The Simple Pleasures of Lechong Kawali

Lechong kawali. Essentially, this is a rather simple dish involving a slab of pork belly deep-fried till the skin is crackling crisp and the meat deliciously tender. It’s one of those dishes that would make even the most hard-core dieters give up the ghost and give in to pure, glorious gluttony.

This most sinful of comfort foods can be prepared a number of ways. In some places, the pork is simply marinated with salt and pepper and fried directly. In other places, and particularly over at our house, the pork is first poached in water with rock salt, a bay leaf, and whole peppercorns till tender. Afterwards, the tenderized pork belly is immersed whole in a pot of bubbling oil. The pot is covered and left alone till the pork is crisp-fried to perfection.

Lechong kawali is almost always served with sarsa ng lechon (a sweetish liver sauce. If you’re particularly masochistic, you can make it from scratch. However, you can spare yourself the pain as the Mang Tomas brand available in most supermarkets does a dandy job) and achara (sweet pickled green papaya). It is, to me, a magnificent dining experience, what with the silkiness of the tender meat and the salty crunch of the crackling skin.

Pocherong Bisaya: A Richer Version of a Classic Filipino Dish

The late great Philippine food writer Doreen G. Fernandez once said that all cuisines had what she called a “basic boil” – which is to say a dish cooked in boiling water in just the right way. In the Philippines, the basic boil is referred to as nilaga which, in Filipino, is really the past tense verb “boiled”.

However, the contents of a nilaga may change the dish’s name. Depending on the kind of meat used, it may become a nilagang baka (boiled beef) or a nilagang baboy (boiled pork) and here, the meat is cooked with a combination of cabbage, Savoy cabbage, potatoes, and Chinese cabbage. This is, essentially, an Asian take on a New England Boiled Dinner sans the salt-cured beef. The addition of a souring agent such as tamarinds (sampaloc) or bilimbi fruit (kamias) turns it into the classic Pinoy comfort food sinigang. Made with chicken, some julienned ginger, green papaya, and either dahong sili (the leaves of the bird’s-eye chili [siling labuyo] plant) or moringa leaves (malunggay), the dish becomes a tinola or, as it’s called in the northern provinces, a lauya. In Muslim Mindanao, fish takes the place of other proteins and the lemongrass-scented dish is referred to as tiyula.

At our house, the nilagang baka that usually appears at our dinner table is what I refer to as the standard version (cabbage, potatoes, the usual stuff). So it was a great surprise the other night when I came home from work and saw another variation of this classic dish: pocherong Bisaya.

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Theobroma: Ice Cream Goes Divinely Decadent

In a bid not to get too depressed last Valentine’s Day, I decided to spend my morning shopping for curry ingredients and some personal supplies (I recommend the Undertone soap from Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Soap [yes, that’s exactly the name of the stall!] – so soothing with all the lavender and chopped rosemary!). However, despite my valiant efforts not to get too blue, the number of couples hanging out at the mall really got me down. This promptly caused me to flee to the upper floors for a bit of comfort – and I found it at Theobroma.

Theobroma Belgian Chocolates have been at the Festival Supermall for ages. First, they sold the usual artisanal truffles and pralines. Next, they added decadent chocolate cakes to their menu. Their current little niche in the wall on the third floor now boasts a stand from which they still sell truffles, pralines, and the nicest mint or orange-infused chocolate sticks for nibbling I’ve ever tasted. Plus, they also have a few tables where one can sit down and relax over a cup of hot chocolate, maybe a truffle or two, a slice of cake perhaps, or a couple scoops of ice cream.

Yes, ice cream.

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White Chocolate Date Bar

Interesting notion, isn’t it? A white chocolate date bar – something that’s supposed to be both virtuous (because of the whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and dates) and decadent (because of the white chocolate and nuts) all at the same time. I found this particular bit for nibbling at the company cafeteria for a paltry PhP 15.00.
Considering the price, it’s actually quite filling and is chock-full of chopped dates and cashew halves. However, given that white chocolate and Food-for-the-gods bars (which is essentially what this is) aren’t really my thing, let’s just say I’ve given it the go but wouldn’t really have it again.