Filipino food is one of Asia’s great hidden secrets. We ‘go out’ for a Thai green chicken curry, ‘slurp’ a Vietnamese pho and ‘murder’ a Chinese. Yet what about the food of the Philippines, a country that looks both east and west (thanks to over half a century of occupation by the Spanish and then Americans)? It’s not as vivid and spicy as most Thai food, nor as delicate as Vietnamese. Vinegar is of huge importance, and many dishes tend towards the sweet. But I had a blast in Manila, an underloved and overlooked city. Sure, it ain’t no looker. Dirty, chaotic and smog-filled. But it’s got heart and soul and charm. This is a classic booze dish, and should use the whole of a pig’s head. But I’ve adapted it to use pork belly. It’s all about the contrast of textures: crisp, soft and crunchy. The citrus juice hews through the fat, the chillies add heat. It’s one of the world’s great dishes, and I ate endless versions. If you have a good butcher, ask him for a pig’s head. Scorch off the hairs, then poach and debone so you’re left with the ears, snout and all that wonderful cheek meat. I’ve adapted this recipe from one in Kulinarya (2008), a great guide to Philippine cuisine.
Put the pork belly (or head meat), pineapple juice, salt and peppercorns in a stockpot with
Heat a barbecue so the coals are glowing white-hot.
After 1 hour cooking, add the chicken livers to the pork and cook for a further 15 minutes, until the meat is fork-tender. Remove the pork and chicken livers from the pot and discard the liquid. Grill the pork over the hot charcoal, or fry over a high heat in a heavy-based pan, until the skin is brown and crisp.
Chop the chicken livers into small cubes, mix with the pork and place in a bowl. Mix in the onions, lime juice, vinegar and chillies. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat a cast-iron griddle pan until white hot, then add the meat mixture. Cook for 3–5 minutes. This is the third cooking stage, where the meat becomes browner and crunchier still.
Serve sizzling hot, with cold beer, and extra chillies and lime wedges on the side.
© 2013 All rights reserved. Published by Pavilion.