All over the world, people enjoy eating pork belly. And for home cooks, the cut is a top choice because of its versatility – you can braise, grill, stew, or roast it in various sauces. But the most favored method, especially in Asia, is to fry it in lots of hot fat until golden. From a Westerner's perspective, crispy pork is fantastic beer chow. However, among Pinoys, it’s a prized dish best paired with a mountain of rice.
Are you looking to perfect your recipe for lechon kawali, bagnet, or tulapho? Follow these tips to get restaurant-quality (or better!) liempo with oh-so-crunchy skin that will last for hours – perfect for any handaan.
1. Prick and Parboil the Meat
Begin the process by taking a fork and pricking your meat all over – both the fleshy parts and the skin. This step helps tenderize the liempo and causes the fat to render once cooked.
Your next crucial task is to parboil the meat. This process softens the pork, infuses it with flavor, and speeds up the overall cooking time. Some prefer to boil their belly in plain water. But if you want your ulam to burst with savory goodness, cook it in seasoned stock. Throw in your go-to aromatics, like garlic, onions, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and up the linamnam with Knorr Pork Cubes.
PS Don’t forget to skim off the impurities that rise to the surface of the water – you want your liempo as pristine as possible.
2. Season the Dry Pork Skin
Fact: dry pork skin crisps much better than a moist one. Before storing or cooking the belly, you must remove any excess moisture. A quick trick is to rub equal parts salt and baking soda over the surface. This technique draws out any liquid and sets you up for lechon kawali success. Let this sit for eight hours or overnight before neutralizing the baking soda with vinegar. Just pour a bit of suka over the pork to rinse off the ingredient. Repeat if the skin continues to foam a lot. The less foam, the better!
Pat the liempo dry with paper towels and apply a simple dry rub on the skin. You can keep this straightforward by seasoning with more salt or crumbled Knorr Pork Cubes.
3. Freeze the Pork Belly
Most crispy pork belly recipes suggest freezing the parboiled meat overnight. What to do after? Don't thaw the meat before frying or roasting it! Cook your liempo frozen and watch the skin blister and form the crunchiest golden balat. A word of caution: if you’re going for the deep-frying method, protect yourself from those oil splatters!
4. Remove Excess Oil from the Fried Pork
Resting cooked pork belly on a flat surface causes the rendered fats to pool on the skin, hampering the crackling effect. Instead, hang your slabs (like in Cantonese restaurants)to allow gravity to do its job of ridding the meat of excess oils. If you don’t have a hook to hang your pork, rest it on a wire rack set over a tray to get the same results.
5. Double Fry Your Liempo
Ilocanos swear by double frying their bagnet to produce the crispiest skin. Follow suit to achieve a similar lutong! Ensure you have enough oil to cover the meat when frying. Heat it to 350°F (175°C) before gently lowering the belly. Cooking time varies depending on the size of your meat, but a reliable standard is 30-40 minutes per kilo.
Let the pork rest for 30 minutes over paper towels, then refry it for an additional 10-15 minutes. Rest for another 10 minutes before serving with your preferred dipping sauce.
6. Roast it in an Air-Fryer
Do you know you can cook pork belly lechon in an air-fryer? This method is perfect if you prefer not to submerge the meat in hot fat. For the juiciest result, cook the pork, skin-side up, for an hour and a half at 350°F (175°C). The final step is to jack up the heat to the highest setting. Roast the liempo until its skin puffs and blisters, about 5 minutes. Rest on a wire rack for 15-30 minutes and serve with a spicy toyo-suka sawsawan.
Never eat soggy pork belly skin again when you try these foolproof techniques. Cooking crispy liempo at home takes time, but the results are worth it. Pro tip: avoid post-meal umay by serving your ulam with stir-fried vegetables or a refreshing ensalada. Enjoy!