Ridiculously Crispy Pork Belly Lechon

December 15, 2015

Christmas is just around the corner and what better way to celebrate than with crispy, fatty, tasty, mouthwatering lechon... unless you are not home in the Philippines for the holidays and in foreign land where authentic litson is nowhere to be found. In that case, SUPER crispy pork belly litson is the next best thing, which is exactly what we have on the blog today. YEY!

And when I say SUPER crispy, I really, truly mean it from the bottom of my homesick heart. This roasted pork belly lechon's skin is INSANE - it's almost the same consistency as chicharon. Just look at that beautiful piece of crispy skin! I mean, really, just look at that! That is what pork dreams are made of. And if you are like me who prefers flavorful and fragrant lechon, then this is the recipe for you. The best thing is that anybody can cook this - even I was able to make this (I used to burn sunny-side-up eggs, seriously).

Before we get into the details of this recipe, let me tell you why I love it so much. This smells sooo good and all the aromatics really perfume and flavor the meat, which reminds me of lechon from my childhood. I grew up in Tacloban City, Leyte where the lechon are pretty awesome (litson de leche [roasted suckling pig] from Tanauan are even better)! The lechon are filled with lots of lemongrass and other stuff I can't quite distinguish because they're all smooshed in. The ribs and skin (DUH) are my favorite.

Just thinking about lechon from home makes my mouth water. What puts it over the edge is the sawsawan (dipping sauce) - white vinegar with some sliced red onions, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. No, we do not do Mang Tomas (sweet liver sauce) where I'm from. The acidity from the vinegar cuts through the richness and fat, and the onions and garlic reinforce the flavors already in the lechon. Yummyyyyy! When we were kids, every time we had a little extra in the finance department, Papa would buy lechon from the market for Sunday lunch. Ahhh, memories.

Anyway, back to the recipe at hand. Oh wait, let's take another minute to admire that crackly pork skin... If I had to choose between abs and this, lechon would always win, hands down! I know that's not a very healthy thing to say but come on, you don't eat lechon every single day.

OK, OK, back to the recipe. For real.

The original recipe calls for a 1.5-kilogram slab of pork belly, which we could not find here (we live in the South Bay, CA) so I modified the recipe and use two (approximately) 1.5-pound slabs of pork belly instead, about 8x8 inches per slab. We get our pork belly from Ranch 99. We prep both pork bellies at the same time but cook them one at a time because honestly that is the only way we can stop ourselves from eating everything all at once. Self-control goes out the door where this lechon is concerned.

If you have any leftovers (what?), I assure you that the skin will stay crispy the next day. I usually set some of the lechon aside for M's baon (lunch) the next day. I just cover it with foil and place it on the counter at room temp. The next day, you can warm it up in the oven (375F for about 10 minutes) and your lechon will be as good as new.

For me, lechon beats ham any time of the year so I hope you try this version. With all of that said, here is the recipe and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! Happy holidays!

Ridiculously Crispy Pork Belly Lechon Print Recipe
Recipe adapted from Kusina Master Recipes, makes 2 small roasted pork bellies, each good for 2-4 people, depending on how much lechon you eat
  • 2 pieces of small pork belly slabs, skin on (approx 1.5lbs per slab)
  • 2 large red onions, chopped (save a few bits for the dipping sauce)
  • 1 large whole garlic bulb, peeled and chopped (bulb, not clove)
  • ½ cup oregano leaves, chopped
  • 4 lemongrass stalks
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus more for the rub
  • 2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
For the dipping sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cloves smashed garlic
  • a few slices of red onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the meat
  1. Smash the lemongrass stalks really good until you can smell it! You can use a pestle for this or the back of a knife (opposite side of the sharp blade).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all the aromatics (onions, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice) and mix well. Lightly mash everything together with the back of a spoon.
  3. With the skin side down, rub the mixture all over the meat.
  4. Take two lemongrass stalks for each pork belly. Fold the lemongrass to approximately the same length as your pork belly and place in the center of the meat.
  5. Roll the slab around the lemongrass, carefully invert the meat and secure it with butcher’s twine. Here's a nifty little tutorial on how to do the tying (I wish I saw this earlier). It’s okay if there are a few pieces of aromatics that fall off, you can place them back in later.
  6. Rub coarse salt all over the meat, including the skin. The salt will draw out any excess moisture from the skin so it comes out nice and crispy.
  7. With a paring knife or a sterilized safety pin, poke the skin of the meat. Try not to pierce through to the fat layer, stay on the skin layer. Take your time doing this. It will ensure a nice crackling. (Hello chicharon!)
  8. Transfer it to a roasting pan fitted with a rack and the bottom lined with foil. If, like me, you do not have a roasting pan, you can use a normal baking pan lined with foil, topped with a wire rack. Place the meat on the wire rack.
  9. Place it in the refrigerator, uncovered, to chill overnight or until ready to roast. This will dry the skin, which helps the crackling form. Don't keep it in the fridge for more than 5 days though!
Roast the pork belly
  1. You can roast both pork bellies at the same time or one at a time, your choice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 320F. Just to be sure, pat the skin of the pork dry with a paper towel. You can cover the sides of the pork with foil to avoid blackened edges but try to keep the skin bare.
  3. Roast the pork for 3 hours and 30 minutes.
  4. Afterwards, increase the temperature to 425F and allow the pork’s crackling to form. This will take another 30 minutes.
  5. While the pork roasts, make the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients. You can even throw a chili in there just for good measure. Again, this is optional but I highly recommend it!
  6. When the meat is done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy with loads of white rice! That pork skin will be so damn crispy, pinky swear.

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