In most of Latin America, chicharrónes are crispy pieces of pork belly and/or skin that have been slowly fried in their own rendered fat. The belly is the cut of meat from which bacon is made, which helps explain why chicharrónes are so absolutely delicious. The only downside about chicharrónes is that it does take patience to get to enjoy these crunchy treats, but it is well worth the wait to cook them up fresh at home! In Colombia these are often served as part of a full meal known as bandeja paisa: with rice, beans, shredded meat, sausage, eggs, plantains, avocado and small arepas.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1½ lb (680 g) fresh pork belly, cut into strips 4” to 6” (10 to 15 cm) long and 1” (2.5 cm) wide
- 1 tsp (5 g) baking soda
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- The day before cooking, coat the belly with the baking soda and place it in a covered dish in the refrigerator. This helps improve the rate of browning as the belly fries, yielding a crispy yet tender final product.
- Rinse off the baking soda and pat the meat dry. Make crosswise cuts in the meaty side of each strip about every 2 inches (5 cm), being careful not to cut through the fatty layer just below the skin. The cuts allow for even cooking.
- In a large pot, combine 2 cups (475 ml) of water and the belly strips and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes. Very carefully (the fat that is rendering out will be splattering) remove the lid and turn each piece of pork belly over. Continue to cook until all of the water has evaporated, about 1 hour more.
- Increase the heat to medium and allow the strips to fry in the rendered fat until they are golden brown on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes more.
- Remove the crispy pieces from the pan and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lime wedges.