It’s not like I don’t have a chicharon entry in this blog. I do. An old one with with a lousy photo taken with a lousy cam phone. Last Sunday, though, despite plans to watch Die Hard 4 that went awry because the queues were just impossible, I took time out to take photos of the various kinds of chicharon from the same stall in front of the supermarket at Robinson’s Metro East. This time, I used a real camera — my husband’s.
See, it’s difficult to talk about the different kinds of chicharon without good illustrations. Besides, it’s kinda nice to drool over food photos.
Chicharon means “crackling” traditionally eaten as a finger food with a dipping sauce made of vinegar, salt, chopped onions, garlic and chili peppers. Older generations knew it as pork cracklings (chicharong baboy) probably because the oldest and most common variety of chicharon is the kind made with pork rind. The rind is boiled in salted water until tender, dried under the sun then deep fried until puffy and crisp.
But even chicharong baboy has sub-varieties. Some are made with pork rind only. Others — and this is the kind I really love — has a layer of fat underneath the rind. This layer of fat turns puffy and crisp too during deep frying.
Not as widely available but more highly-prized than the best cooked chicharong baboy is the chicharong bulaklak (below).
While you can get so much rind and fat from a single hog, you’ll get only one piece of omentum. Contrary to some claims, chicharon bulaklak is NOT made from pork intestines but from the omentum. Actually, there is a greater omentum (the fatty sac covering the small intestines) and lesser omentum (the organ that connects the stomach to the liver) and which one becomes chicharon bulaklak is something I still have to discover.
I used to be able to buy thoroughly cleaned omentum neatly packed in styrofoam trays from Robinson’s Supermarket but I haven’t cooked chicharon bulaklak at home in years. The cooking part is simple; it is finding good quality — and clean — omentum that is the bigger challenge.
Another popular variety of pork chicharon is the chicharon bituka (below). Bituka means intestines and, ergo, chicharon bituka should not be confused with chicharon bulaklak. The latter, for me, is the gastronomic experience to die for — figuratively, of course.
Both the large and small intestines can be cooked as chicharon (the small ones are also known as isaw). Personally, I prefer the large intestines because they can be cleaned thoroughly. Just fit the end of the intestine onto the faucet spout and let the water run through the length of the intestine until it runs clear. This is how I clean cow’s intestines too for kare-kare.
While crisp chicken skin has always been a “must” for good fried chicken, selling them separately as chicharon is a relatively new phenomenon. Chicharong balat ng manok (above) is very popular today.
The only kind of chicharon I haven’t tried (and probably never will) is the kind made with chicken intestines (below). I just don’t see how they can be flushed with running water to get rid of everything inside them.
Nevertheless, probably because they are much cheaper, chicharong bituka ng manok have become popular too. In fact, chicken intestines even come in grilled barbecue form.
So, we come to the end of this high-cholesterol entry. The fashionably health-conscious stay away from chicharon in any form but I don’t believe in deprivation. I do eat chicharon but not everyday. Once every two or three months is more like it.