My brother loves to cook. In fact, together with a friend, he cooks for small private events in Manila. He’d like for his business to be a bigger catering service in the future but I think he likes the fact that he’s paying attention to every detail in smaller portions than, say, a batch for more than a hundred guests. Of course, he has my mother’s full support. She hires him to cater her parties whenever she is in Manila entertaining. Lechon kawali, or deep-fried pork belly, is one of the best Filipino staples. We like our pork and we like it even better deep-fried in hot, hot oil. The last time my brother visited New York, he made this and I swooned (and then I think I got a heart attack because of clogged arteries from all the fat) so I just had to call him to ask for the recipe when I had the craving.
Letting the pork belly air dry after boiling and freezing it before frying are important. After boiling it until it was soft, I left the house at lunch and did not return until 10pm. I put them in the freezer and did not fry them until the next day. So it takes some time but I can guarantee you that all the trouble is worth it.
salt, pepper, oil
1. Sprinkle the pork belly with salt and pepper and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours up to a day then boil in water until soft using a big pot with a heavy lid on low to medium fire. This should take about two hours.
2. Transfer to a colander in a large bowl to drain excess water and let it sit in room temperature to air dry.
3. When the pork belly is dry, cut it in four large chunks. Set them on a plate, separated, and store in freezer until the next day.
4. When ready to cook, heat a lot of oil in a heavy-duty pot, low to medium fire. In the meantime, take the pork belly out of the freezer. You will fry them frozen. There should be enough oil to deep-fry the pork belly chunks. Dip one chunk in the oil using a pair of tongs to test if the oil is hot enough. You’ll just know. Set them gently in the oil and fry until golden brown, uncovered. Serve while hot and crunchy with crushed garlic in soy sauce and vinegar on the side.