Lechon Kawali is a popular Filipino pork dish deep-fried to golden perfection. Golden and crunchy on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside, it makes a tasty appetizer or main dish.
Call me cray cray. After discovering the crispiest rind and the moistest meat on a lechon sa hurno, you'd think I'd never cook lechon in a kawali again.
I mean, really. Who in her right mind would tackle hot oil splattering all over the place when she could have a slab of pork belly crisping nice and quiet in the oven?
In my defense, it was awfully hot this weekend, and I didn't want the oven on all day to cook one piece of pork. Besides, before the advent of lechon sa hurno in my life, I've been praised by my adoring fans (AKA daughter and partner-in-life) for the meanest, best-est lechon kawali ever.
My friends, lechon kawali is not easy, and I implore you to practice caution. But believe me, every sinful morsel of this delectable meat is worth the effort.
See that blistered skin above? Boy, that golden piece of pork belly dream is nothing short of a masterpiece! A series of simple but important steps contribute to achieving that coveted crackling, so read on and learn the secrets. 🙂
- Pork Belly- with or without ribs will work, but make sure to choose one with a nice cap of skin for the best results.
- Aromatics- I like to add crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns when boiling the meat to infuse flavor.
- Vinegar- the acid helps draw out moisture from the skin for better crackling.
- Salt- adds flavor as well as draws out moisture for better crackling.
- Oil-using the right kind of oil is essential in deep-frying. Choose oils with a high smoke point, such as canola, grapeseed, safflower, peanut, or vegetable oil.
- Boil the pork until fork-tender but not falling apart. This is to keep the meat moist and not dry and stringy. Remember, it will continue to cook during the deep-frying.
- Cool the cooked pork completely pat dry with paper towels.
- Score the skin using the tines of a fork or a knife, making sure not to pierce through the meat. Then, brush the skin with vinegar.
- Season the pork belly with salt and top the skin with a thin film of salt to draw out excess moisture.
- Place the pork belly skin side up on a wire rack and refrigerate overnight, uncovered, to chill and air-dry completely.
- For best results, use enough oil to cover the pork belly during deep-frying and keep the temperature at an optimal 350 F to 375 F range.
- You can cut the slab into pieces to fry faster. I suggest cooking it whole to keep the meat moist longer.
- After frying, let it rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before chopping for the juices to redistribute.
- If you're using bone-in, have the butcher partially cut through the ribs so the pork will be easier to chop once fried.
- You can replace part of the water with Sprite to add more flavor.
- For safety, use the right pot for the job! Make sure it is deep and large enough to hold the oil and the added volume of the meat without dangerous overflows and splashes.
- Have a splatter screen handy to protect yourself from oil splatters.
- To prevent wild splatters, dry the pork belly well.
- I was taught years ago to continuously sprinkle cold water in the sizzling hot oil while the meat is frying to promote crackling. Not for the faint of heart! Although the method works, I found from testing and retesting the recipe that it is unnecessary. You can achieve the same crunchy texture without the risk of painful splatters by cooling and drying the pork well.
Condiments and dipping sauces
Lechon kawali is commonly served as an appetizer or main dish. It's best enjoyed with a choice of Filipino sawsawan like the following:
- Lechon Sarsa
- Spiced Vinegar (½ cup cane vinegar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 chopped shallot, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 minced bird's eye chili peppers, salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste)
- Banana Ketchup
- Sweet and sour sauce
Like most fried foods, this crispy pork belly is most delicious when freshly cooked as the skin loses its crunch over time. To extend crispness as long as possible, store any fried pieces uncovered.
For best results, fry just enough for a meal. Transfer the remaining boiled pork to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw when ready to fry.
What to do with leftover Lechon
- Turn into crispy sisig or lechong paksiw
- Add to pinakbet or ginisang munggo.
- Use as topping for pancit palabok or pancit guisado
- Make into a crispy version of pork binagoongan or tokwa't baboy
- 4 pounds whole pork belly
- 1 head garlic, pounded
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- canola oil
- In a deep pot over medium heat, combine pork belly, garlic, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil, skimming scum that floats on top. Lower heat, cover, and continue to cook for about 1 to 1 ½ hours or until meat is fork-tender but not falling apart.
- Drain pork, discarding liquid. Wipe dry, removing any stray aromatics.
- Allow to cool to touch and pat dry with paper towels. Score the skin using the tines of a fork.
- Brush the skin with vinegar.
- Season the pork all over with salt and layer the skin with a thin film of salt.
- Place on a wire rack and refrigerate overnight to completely cool and dry. Remove from refrigerator and scrape off the salt.
- In a deep, heavy-bottomed pot, heat enough oil to completely cover meat to about 350 F to 375 F.
- Carefully place the meat in the hot oil and fry, turning as needed, until golden and skin is crisp and puffed.
- Remove meat from pot and drain on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Let rest for about 5 minutes and cut into serving pieces.
- Serve with choice of dipping sauce.
- Have the butcher make a shallow cut through the rib bones to make chopping into serving pieces easier.
- Use enough oil to cover the pork belly during deep-frying, and keep the temperature at an optimal 350 F to 375 F range.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”