Litson or Lechon, either spelling is ok.
Whenever told us that we are going to have Litson or Lechon Kawali for lunch or dinner it automatically means Litson/Lechon Liempo. These two terms are synonymous because the only piece of meat that you can cook as lechon kawali is the liempo or pork belly. This announcement also brings excitement me because of the way it was cooked traditionally.
One of the favorite simple meals that my father used to cook is the Lechon/Litson Kawali or Lechon/Litson Liempo. It is a very simple dish. It only takes a few ingredients and a few simple steps.
I cook this quite often for my family and they enjoy it! I hope that you enjoy this with your family, too.
1 Kilo of Pork Belly or Liempo(Buo)
3 pcs of Laurel(Bay Leaf)
1 Tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper
1 whole Onion
1. The first step to a good tasting Lechon/Litson Liempo or Lechon/Litson Kawali is to make sure that the flavor sinks into the meat. And you this by boiling the liempo/pork belly in water together with the other ingredients: laurel(bay leaf), salt, pepper, and onion.
In my other post, wrote that you need to throw the soot/scum that forms on the water. This time you don’t need to that because you won’t be needing the water. You will throw it all anyway.
Again, do the fork test for tenderness. (30-45 minutes)
2. Once the pork belly is tender, set is aside and throw the water. How is easy it that!
3. Cooking the pork belly!
I will illustrate different ways of cooking the pork belly, as how my father used to do it.
Traditional Way: (1970′s to mid-1980′s)
I believe that my father cooked lechon kawali even before this but I was born in 1968 so this means I was
aware of the existence of this dish in the 70s only.
My father would get a deep wok and half-fill it with cooking oil. Wait until the oil is hot. How do I know that the oil is hot? There is a little bit of smoke. But this is not good because the oil already burning and it gets to be carcinogenic. The second way is check for bubbles coming to the surface. The third way is if you have a wooden spoon, dip the spoon in the oil. If you see bubbles coming from the tip of the spoon, this means the oil is ready.
Once the oil is ready, place the pork belly in the oil. Be very careful because once the belly comes in contact with the hot oil it becomes (for lack of a better term) explosive! The Pork skin will start popping, and hot cooking oil will be flying everywhere – literally everywhere.
My father told not to cover the wok so that the pork skin will be crispy. Make sure no one else is in the kitchen, especially children when cooking lechon kawali the traditional way!
Since the pork is already cooked through the boiling, it doesn’t take long to fry the pork belly. There are two things to look for. First, the meat part is golden brown and second the skin should be crisp and crunchy. Once you see these, pull out the pork belly and place on a strainer to let the oil drip. Chop and serve with lechon sauce(Mang Tomas or a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, onion and garlic).
New Way: (mid-1980′s to present)
After my father retired in the 80′s he wasn’t a fan of cooking lechon kawali anymore because of two things:
one, we are taking in too much oil(because of the traditional method of cooking) and second, because of his age he cannot dodge the hot oil anymore. So what do we do?
Here come the new wonder of cooking technology – the Turbo Broiler.
He was hesitant at first but after the third try he got the technique. When I got married, had kids, I tweaked his technique a little bit.
Pre-heat the turbo broiler for 15 minutes at 250 degrees. After 15 minutes, put the pork belly in. Bring the temperature down to 200 degrees, set the timer for 45 minutes. This helps cook the meat further. After 30 minutes, bring the temperature up to 250 degrees for the last 15 minutes. This makes the skin pop, and crispy.
This technique is healthier because you don’t put oil in the pork belly, and second the oil from the pork belly drips to the base of the broiler.
This technique however does does not guarantee that fat from the pork belly is totally removed. Fat is still in the Pork belly. Just remove the fat and don’t eat it.
Ok. Chop you Lechon Liempo, and serve. Enjoy!
P.S. As I was cooking this dish, my kids told me that the aroma inside the house brings memories of when they were still in Marikina with their Lola Ding who also is a great cook – kapampangan kasi! Now this is what great family tradition is made of! Cheers!