Sunday, February 12, 2012

chicharone

My dad loves pork rinds. Consequently, we grew up eating them. I don’t know what the trigger was for my dad to buy them, but occasionally, we’d be inundated with bags of pork rinds, which we would eat for days. I’ve never bought them, but I always eat them when they are around. There seems to be something not quite right about the taste and texture - something SO artificial, it just HAD to be bad for you. At least with potato chips, they would make it look like a slice of a potato! I was never even sure if pork rinds came from a pig at all! But I can only describe them as deep-fried, salty goodness and I would eat them whenever my dad brought out a bag.

Fast forward to last week. Liezel just came back from the Philippines. For the 2.5 weeks she was gone, all I heard about from her and Ed was that she was going to bring back a suitcase full of chicharone (in case you haven’t made the connection, chicharone is the Spanish term for pork rinds). I was intrigued - why were pork rinds from the Philippines better than the bagged crap we get at the grocery store? And why am I even contemplating that question?! They are PORK RINDS for pete’s sake!

But as Liezel and I were catching up one evening last week, she decided it was finally time to break open the chicharone. And Ed was right there, looking like a kid at Christmas. I knew this had to be good because Ed knows his food!

I must admit, the chicharone from the Philippines did not disappoint! It was not only deep-fried, salty goodness but it was melt-in-your-mouth, deep-fried, salty goodness! Liezel said that when she bought the bags of chicharone, they were made fresh the day she bought them. Yes, I said ‘bags’ with an ’s’. She pulled out not only one bag of chicharone, but there were THREE different bags. Who knew there could be so many different varieties of chicharone?!

This is what I learned about chicharone:

- The ‘traditional’ variety (and likely the one we get in our grocery store versions in North America) is called Balat and it is made from pig skin. I might add that even though this was the least tasty of the three, it was still FAR better than any pork rinds that we get over here!
- The one variety called Bilog (which I thought was the best one and it’s Liezel’s favourite too) is made from the lining of the pig’s intestine.
- The last variety is what I would consider the pièce de résistance of chicharone, not because it tastes the best (that was bilog) but because it is the one you HAVE to try if you are going to try chicharone. The last variety is called Laman; and because pork rinds weren’t already bad enough for you, they (and I’m not sure who ‘they’ are) had to not only take the pig’s skin, but they had to include a layer of fat along the inside and then deep-fry the works. I could feel my arteries harden as I bit into every piece of the laman! It was like the Philippino version of stuffed-crust pizza.
So, thanks to Liezel and Ed for sharing your chicharone with me. It is a HUGE deal, considering you can only get them when you go to the Philippines! And just in case the rest of you have never seen a pork rind before - I took pictures!
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Three varieties of chicharone: balat, bilog and laman.
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Same three from the back, so you can see deep-fried salty goodness!
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Up close, in the same order (notice the layer of fat on the inside of the piece of laman on the right!).

3 comments:

Harvey Houdini said...

You can get all 3 versions in Walmart in the US ... And it is true, the Laman is the best. In Indo you can get it without the skin .. just the fat ... yummmmmmmyyyy

Tini said...

My stomach churns reading this but at the same time find myself oddly craving it...

L Lorico said...

It was heavenly! I'm glad you enjoyed eating them. Maybe I'll bring back more bags next time I go to Manila. Ha!