Lechon Kawali with a Kamias Tomato Relish…


I have always loved lechon kawali, but increasingly find several versions that are either bland and tasteless, overly dry or just way too reliant on the bottled sauces (like sweet liver sauce) that often accompany it. Alternatively, some restaurants seem to soak their meat in an MSG solution that gives it more flavor, but sends you into a post lunch siesta for a couple of hours. A couple of weeks ago, just as the cook was about to deep fry large slices of pork belly for a homemade version of lechon kawali, I decided to make a “relish” or “salsa” of sorts to serve with the pork.


My mom used to make a similar salsa, though it was cooked until all the ingredients were almost a mush. I wanted a fresher version, and decided to experiment. Into a hot pan with some lard I sautéed some thinly sliced red onions, then quickly added some chopped tomatoes, several tablespoons of spicy bagoong (you can use mild if you like) and several fresh kamias or iba fruit, also chopped up. Season with some freshly ground black pepper. Toss for a few seconds and when all the ingredients are mixed, take it immediately off the flames and transfer to a serving dish/bowl. The idea is to just slightly heat everything up, not to turn the salsa into a cooked dish. Serve with the lechon kawali. The verdict? SLAM DUNK! I can’t believe I haven’t done this for decades. The pungent, salty, sour, somewhat soft condiment was the perfect partner to the rich, crunchy exterior and moist interior of the deep-fried pork. So much better than bottled sauces. I particularly like the sharp hit of sour from the kamias, and obviously this stirred up some childhood memories… We wiped out the first batch of salsa in minutes, and the crew were so smitten they immediately cooked up a second, much larger batch with some of the fatty bits of the already eaten lechon kawali. They also added more bagoong, and the resulting salsa was eaten not only with pork, but just plain and mixed in with their rice! :)

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23 Responses

  1. What your mom cooked maybe similar to what we call “sarciado” either with fried pork, fried fish or hard boiled eggs! But I will try your interesting version with Kamias and bagoong added.

  2. On bucket list – Cebu, Zubuchon, anything porkie! and get to meet MM and crew!!

  3. Missing home! Asa pa to find kamias where I live. And I have to special order liempo at the butcher’s if I want it the way we have it cut in the Phils. This reminds me of how we used to mince kamias from our tree them mix it with patis as our seasoning for pancit palabok. Yum!

  4. just looking at the picture makes me drool and want deep fried liempo and salsa for dinner tonight…i can taste the liempo already – crunchy, fatty countered with the salsa – fresh, sour, spicy (if chilies are included)…yummy!!!

  5. Too bad kamias is not easily available in supermarkets! I have to go to the wet market whenever I crave for sinaing na gg using kamias…

    i wonder if it is possible to freeze kamias for later use…

  6. Zena…one of the reasons why I plant tomatillo. Tomatillos make an excellent sub. as well as green tomatoes. I make something similar, then can them. Kumg malapit ka Lang, I will add you to my growing list.

  7. oh…minus the bagoong for some of my neighbours are not too keen on smelling our sautéed alamang! I just add the Chinese Bull’s brand barbecue sauce on the side or a little tupperware for my Asian kapitbahays and for our household.

    MM…there is a famous hole in the wall joint featured of Food Network shows that makes cubed lechon kawali as a filling for their po’ boy sandwich. it is one of their best sellers!

  8. My goodness, that looks like heaven on a plate! Why must you do this to your readers, MM? (That is, to your readers who do not have ready access to kamias. :-)
    So now I’m thinking I can use balimbing which I can find in grocery stores even here in the American south, and maybe heighten the tartness with a squeeze or two of lemon. In any event, thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Lol, my saliva glands went into overdrive as I read this. I can just imagine the taste!

  10. Thanks for sharing this MM. Brought back childhood memories too. My grandma used to make Bicol Express using kamias. She’d just put coconut milk, bagoong, luya, sili, bagoong alamang and onions in a pan, and when it starts to boil, add sliced kamias and pork, let simmer until a coco milk turns oily. Yummy with lots of rice!

  11. Sorry MM, this is OT. In the poll, did you mean Ferran Adria of El Bulli?

    PS just ignore me if there is indeed a famous chef named Adrian Feria :-)

  12. chrisb, hahaha, egads, I must be a culinary dyslexic. My apologies, will correct now. Or maybe the autospellcheck on wordpress messed it up… :)

  13. MM, I have not had raw kamias in decades! I suppose as a major ingredient in your Zubuchon menu, you get them supplied to your restaurant.

    Although back in the 80’s and 90’s, our backyard neighbor had a tree whose branches very well crossed over to our side of the fence and they were always chock-full of these tart fruits. We’d grab them by the handful, even casting out the very tiny ones or those that have turned soft, wash them and eat with salt or bagoong isda. Instant crunchy and sour side dish!

    Living abroad, I miss these free and simple treats.

  14. Thanks for this MM :) We have a kamias tree at home and I now have another dish for the fruit

  15. To MP above regarding if fresh kamias can be frozen. I live in Sydney and the only whole kamias I have access to are the frozen ones. So, yes, they can be frozen.

  16. Thanks Marni. I think kamias is easy find during summer so i will trek to the wet market soon and hoard for freezing. They’re also very, very good with shrimps and gata!!M

  17. MP, they do freeze but their cell walls will burst, get mushy on defrosting and be a slightly less vibrant pale olivish color. But they will still taste like iba/kamias… we sometimes freeze them for our shakes (when they are a scarce ingredient), but prefer it when we use fresh…

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