MANILA, Philippines – I had the pleasure of hosting a dessert cooking show called “True Confections” with Chef Aileen Anastacio a few years ago. If that doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure her delicious creations at Goodies N’ Sweets will (Think tiramisu! Banoffee pie!).
Because of the show and her shop (which also serves savory items, by the way), many people probably associate her with dessert only, but Chef Aileen actually rocks at both sweet and savory dishes. I found that out pretty early on from mooching off the homemade baon she brought to the set. She is also a coffee fiend.
Chef Aileen, along with our other co-host Chef Jackie Ang-Po, were instrumental in fostering my love for baking and I feel so grateful to have been guided by them inside and outside of the set. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve called them to ask some random question about what was baking in my oven.
The torch of our month-long Philippine Independence celebration is passed along to her this week and she’s sharing with us her version of lechon kawali.
Very few dishes are as indulgent as lechon kawali. I mean, deep fried pork belly? It’s almost homicidal.
It’s also very tasty and it’s no wonder that it’s a Filipino favorite! Still, I’m relieved that Chef Aileen’s version includes plant life.
Chef Aileen’s Kangkong Bagoong With Lechon Kawali serves 3-4. You’ll need:
- 500 g pork liempo, sliced into 1-inch strips
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 t black peppercorns
- 2 T rock salt
- 4 cups water
- Oil for frying
For the kangkong:
- 2 tali, kangkong
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 2 T onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T shrimp paste or to taste
- 1 T soy sauce or to taste
- 1 t chili oil (optional)
1. Cut the pork belly into serving pieces and combine with garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt and water in a pan.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 35-45 minutes or until skin is tender. I opted to simmer the strips whole and slice later.
2. Drain, cool and air dry for about an hour. A cookie rack comes in very handy in this process.
3. When done air drying, deep-fry the liempo strips (or pieces) in batches until golden brown and blisters appear on the skin. I gotta be honest: deep-frying isn’t my favorite thing to do in the kitchen.
In this case, where fat is fried in fat, it also scared the bejeezus out of me. Make sure to arm yourself with a pair of tongs, oven mitts and keep the lid on! Set aside.
4. Wash the kangkong very well in several changes of cold water, and drain. Slice coarsely. Heat a pan on high and add oil (I used some of the oil used in deep-frying the liempo).
Sautee the onion until fragrant then add garlic, shrimp paste and chili oil if using.
Check out the bagoong I used — this is a deliciously spicy and coconut-y Bicol Express bagoong with shredded chicken. I got this at The Manila Collectible Co., a newly-opened shop full of indigenous and artisanal Filipino goods.
I’ve been eating it with rice and a drizzle of sesame oil. It is downright dangerous!
5. Add kangkong into the pan and stir-fry until slightly wilted. Season with soy sauce to taste.
6. To serve, place the kangkong on a plate to make a bed and top with sliced pieces of fried liempo. I sliced mine into bite-sized strips to make a mountain on top of said kang kong bed.
Slicing them into strips like this also allowed me to take out the bones in my liempo.
My liempo was on the thin side and I was concerned that they would turn hard and tough after frying. Thankfully, it remained pretty tender inside. This would also be great if made with a slab of pork belly and sliced to serve.
The pairing of pork and shrimp paste is a popular one and for good reason. Add to that the crunch of kangkong and deep-fried pork belly and you have a winner!
Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe, Chef Aileen. A pork belly bump to you! – Rappler.com
Chef Aileen Anastacio is a food critic, columnist and caterer. She is also the president and chef of Goodies N’ Sweets. Her cookbooks “Homemade For The Holidays,” “Home Café” and “The Flavored Cup” are available in leading bookstores.
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Sam Oh is a professional TV and events host, radio jock, and foodie wannabe. Catch her on radio at 99.5 PlayFM, Monday to Friday, 6am-10am in “The Playground” with Tim Yap and Nikko. She is also a food blogger at Sam Likes It Hot. If you have questions or recipe requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading SAM LIKES IT HOT.