There are few more perfect things than Filipino lechon kawali, or pork belly with a wonderfully crispy and browned skin. The trick is to simmer and then dehydrate the pork belly first, so that when the skin hits the hot oil, it expands and blisters into airy, crackly deliciousness, like a puff of salt and pork fat.
Sometimes I’ll serve it with a condiment of diced tomatoes, green onions, and white onions tossed with fish sauce and vinegar (I call it “pinoy de gallo,” aka Filipino salsa), but a simple dipping sauce of chopped chiles and vinegar will also do the trick — a bit of acidity helps slice through the richness. Serve it with garlic rice or just a bowl of hot white rice.
Sheldon Simeon's Lechon Kawali (Crispy Fried Pork Belly)
YieldServes 8 to 10
- 3 pounds
skin-on pork belly
- 4 tablespoons
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 8 cloves
- 4 ounces
fresh ginger, peeled and crushed
Canola oil for frying
Place the pork belly in a large enough pot for the pork belly to fit. Cover pork belly with water and season with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to boil over high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Discard the water and rinse the pork belly thoroughly.
In the same pot, combine the bay leaves, garlic, and ginger. Return the pork belly to the pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Flip pork belly occasionally and replenish the water as needed. Transfer pork belly to a sheet pan topped with a wire rack. Refrigerate pork belly uncovered for a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
Set up a food dehydrator to 185°F or an oven on the warming setting (usually anywhere from 170 to 200°F). Cut strips into the pork belly about 3 inches apart, being careful to only cut through the skin and not the meat. Place in dehydrator and dehydrate for 4 hours. Skin should feel hard to the touch when done.
Prepare a wire rack or line a baking sheet with paper towels. Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven with at least 3 inches of oil, making sure to leave a few inches of clearance from the top of the pot. Heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 400°F (use a thermometer), adjusting the heat as needed to maintain temperature.
Cut pork belly into strips following the cuts made into the skin prior. Fry the pork belly in batches making sure there is plenty of room for them to move in oil, until pork is golden brown and skin has become crispy, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the pork belly to the wire rack or paper towels and let cool slightly.
Chop pork belly into bite size pieces and serve with chili vinegar or your favorite dipping sauce.
This recipe is part of our weeknight Hawaiian cooking guide, designed to bring the vibrant and colorful cuisine of Hawai’i into your kitchen. Head to the intro piece to read more from Sheldon, and check out all of the recipes below.