Think laing but not as mushy. Instead of taro leaves, there’s kai-lan and, instead of pork pieces so soft that they melt in the mouth, there are chunks of lechon kawali with the crackling-like rinds still crisp, contrasting vividly with the creaminess of the sauce. There’s heat from the chilis that blend perfectly with the natural sweetness of the coconut milk. What’s not to love?
And that’s a traditional Filipino dish? No, it isn’t. Lechon kawali is traditional, yes, but not the dish itself although vegetables cooked in coconut milk is a very traditional way of cooking a wide variety of vegetables in the Philippines. If I were a celebrity chef, this would be called a fusion dish. But since I am no celebrity chef, the usual snobs and purists will probably label this as bastardized Filipino cooking. But then who the heck cares about the small minds of snobs and purists? This is a delicious dish and worth making once, twice and over and over again.
Lechon Kawali (Crispy Pork Belly) and Kai-lan (Chinese Broccoli) in Coconut Milk
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 shallots or one onion, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 3 to 4 bird’s eye chilis thinly sliced
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- cracked black pepper to taste
- 4 cups kai-lan end stalks separated from the leaves
- 1 and 1/2 cups coconut milk
- lechon kawali cut-up, as much or as little as you like
- Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan or wok.
- Saute the shallots or onion until a bit softened.
- Add the garlic, ginger and chilis. Add a dash of patis. Add some pepper. Saute for a minute or so until very aromatic.
- Throw in the kai-lan stalks. Season with a bit more patis. Pour in half of the coconut milk. Stir. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about five minutes.
- Add the kai-lan leaves and pour in the rest of the coconut milk. Taste, adjust the seasonings, as needed, bring to a simmer, cover and cook over low heat for another five to seven minutes until the kai-lan is done and the coconut milk has reduced a bit.
- Adjust the seasonings one last time. Add the lechon kawali, stir, heat through and serve at once.