Nothing can excite the tastebuds and appetites of Filipinos all over the world more than the word “lechon”. Here is my recipe for Lechon Kawali at Ginataang Gulay or Pan Fried Crispy Pork Belly and Sauteed Vegetables in Coconut Milk. Sounds delicious? Read on.
My last post was about going meatless, and as much as I love our success at doing three-a-week meat-free nights, I can’t deny that it has somehow made our less frequent carnivorous nights more special. Wherever in the world I find myself, I will always be Filipino. So when it comes to meat, nothing trumps a good old Lechon, the king of meat dishes in the Philippines. Ask any Filipino – nothing can make us salivate and fear for our cholesterol levels as much as good old Lechon Baboy does.
Lechon is a pork dish that is popular in the Philippines, and is one that reserved for special occasions. Actually, from my knowledge, lechon is a method of cooking more than a particular entrée. “Lechon” is the method of slow-roasting a whole animal on a skewer, rotating for hours on top of a pit of hot coals. Originally, this is done to whole roasted cows or pigs (Lechon Baboy or Baka). Filipinos also commonly roast chicken (Lechon Manok) in this manner – a more practical and accessible form of this Pinoy favorite.
Lechon: A Fiesta Must Have
How does it taste? It tastes like pure indulgence. It is perfectly savory, with unique layers of textures. Hours of slow roasting of the pork allows it to have glistening and crispy skin that is lined inside with a salty and delicious layer of fat. Underneath the rind is delicious, moist, flavorful meat that is so tender, it falls apart before it even reaches your mouth. Sounds incredibly unhealthy huh? Yes, but it is oh. So. Good. In fact, Filipinos look at Lechon as the ultimate cheat meal. Many dads, uncles, and grand dads in Filipino families are teased about having to check their blood pressure half way through a party where Lechon is present.
My dad is having his birthday tomorrow. Along with my mom and my sisters, he is right now visiting his hometown (and my favorite place in the world), Siquijor. A rare homecoming like that means one thing – a fiesta! Despite health restrictions, I heard a rumor that he is having a big party with a couple of pigs to have as lechon. Right now, “I’m jealous” is a ridiculous understatement.
In provinces, when an honored guest arrives, they take a pig that they have raised themselves and make a day out of preparing and cooking it. Some families even raise pigs from young for the sole purpose of having them in a foreseen occasion such as a wedding, baptism, or a graduation. Lechon, in a way, is part of the Philippine tradition of celebration.
Lechon Kawali: Homecooked Lechon
A Sacred Trio: Meat, Vegetable, Rice
As I mentioned in an earlier post, a Filipino meal is not complete if it is not done in the way of a meat-vegetable-rice trio. Because of this, I’m also sharing my recipe for Ginataang Gulay, a super easy vegetable dish that goes along with Lechon Kawali fabulously. If you are a vegetarian, the Ginataang Gulay is a great Filipino vegetable entree that every household knows as a quick and easy dinner favorite.
Knowing how to cook such Philippine favorites is not just a great way to reconnect with home, it is also great knowledge that I can pass down to my future kids and their kids. Well, that… and it’s just really too delicious to resist having on the menu every once in a while.
Bookmark this recipe for a cheatday. It is super worth it!
- 500g Pork Belly slices with rind
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup soysauce
- 1 tsp pepper
- oil for frying
- For Ginataang Gulay / Sauteed Vegetables in Coconut Milk
- 300 g butternut squash diced
- 250 g green beans
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 can coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place all ingredients except cooking oil in a pot and cover. The liquid should cover the meat completely. Leave until tender for approximately 1 hour.
- Take the meat out of the pot and dry on a rack. Once dry, transfer to the fridge and chill for a minimum of one hour. This can be done ahead up to 6 hours or overnight.
- Cut into smaller pieces.
- Get ready to fry! Take a wide pan and cover the surface with frying oil. Make sure the oil is very hot. Beware: because the pork has been chilled, the varying temperatures and the liquid retained in the pork will cause violently spitting oil when you start frying. Don't cover the frying pan, don't throw the pork pieces in. You have to lay them gently and cautiously, leave for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until both sides are golden brown.
- Take out of the frying pan and place cooked pork on a paper towel to rest.
- Using the same pan, take excess oil out so that only s thin layer of oil and some fried pork bits are left on the pan's surface.
- Take your onion and garlic. Saute until transparent.
- Add in fishsauce.
- Throw in squash. Add a splash of water and cover. Let it cook for 2 minutes.
- Throw in green beans and coconut milk. Mix, cover, and leave until squash is thoroughly cooked.
- Season with salt and pepper as you please.
- Take lechon kawali pieces and place on top of a heap of the cooked vegetables. Serve with a cup of hot white rice.
- You can make a spicy version by adding a whole green chili pepper in the step where you add the green beans and coconut milk.
- These two dishes aren't mutually exclusive. You can have either, or both. For a vegetarian dish, just start with a fresh oil and about a dash more of fish sauce for flavor.