!

    Reply
  • SimplePleasure February 11, 2009, 5:20 pm

    OH MY! now I want that for lunch

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  • Ubs February 11, 2009, 7:31 pm

    Oh my. So evil yet so good!

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  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js February 11, 2009, 8:47 pm

    I genuflect in the presence of the porky trinity.

    Reply
  • Mila February 12, 2009, 12:13 am

    The fourth in the installment! I like a spicy vinegar dip, rationalizing it as being healthier than using lechon liver sauce. One of the local restaurants has a bagnet salad, mixing up the shards of bagnet with tomatoes, onions, and mangoes, and the sauce is a blend of soysauce and vinegar and shallots. Heavenly with lots of rice.

    Reply
  • Julie February 12, 2009, 10:18 am

    Oh. My. Yum.
    Yeah, and my mom’s got a deep-fryer, too–one of those big round ones. And when she fries, everything within reach goes in. The moral: stay our of the kitchen when Mom’s frying.

    Reply
  • dp February 12, 2009, 8:15 pm

    Please don’t think bad of me, but I could eat every last crunchy piece all by myself!
    I saw this in a Filipino cookbook and considered making this, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea because I would eat every single last piece all by myself.

    Reply
  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver February 12, 2009, 8:42 pm

    Those blisters are unreal.
    (And of course, newspapers… that’s the genius way to do it. Easy cleanup!)

    Reply
  • artisanimports February 13, 2009, 10:49 am

    This is a good idea. I got a deep-fryer a month ago as a gift. I thought that I am going to make only french fries in it.

    Reply
  • elmomonster February 13, 2009, 2:45 pm

    Goood God man…you never cease to amaze me. I love this dish (second only to sisig, which is actually when I have it just lechon kawale all chopped up and dressed in lemon juice, etc.). But I wonder…couldn’t you amp the crunch-quotient by chopping it up first and then frying? Or is that not Kosher? So to speak.
    And I had no IDEA that the process was so involved! I think I need to make this. And I think I need to die.

    Reply
  • MangoMulligan February 13, 2009, 4:47 pm

    Now that’s smack yo mama good! I’ve tried making this before but I didn’t know about that 24 hour drying period. Being a Filipina married to a white man (from Ireland, no less) I love the smell of porcine goodness wafting through the house. I love reading your blogs and looking at your food porn – think you can somehow add a scratch ‘n sniff component to the picures?

    Reply
  • caninecologne February 13, 2009, 5:08 pm

    hi marvin
    great post as always – even though i hardly eat it, i love pork belly (especially in sisig)! one of my friends puts lechon kawali in his pinakbet and man, is it good!

    Reply
  • ahnjel February 13, 2009, 10:01 pm

    wow i never knew that i have to air dry the pork after boiling… maybe thats why it doesnt stay criepy long… i should try your way marvin! thanks for the tip

    Reply
  • greasemonkey February 14, 2009, 6:53 am

    hey hey hey! it’s hammer time! =)almost ripped my sides out with the newspaper comment! we use em to clean windows too! with or without windex and yes, even car windows… lol!
    kbl’s great with this but i also sometimes use just kalamansi and patis as a dipping sauce.
    great 4th installment! i wonder what the 5th one’s gonna be…

    Reply
  • Cynthia February 14, 2009, 11:05 am

    You are going straight to hell and I will be right behind you!

    Reply
  • Lori Lynn February 15, 2009, 8:27 am

    I. Trust. You.
    I like your mom.
    KBL sounds like a great accompaniment. Tomatoes onions and fish sauce, I am intrigued. What else is it served with?
    LL

    Reply
  • Krizia February 16, 2009, 9:33 am

    Believe it or not, this post inspired me to make dinuguan. I think b/c of the word “pork.” Wish I had a deep fryer to try this out :(

    Reply
  • Tuty February 17, 2009, 4:24 pm

    Great recipe and its detailed technique…
    Thanks for sharing.
    BTW, 2 lbs of pork belly isn’t going to be enough for me and my family… I’m going to have to double the recipe :-)

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia February 21, 2009, 3:40 pm

