The immortal bagnet

I wish I could claim that I cooked this tantalizing slab of pork with crackling blistered skin but I didn’t. We spent our last hours in Vigan scouring the shops along Calle Crisologo. It was Saturday morning and there seemed to be more food items for sale than during the previous nights. There was bagnet everywhere.

What is bagnet? It is boiled and deep-fried pork belly. Just like lechon kawali, what distinguishes bagnet from other fried pork dishes is the tremendously blistered skin which literally transforms the pork skin into crackling.

Unlike lechon kawali, however, which is deep fried at a very high temperature only until the skin is blistered and the meat is lightly browned, bagnet is fried longer — achieving the same blistered skin but with a well-browned, drier and crispier exterior portion of the meat. When freshly cooked, the well-browned portion of the meat is quite delightful to eat. But, after a few hours, it turns tough and leathery.

It took us about twelve hours to drive from Vigan to Manila (with several stops in La Union in search of accommodations since we really didn’t want to make the twelve-hour drive) and, by the time we got home, the bagnet naturally was no longer in its prime.

The most common way to “refresh” bagnet is to chop and fry the pork in a little oil and sprinkling it with salt and pepper — much like how one would fry day-old lechon. I did that to a portion of the bagnet. But not to the entire slab. I had other ideas — a stir-fry and a soup.