Crispy Pata made whole pork leg boiled until tender and then deep-fried until golden and crisp. Crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, this popular Filipino delicacy is sinfully delicious!
Crispy Pata is another of the sinful ways Filipinos love their pork. In this popular delicacy, a whole pork leg is simmered in spices until tender and then deep-fried to crispy perfection.
When done right, the pork leg turns out moist and flavorful on the inside with a thick cap of golden and crunchy skin on the outside. It’s usually brought to the table a whole piece and chopped to sinful morsels to enjoy.
Due to its long cooking and cooling time plus the inconvenience of deep-frying, this crispy pork dish is usually reserved for special occasions. It is, however, common to find it on menus of dine-in restaurants and pub houses as an appetizer to enjoy with a beer or as a main dish with steamed rice.
Like its pork belly counterpart, lechon kawali, this deep-fried pork leg is usually enjoyed with spicy vinegar or liver sauce on the side for dipping.
Making crispy pata requires three important steps: boiling, freezing/cooling, and deep-frying. Please read through the tips to help you prepare this dish successfully and safely.
- Prepare the pork leg by scraping off any stray hairs and trimming the nails with a knife. You can also use a kitchen torch to remove any hairs.
- Use a big pot to fit the whole pork leg and enough water to cover. Make sure the pork is completely submerged in the liquid for even cooking.
- While you can simply cook the pork in salted water, I like to add vinegar, 7-up, and spices such as garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves to infuse flavor.
- Simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is very tender but not falling apart.
- Carefully remove the pork leg from the pot and discard liquid.
- Place the cooked pork leg on a wire rack to cool and pat dry with paper towels.
- When cool to touch, rub generously with rock salt all over. Salt not only gives flavor but also absorbs any remaining moisture.
- For super-crispy skin, transfer the pork to a container, cover with plastic film, and freeze overnight. Or chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator overnight to dry out.
- You can fry the pork the next day or store in the freezer for future use. Wrap in aluminum foil and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- If you’re pressed for time and want to ready the pork quickly for frying, pat dry with paper towels and then blow with a hairdryer on cold setting to speed up cooling and drying.
As in any kitchen activity, please practice caution and be wary of hot oil splatters.
- For safety, use the right kind of cooking equipment. Use a heavy-bottomed pot that’s tall enough to provide protection against oil splatters and wide enough for the pork leg to fit without oil spilling over the stop.
- Use a proper fitting lid to cover the pot immediately after the pork is added. When the wild oil splatters subside, remove the lid as the build-up moisture dripping into the hot oil may cause more splatters.
- Use the right kind of oil for the job. Canola, peanut, safflower, or corn oil have high smoke points and are great for deep-frying.
- For best results, check the oil is at the optimal 350 F to 375 F temperature. Too hot and the skin will burn before the meat inside is fully heated. Too low and the meat will overcook and dry out before the skin is fully crisp.
- Carefully remove the crispy pata and place on a wire rack to drain excess oil. Let stand for a few minutes before chopping for the juices to redistribute.
- If you’d like to skip the deep-frying, finish the pork leg in the oven using my slow cooker lechon method below.
How to make crispy pork in the oven
- Arrange the cooked pork on a wire rack set over a baking pan. Pat dry with paper towels and rub with salt all over.
- Bake in a 430 F oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the skin is golden and blistered.
- Remove from heat and allow to stand for a few minutes before chopping.
How to serve
- Enjoy crispy pata as an appetizer (pulatan) with ice-cold beer or as a main dish with steamed rice. The crunchy pork also makes a great party fare for special occasions and gatherings.
- Serve with atchara to balance the rich flavor or with spiced vinegar for dipping.
- Store leftovers in a container with lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- To reheat, place in a baking sheet and bake in a 400 F preheated oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- 1 whole pork leg
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 can (12 ounces) 7-up or Sprite
- 1 head garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 cups oil
For the Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1/4 soy sauce
- 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 Thai chili peppers, peeled and minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- With a knife, scrape any stray hairs on pork leg and trim off nails.
- In a large pot over medium heat, combine pork leg, vinegar, 7-up, enough water to cover, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 1/3 cup salt. Bring to a boil, skimming scum that may accumulate on top.
- Lower heat, cover, and then simmer for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is tender but not falling apart. If the meat is drying before it is fully cooked, add more water in 1 cup increments.
- Drain pork leg, discarding liquid and aromatics. Place on a rack and allow to cool to touch,
- Sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons salt and massage all over. Place in a container with a lid and freeze overnight.
- In a large, tall pot over medium heat, heat about 4 to 5 cups of oil (enough to cover the pork leg during deep-frying) to 350 F.
- Gently add pork leg and deep-fry, turning as needed, until golden.
- Remove pork from the pat and drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Let rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before chopping. Serve hot with dipping sauce.
- In a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, garlic, chili peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well.