As a good “paisa”, Colombian fried pork belly or “chicharrón” was one of my dad’s favorite things to eat. He loved it so much that he didn’t care if it was crunchy or chewy, as long as it came fried and was served with a portion of Colombian beans, rice and arepa. I, however, am more demanding and only like it if it’s meaty and the skin is as crunchy as possible.
People in Colombia eat so much chicharrón that it is served at any time of day, for breakfast in the morning with an arepa and hot chocolate, or for lunch and dinner as a side dish. Some people like to deep fry it to cook it faster but I really don’t like making it this way because it ends up with more grease than it already has and the meat ends up shrinking, leaving you mostly with the pork belly fat.
The technique we’re going to be using for this recipe is really simple and we’ll be using baking soda to make sure it comes out crunchy. Like I say in the video, some people rub it only on the skin, then they rinse it completely before cooking. However, I personally like to rub it all over the pork belly, skin and meat, and I also don’t rinse it before cooking because I have noticed that this helps it come out really crunchy. So, I invite you to try both ways to see if you notice any difference.
- 1½ lb pork belly cut into about 1 inch (2.54 cm) wide strips
- ½-1 tsp baking soda (It should be done with a measuring teaspoon)
- 2 cups (480 ml) water (More if needed)
- Salt to taste
- Rinse and pat dry the pork belly strips. Rub the skin and/or meat with the baking soda. Place in a medium container, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Then, if you prefer, you can rinse it and pat dry it.
- Divide the pork belly into desired portions. Then, make the "legs" or "teeth" by making ½ inch (1.27 cm) incisions with a sharp knife. Make sure to stop right before you cut the fat and skin.
- Fill a shallow pan (preferably non-stick) with enough water to cover the pork belly. Season with a little bit salt, add the meat, cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Once it's boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cook until the water evaporates. About 1½ hour.
- Once the water evaporates, raise the heat to medium and cook pork belly in its own rendered grease until they're golden brown on all sides. About 15-20 minutes. **The grease will start popping, so be careful not to burn yourself!
- Remove the pork belly pieces from the pan. Drain on paper towels and season with salt to taste before serving.