A riff on a classic tokwa’t baboy… usually made with boiled pork and odd pig parts like ears, fried tofu and a soy vinaigrette. I was never a huge fan of this side dish, which Mrs. MM absolutely adores paired with pancit palabok for a hearty merienda cena. I didn’t dislike it, just didn’t go out of my way to look for it. More often than not, the dressing was sitting at the bottom of the bowl, the pork was lacking in flavor, and the tofu was bland and spongy. Surely, I thought, there must be a way to jazz this up. :)
My first issue with restaurant versions of this dish is that the tokwa blocks were fried in large pieces, and THEN cut into smaller cubes. The result is a fried texture to some edges and creamy pale uncooked look to other sides of each cube. I wanted a fried texture on all sides of each cube, so we pre-sliced the tokwa and fried the little cubes. The result was visually appealing, but I think the tokwa may have been a bit overcooked, and less spongy within. So maybe there’s a reason to frying it in large blocks. But we kept going…
I made a dressing with chinese rice vinegar (much less jarring than say the datu puti used in many restaurants), some kikkoman soy sauce, sliced shallots, slivered ginger and a touch of brown sugar. I also chopped one bird’s eye chili (siling labuyo) and added that to the dressing. Taste the dressing and understand you want it FLAVORFUL as the tofu is plentiful and bland.
To the dressing, I added the fried tofu, some chopped up lechon (we used frozen that was warmed up) and tossed. Keep tossing until the dressing seems almost nearly absorbed by the meat and the fried tofu. Taste and season with some salt and pepper if required. Make some additional dressing if necessary, but be careful NOT to overdress the dish. Serve at room temperature. For this dish, I fried up some lechon skin as a garnish, and sprinkled the dish with chopped chicharon and some spring onions.
This was extremely delicious, a really pleasant surprise. The pork, roasted rather than boiled had more flavor, and absorbed the dressing nicely. If I had had access, I would have chopped up a lechon ear to be even closer in spirit to the original dish. The tokwa absorbed the dressing as well and the balance of texture and flavor was very appetizing. Ate several spoonfuls of this along with lots of rice! One criticism that I would have for the dish is that it is a bit tan monochromatic… maybe some cilantro leaves would liven this up color and flavorwise… If you are a fan of tokwa’t baboy, I highly recommend this “jazzed up” version. :)