With the holidays here, I recently had a couple of workdays without a ton of meetings, pressure or imminent deadlines. This bit of disposable time allowed my mind to wander a little. When I am not 100% occupied, I sometimes think of some weird shit, such as pondering what is the most unhealthy food I could possibly make. It had to check all the boxes: high fat, high cholesterol, high sodium, no fiber and no vitamins or minerals. Turns out, it didn’t take long to come up with something: breaded and deep-fried pork belly. It seems you could do worse only by eating a stick of butter with a knife and fork.
I’m certainly not the first person to think of this. You’ll find similar recipes here and there online, but the Filipinos also have a cool dish called Lechon Kawali. It’s a little different from what I had in mind, as it skips the breading, and the pork belly is cooked until it is somewhat crispy.
I didn’t want the crispy part, so what I did was cooked the first stage like the Lechon Kawali, then finished with breading and lightly deep frying. (Yeah, lightly deep-frying is like lightly killing.) The key is to pre-braise the meat so you’re not actually cooking it in the deep-fryer, rather crisping the breading and re-heating the meat.
It seems a best practice to limit consumption of deep-fried pork belly to maybe three pieces at most per sitting. I guess it’s best think of it as a heavy appetizer, but not part of a meal.
What you’ll need:
- 1 lb boneless pork belly (skin on or off)
- 4 medium cloves garlic, smooshed
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1t black peppercorns
- ¼- to ½-cup soy sauce (more = stronger flavored meat)
- Enough flour for coating the pork belly pieces
- 1–3 eggs, beaten
- Panko or bread crumbs (I recommend panko)
- Kosher salt
- Oil for frying
What to do:
Cook and prep the pork belly. The pork belly I bought was already sliced about an inch thick, but if you had a small slab you could still cook it by this method: put a pot over medium heat and add the pork belly, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf (if using) and soy sauce. Add water to cover the pork belly and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the pork belly is cooked through.
When the meat is done, drain the cooking liquid and let the meat cool. Cool the pork, then cut into pieces about 1 x 2 inches or so. This is where my recipe diverges from that of Lechon Kawali.
Make sure the pork is dried. For each piece: salt it, coat it with flour, dip it in the egg, and coat with the breading. Set aside the pieces until you’re ready to fry.
Heat the oil to about 350 degrees in whatever vessel you use for frying. Carefully add the pieces one at a time (don’t crowd them) and cook until the breading is golden brown (maybe 5-10 minutes).
Drain on a rack or paper towels. Serve hot with whatever dip works for you. We used a traditional Japanese dip for agedashi-dofu (soy sauce, mirin, sake).