    It’s probably a bit more fatty than the chinese version, Eat Travel Eat. This is deep-fried goodness!
    Thanks sweet simplepleasure.
    Evil indeed, ubs!
    Praise the porky trinity, js!
    Hmmm, this bagnet salad you speak of intrigues me, Mila;)
    Yikes, Julie! I’ll keep away from your mom and her deep fryer!
    I would never think badly of you, dp! Especially because I’d eat the whole thing myself too.
    Can’t fry outside without the newspapers, ts;)
    Deep fryers are for much more than just french fries, artisan.
    Hi Elmo. You could chop the pork into smaller pieces, but then the fry time would be much less, and I don’t think the skin gets as crisp with a shorter fry time.
    Thanks very much mangomulligan–your name’s a good not to you and your irish husband;)
    Good point, caninecologne! Pinakbet is especially good with pieces of bagnet in it.
    No problem ahnjel!
    Hi greasemonkey. I’ve used newspaper to clean windows before too.
    I’ll see you in hell Cynthia!:P
    Hi Lori Lynn. It can also be served with a simple vinegar dip, or some liver sauce.
    One of these days, krizia, I’ll try making dinaguan too.
    2 lbs. wasn’t really enough for us either, tuty;) But it’s all I had left.

    Reply
  • Food Couch March 26, 2009, 10:48 pm

    I’m from Pampanga and I love, love, love bagnet. I cook it and everyone in the family goes gaga over it. However, I do it the “short cut” way, lol! I don’t have the patience for curing and freezing, so I boil the meat along with the curing ingredients (garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt) until tender then deep fry it twice, the first one for an hour on medium heat, the second time for 30 minutes on medium-high heat. I recreate the blisters when I see that there isn’t enough by sprinkling a little water while deep frying, I doubt if its safe to do that, but heck, it gives me desired results, lol.
    One of these days, I’ll do it your and Market Man’s way and I promise to blog about it, too. :)

    Reply
  • Philippine Lechon April 3, 2009, 11:06 pm

    You make me hungry dear,i am avoiding fatty food this time because i am pregnant.Too much fat for me is bad.
    -Ava

    Reply
  • Noe April 22, 2009, 9:28 pm

    You make me proud to be Ilocano, comfortable with my culinary choices, and closer to God.

    Reply
  • Delia McManus June 14, 2009, 9:20 pm

    in my family we call litson, kawali or otherwise as killing me softly…but it so good.
    Delia

    Reply
  • In Lechon Philippine November 10, 2009, 9:08 pm

    Oh! I really love Lechon Kawali. That is one of my favorite “ulam” and that post makes me feel crave for that. Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. It makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing!
    -megan-

    Reply
  • Bless June 23, 2010, 12:30 am

    I read a lot of foodie blogs but just this lechon kawali entry made me a fan. Keep up the good work and keep the recipe coming!
    B

    Reply
  • abdu June 23, 2010, 4:00 am

    i worship pork till i die , pork for life get in there son!

    Reply
  • abdi June 23, 2010, 4:02 am

    pork has worms but u lot still eat it good luck getting cancer u pork pagan worshippers. Izlam is spreadinfg get shook!!!!

    Reply
  • Wenko January 14, 2011, 9:26 pm

    pampabata lang ah haha

    Reply
  • Amychua99@yahoo.com March 14, 2011, 11:26 am

    I have been looking for this recipes for my mum for ages…thanks a million!

    Reply
  • fee May 31, 2011, 6:38 pm

    Sinfully delicious! I wish one day, magawa ko din yan! Unfortunately, where I am, they take out the pork skin =/

    Reply
  • Marlene August 17, 2012, 2:34 am

    What a delicious blog! You’re my man, Martin! You and MarketMan. 😉
    Drooling all over my keyboard here in Nairobi, Kenya. I’m gonna make me some of this, cholesterol be damned.

    Reply
  • Polish Stoneware September 3, 2012, 1:42 pm

    looks delicious!

    Reply
  • Darlene September 7, 2013, 11:56 am

    I’m going to have to make this.and damn my LDL and triglycerides. I love your blog!

    Reply
  • Bernard Dahilig December 28, 2013, 3:07 pm

    it’s good to see a fellow pinoy make good and also to have a fellow culinarian make good in our industry as well. our love affair of baboy, the regal animal it is as Tony Bourdain so lovingly gives this moniker. Can’t get enough of it. Pork fat, pork belly, sisig, head cheese, rillete, so versatile. But if it all comes down to it, lechon, crispy pata, chicarrones, that would be my death row meal for me!

    Reply

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