Once you have boiled and dried/refrigerated the pork liempo, see Part I here, then the question is, what do you want next, Lechon Kawali or Bagnet? This is how I understand the difference, and please, please, any Ilocanos out there, correct me if I am wrong, as I can definitely be wrong on this… If you want Lechon Kawali, you literally heat up oil in a kawali (or wok, pan, pot) and when the oil is hot, add the pre-boiled pork (remove from the fridge an hour before you are going to cook it to warm it up to room temperature) and hope you don’t get hit by any of the fat splattering like mini-missiles of pain. Cook this at high heat for say 12-15 minutes until the skin is crisp and it is a nice golden honey color. It should be removed from the fat, allowed to rest for a few minutes and chopped up into bite sized pieces. Essentially, once chopped up, you should have crispy bits of skin and caramelized bits of meat/fat/skin AND a more juicy fatty pork in the interior of the hunk of pork. This is served with either some lechon sauce or any combination of sawsawans that your heart desires.
The key here is the beautiful “blistering” of the pork fat that borders on the miraculous as the pale unappetizing chilled lardy mass is transformed into a beautifully burnished, crisp and totally appetizing result just minutes later. While this is almost certainly one of the worst culprits for clogged human arteries, it is almost certainly one of the yummiest ways to achieve them. I like my lechon kawali served with homemade acharra on the side and LOTS and LOTS of rice please…
Now if you want Bagnet instead, you take the same pork and have it warm up on the kitchen counter, then you fry it completely submerged in hot fat but at a low heat, with the fat just barely gurgling around the meat. You fry this mass for a good 45-60 minutes until it is a gorageous deep caramel color (but not burned), and oddly, the splattering has gone down to a minimum. I take this latter characteristic to mean there is little moisture left and essentially what you have is a big fat meaty chicharon of sorts. I did my version in a deep fryer (with the cover) and it was a total breeze; the results in the photos speak for themselves…
BUT, I must relate that these little Bagnets cost me about PHP4,000 to make, almost more than the price of Kobe Beef… why? Becuase the (110V) heat requirements of the deep fryer burned out two adapters and fried an expensive AVR (Automatic Voltage Regulator)!!! Yikes! I thought I was going to burn down the house!!! There is an old Chinese tale that goes something like this: a man left his pig in a house in China and the house caught fire and the next day he returned to shift through the remnants and he found the first roasted pig ever… Can you imagine if the headlines on Cooking Daily screamed “Marketman burns down the house with his Bagnet experiments!!!”???
Hahaha. I can laugh about it now. But I think I need an electrician to change my plug so that I won’t need an adaptor to get it into the wall socket. But back to the bagnet. Once it has deep-fried for an hour or so, take it out and let it cool. This is the form in which most folks most commonly buy the bagnet at Ilocos markets or occasionally, Manila specialty food vendors. I just saw some hours ago at a trade fair and they didn’t look half as good as the ones freshly cooked in these photos here. And they weren’t even crisp anymore as they had been driven down from Ilocos in chilled coolers. In this state, the bagnet will apparently keep roughly 3-4 weeks in your refrigerator, or longer in your freezer.
To serve your bagnet, heat up the oil YET AGAIN, and chop your bagnet into smaller bite-sized pieces and re-fry them for a few minutes to crisp them up. There are those that would argue that the result is utterly sublime… I certainly would if it were freshly made and freshly fried and in the first photo up top. It was excellent. But there are detractors who would argue that it CAN taste a little stale and dry, almost like tasteless fried cardboard or something… and I can also buy that argument if the bagnet is too old and poorly fried, etc. We tasted bagnet all over Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte and the samples ranged from delicious to forgetable, just in case you wondered if there was a lot of variation. In Ilocos, htis is served with a side dish of KBL (Kamatis, Bagoong, Lasona or chopped tomatoes, fish sauce and onions). So what do you guys prefer? The one fry version with a little bit of juiciness in Lechon Kawali, or the double fried and crisper version better known as Bagnet? Oh and one last thing, the pork cooked with spices BEAT OUT the just salted version by a significant margin… Enjoy the photos, and I have checked myself into the Heart Center for artery de-clogging after 3 kilos of homemade lechon kawali and bagnet… I could but I won’t make this for this year’s Christmas giveaways… :)