A favorite dish of many Filipinos is lechon. It is one of the national dishes of the Philippines. It is usually cooked with the whole pork on a spit over flaming charcoal but there is another variety of it that is just as delectable and popular. Lechon kawali is a lechon dish that is fried rather than grilled. Like the traditional lechon, it takes time to cook it perfectly but there are also methods to do it faster. Oftentimes it is cooked in bulk in restaurants or home-cooked for family gatherings. Preparing it in bulk is a good way to save time, as there is a two-step process in cooking lechon kawali.
In order to make a good lechon kawali; the key ingredient, which is the pork belly, can be cut into small pieces, or just thin enough (about 1 ½ inch and not more) so that it is crispier when fried. It is also good to note that it is better to have a slab of pork belly with skin-on meat (as some stores might sell it with the skin removed) because the skin is where the crispiness and crunch will come from. Other ingredients include garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, ground pepper (or peppercorns), water and cooking oil.
To cook a 2-3 serving of lechon kawali, approximately 1 ½ pound pork belly is needed. The first step to cook lechon kawali is to combine the condiments,(1 garlic clove, 2 bay leaves, 1 tbsp. salt and 1 tbsp ground pepper) in a skillet pan, along with the pork belly and pour enough water to cover. Some even put soy sauce for added flavor but it depends on your personal taste. Others even choose not to put extra condiments and only put salt for taste. Bring this to a boil and simmer until the skin is slicing tender but not falling apart. In estimation, this should take around 35 to 45 minutes to simmer. It is important to monitor the tenderness of the meat and make sure it doesn’t get too soft so that it can still be deeply fried properly without it falling apart.
Once the pork is tender, drain the meat and let it sit at room temperature until it has air dried. Some people that cook lechon kawali in preparation for an upcoming event or celebration, might have the extra time to chill the pork and let it air dry in the refrigerator overnight. Again, this depends on preference and the time frame you have available before cooking the dish. An important thing to note is that chilling and air drying it overnight in a refrigerator is proved to give it a crispier texture when deep fried. Even if you don’t have the time, however, it will still show good and crispy results if air dried in room temperature.
When the meat has been air dried (either in room temperature or in the cold overnight), it is ready to be deep fried. Pre-heat a large saucepan and add cooking oil for deep frying. It should be around 350 °F to 375 °F and make sure to use enough oil to cover the pork belly. It might also be useful to have a splatter guard to help with the whole process. Deep fry the pork belly into batches and look out for it until it is golden brown. This will take approximately 3-5 minutes. Once the pork belly is cooked, remove it and drain it on a wire rack to remove the excess oil. Wait around 5 minutes to cool and cut it further into pieces if needed.
That is basically all there is to make the perfect lechon kawali. An easy recipe and mouth-watering dish fit for all ages. The perfect crunchy exterior paired with the juicy and tender meat inside. It is best to eat it while still warm and paired with lechon sauce or a vinegar sauce, whichever suits your taste buds. Although some people choose not to deep fry the pork belly and instead, pan fry it twice to add crispiness, it is all up to preference. A lot of Filipinos eat lechon kawali as “pulutan” or a snack you eat when having a drink out with friends. Every sinful bite would be too good to resist and it is the best type of home-cooked comfort food for every occasion. It is also a dish liked by other cultures because of its simplicity but flavorful taste. The fact that it can be easily paired with a lot of other dishes is a plus as well. One can never go wrong with a well cooked fried dish. For the health conscious, it is best to make sure that the oil is drained on a rack with a baking sheet below. This is a better method than draining the oil with a paper towel because draining with a paper towel will make the dish soggier. When draining the oil on a rack, the air is allowed to flow through which air dries the lechon kawali without losing its crisp.
Lechon kawali is also served in a lot of traditional Filipino restaurants just as lechon is. It is best eaten with a warm cup of rice or other traditional Filipino dishes with soup like “Sinigang”. It is a simple fried dish that can be a good pair to a lot of other types of food, like vegetables or even noodles. Although it is not the most healthy and should be consumed in moderation like the traditional lechon, the taste is undeniably worth every bite. That said, it is also better to serve this dish when eating with other people. The rich taste would want you asking for more, and without friends or family to eat with, you might just get a tad bit more than you should be eating. We won’t judge, because it is one of our most favorite dishes to cook and serve as well. As “foodies”, a food that can be prepared fast and only requires a few ingredients and an automatic approval.
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