Monday, February 22, 2010

Crispy Ulo ng Baboy (Crispy Deep Fried Pork Head)

The Philippines loves pork. While there are Filipinos who do not eat pork due to religious affiliation, medical condition or health consideration, majority of Filipinos eat a lot of pork. True, the Philippines have a strong affection with the tasty meat. In fact, the Southeast Asian agricultural nation with about 90 million people has an annual per capita pork consumption of about 15 kilograms. This does not include the use of offal and processed meat which are also quite popular and therefore have significant figures as well.

With a 3.5 billion USD hog industry, the Philippines swine total inventory in 2008 was estimated at 13.7 million head. With such a great number of swine that will eventually end in the market as pork, you could imagine the requirement for a dish which makes good use of the pork head meat; which is rather considered a lesser sought-after pork part, has little usage in both the Filipino and International cuisines and not widely eaten by the majority of population.

Taking advantage of the lesser demand and therefore abundance in the market which results to a relatively cheap price, creating a dish that will make use of pork head has become a challenge to some enterprising Filipinos. Aside from the “Lechon sa Hurno”, “Dinuguan” and “Sisig Pampanga” which I all prepared using pork head, the “Crispy Ulo ng Baboy” or simply “Crispy Ulo”, which is basically a pork head boiled until tender and then deep fried until crispy, was created sometime ago and became a hit to the masses.

It is actually a variation of the popular Filipino dish “Crispy Pata” or crispy deep fried pork hock or hind. Likewise, the dish is also similar to “Litson Kawali” or crispy deep fried pork belly which I recently posted here. It can be considered as quite sinful, loaded with calories and fat but utterly delicious. Its unique taste can make one forget about diet. True. :-)

To re-create the dish which now lined up in the roadside stores and kiosk of Manila and key cities of the Philippines, we shall need half a head of pork or about 3 kilograms like the one I used in roasting “Lechon Sa Hurno”. The whole meat should be thoroughly and meticulously cleaned especially the snout part. Then, cut it into two large pieces for easy handling and cooking.

To infuse flavor and enhance the taste of the meat while boiling to fork tender, we need 8 gloves garlic, peeled and smashed, 2 medium onions, quartered, 1 large carrot, peeled and quartered, 1 pc celery roots (or 2 stalks celery), cleaned, 1 pc leek, cut to 2-inch lengths, 2 pcs bay leaves, 1 tbsp salt or to taste, 1 tbsp whole pepper and enough water or better yet beef broth to cover.

Place the pork head in a large, heavy casserole and cover with enough water or beef broth, if you have. Let the liquid boil on high heat. Scoop out the scum that will rise during the initial boiling stage. This is quite important. When the broth is cleared of scum, adjust the heat to low and add all the ingredients mentioned above and continue simmering on low heat.

Simmer until the pork is just tender. The meat should be tender but the skin and fat should still be firmed enough to allow nice blistering when deep frying. Flip the pork head pieces half way to ensure even cooking. This will take about 1 ½ hours to 2 hours. Add some water if necessary, to maintain the level, 1 cup at a time, hot if possible.

When the meat is fork tender remove it from the broth, drain and allow cooling. Filter the broth and set aside. We are using pork head so expect the broth to contain a lot of oil on the surface. Scoop out the oil that floats and set aside for later use, only if you like. If you are appalled by animal fat, you can discard it. I don’t.

When the meat has cooled and slightly dried up, wrap and freeze it. It will yield better result if frozen first before frying up. But before frying, it must be thawed and kept at room temperature. You can also cut it into several smaller slabs for easy frying.

To fry, like “Litson Kawali”, just heat enough oil in a large “kawali” or deep frying pan. Deep fry the pork head slabs in batches until the skin is golden brown and crispy. Let the meat cool on normal room temperature. Afterwards, fry it again to blister the skin real nice and extra crisp. Observe extra care and proper precautions during deep frying. The large amount of oil on a very high temperature is not something we should messed with. Cook until you have this:

To serve, chop the crispy meat into bite sizes. A quick chopping action of a heavy sharp knife is all that is needed to avoid crushing the crispy skin. Prepare your steamed rice and favorite dipping sauce. I served this with spiced natural vinegar dip with garlic, chili, salt, pepper and small amount of sugar. So good! :-)

As an alternative, you can use the crispy pork head along with some other ingredients to prepare another wonderful dish called “Sisig Pampanga” with the recipe posted here. I made some and serve it on a sizzling plate with an egg.

There it is! “Crispy Ulo” which you can enjoy in two-ways. Truly delicious! c“,)

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