“litson kawali” or deep fried pork belly, then we had “crispy ulo” of deep fried pork head, quite recently we had crunchy “pritong manok” or deep fried whole chicken and now we have what I think is the ultimate, all-time favorite and most popular Filipino deep fried dish, the great “crispy pata” or deep fried pork ham hock or knuckle. Since the best “crispy pata” uses the front leg of the pig, then this can also be called as deep fried pork hand + hock + trotter in the case of the British cut, or deep fried pork arm + hock in the case of the US cut.
Did you start to salivate? I can’t blame you. “Crispy Pata” is one of the fried foods that could easily stimulate anyone’s taste buds, of most Filipinos of course. By the mere thought of the golden browned, skin blistered, crisp-looking and deeply enticing pork knuckle, I could not avoid but to instantaneously feel that something is titillating my palate. Blame me not either, the dish taste so good and satisfying that it is considered an exceptional dish usually prepared and served during town “fiestas” or festivals, important family occasions, special gatherings and highly significant affairs. With the profuse craving……yes, we are in trouble.
Due to extreme popularity generating high demand, many enterprising Filipinos have made the “crispy pata” readily and quite inexpensively available to everyone in the Philippines. Roadside stores cooking and selling the dish have mushroomed over the last several years offering top restaurant-quality “crispy pata” at rather affordable prices. Enjoying the crunchy dish now is no longer a rare opportunity for as long as you have some extra money to dispose of. And if you still want to spend lesser for the dish, you can always cook it in the comfort of your kitchen. Might prove a little tedious but a lot safer than the ones you will buy from street stores.
In some countries however, like here in Sri Lanka, ham hock or knuckle are the only ones being sold in the market and trotters are probably discarded or used for some other purposes which I do not have any idea as of now. In order for us to cook a sizeable “crispy pata” which could satisfy four hungry gentlemen not really watching their diets, we purchased two pieces of knuckles or ham hocks, about 1.3 kilograms or 3 lbs.
You know how pig lives, how they use their legs and how the legs are exposed to dirt and all, both in the free-ranged and caged farming. Therefore, the meat should be properly washed; skin is vigorously scrapped of blemishes and impurities and rinsed several times until really looking and smelling clean. :-)
Simmer until the knuckles are just tender. The meat should be tender but the skin and fat should still be firmed enough to allow nice blistering during deep frying. Flip the pork pieces half way to ensure even cooking. Add hot water if necessary, to maintain the liquid level, ½ cup at a time.
When the meat has cooled and slightly dried up, it is ready for deep frying. You can also wrap it up and freeze if to be cooked some other time. It will actually yield better result if frozen first prior to frying up. But before cooking, it must be fully thawed and kept at room temperature.
“crispy ulo” and “litson kawali”, just heat enough oil in a large wok or deep frying pan. Deep fry the knuckles until the skin is golden brown and crisp. Let the meat cool on normal room temperature. Afterwards, fry it again to blister the skin real nice and extra crisp.
“letchon” sauce or spiced natural vinegar dip with garlic and chili or “calamansi”/lemon with soy sauce and chili), some chopped tomatoes or “atchara”or pickled green papaya, if you have, and lots of steamed rice. Crunchy and yummy! :-)