I’d like to share one of my favourite roast recipe’s with you, my readers, “Lechon Pork Belly” Lechon is, I believe the national dish of the Philippines and also Puerto Rico but originated in Spain(the Spanish ruled the Philippines from 1521 until 1898-Wikipedia). It’s popularity is widespread in such countries as the Philippines, Cuba and even North Sulawesi in Indonesia. Lechon typically is a whole suckling pig, seasoned and spit roasted until cooked to perfection.
I had a Filipino girlfriend a while back and so I took an interest in the cuisine and while on holidays there got to eat a lot of Pork, my favourite meat lol. Crispy Pata and pork Sisig were amongst my most favoured dishes with every club we visited i had to have a plate of Pork Sisig. Absolutely delicious!
Back in Melbourne and I wanted to try and make something from the Philippines so after a little research I chose the Lechon Pork Belly. I went with Pork belly as I don’t have a need or the space to warrant having a whole pig. I searched the internet for recipes and found one great website from where i based my dish, foodipino . I also watched a few YouTube videos on the cooking process and once I was happy and confident I set about having a go at making Lechon Pork belly. I’ve made it a few times now and it’s become a part of our Christmas lunch or dinner. Christmas dinner roast meats may vary from year to year from Turkey to Chicken to ham and so on but the Lechon Pork Belly is a must every year, it’s always requested.
So I’ll share with you how I make it, my version, which was faultless according to my then filipino girlfriend. Hey, if a filipino says it’s good I must be doing something right….yes?
Starting with the Pork belly of course, this year I headed to the butcher’s to have a piece cut for me as most shelf Pork belly is too small for what I want and most butchers cut or score the skin which i didn’t want. Buying it like this usually means having to but it with the ribs still intact but no worries, but no worries, extra meals for me(mmmm marinated pork ribs……yum!).
Garlic(cloves or minced, I prefer minced myself)
Lemongrass, 2 or 3 sticks
Herbs. I use Rosemary or Oregano. Whatever takes your fancy
Cooking Twine/Butchers Twine
Starting with the pork I pat the skin dry and then flip it over to start working on the insides. I don’t worry about patting the meat side dry, I leave it moist. I’ll then cut it in a crosshatch pattern being careful to not cut it right through to the skin. Once done I spread a couple of spoonfuls of minced garlic over the meat before rubbing it into the cuts followed by a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. A good dose of the herbs follows that. With the lemongrass I don’t cut it up, I just basically smash with the blade of the knife to release the fragrant smell and juice. The leafy end of the lemongrass is easy to split open with your fingers so you can tie all the lemongrass together or fold it back into the meat. Then once that’s all done it’s time to roll it and tie it up. Trying to hold the meat rolled and tie it by yourself can be difficult so what I do is petty much just tie a loop in the twine, slip it over the end of the Pork and pull it tight. From there it’s just a matter of wrapping the twine around the Pork several times and then tying it off at the end.
It’s best to prepare this dish the day before cooking it so once you’ve made the roll, place it on a dish and leave it in the fridge overnight so the skin dries out a little more.
Now, having watched a multitude of videos etc on making this dish there is a lot of variations by all the different chef’s. Some will brine the meat before starting to add flavour and moisture to the meat and some will rub the skin with salt or oil or even fish oil. I have found with my recipe and cooking method the meat is plenty moist and tender when it’s cooked.
Christmas day and it’s time to cook before all the kids arrive. Place the Pork on a roasting rack on top of a deep pan, mines about 50mm deep(2″) and cover the whole lot with foil. Place it it the centre of the oven and fill the bottom of the pan with boiling water. Cook your Pork on about 190-200c(375f) for about 2 hours covered. Finally remove the foil and cook it for another hour or until the skin has gone nice and crispy. Remove it from the oven, pull out the lemongrass and cut off the twine before cutting it into pieces and serving. The meat will simply fall apart when you’re cutting it up which is what you want. Tender and very moist with all the flavours from the herbs inside and that crunchy skin.
There is a traditional style sauce that you can make to accompany your Pork but as I am the only one who will use it, it becomes a waste so i don’t bother. The kids like to slather everything in gravy anyway hehehe.
Well I hope you enjoyed this first food post from chef Wookie hehehe. I’m not a gourmet chef but I like to try different things and I hope to share a lot more of them with you