Monday, July 4, 2011

The Tempting, Mouthwatering Chicharon


Chicharon or ‘tsitsaron’ as it is known in the Philippines, is made from pork skin or rind after it has been dried, salted and deep fried. The word chicharon is derived, like many of the other Filipino words, from the Spanish word chicharron which is also made from pork rinds; but sometimes, mutton, beef, or chicken is also used.

Popular varieties of chicharon are the chicharon bulaklak and chicharon bituka. Like all types of chicharon, they are all mostly eaten as a side dish to go with an alcoholic beverage. The term used for side dishes that go with alcoholic drinks is ‘pulutan’ meaning, ‘something that is picked’. It is derived from the English term ‘finger food’. It is also considered as an appetizer but in the Philippines, like most appetizers such as sisig, it has found its way to be a viand that is served with steamed white rice. Chicharon is commonly eaten by dipping it in vinegar or with atchara (pickled papaya).

Chicharon Bulaklak is mesenteries of pig intestines that are dried, salted, then deep fried to a crisp. It is called chicharon bulaklak because of how it resembles a flower after frying (bulaklak means flower in Tagalog). Variations of chicharon bulaklak are also made from chicken omentum, which is a fat- filled sac covering the small intestines of the chicken.

Chicharon bituka (intestines) is made from deep fried cow or pigs’ intestines that have also been dried, seasoned and deep fried. Unlike the chicharon bulaklak, it doesn’t resemble a flower. All chicharon varieties are similar in taste, being salty, so it’s in the texture that each one can be differentiated. The regular pork rind chicharon is a lighter shade of brown and can be stored longer. The chicharon bituka and bulaklak have to be consumed the day you buy them because they will lose their initial crispness and flavor. They both have a tendency to form sebo (hardened grease) when they cool so you always have to eat them either fresh from the pan or still warm.

Chicharon bulaklak has always been my personal favorite because of its texture. I remember buying it fresh from a place that makes it special in Quiapo (a district in Manila). It doesn’t look appetizing at all when you see it being prepared, because it looks like a long, brown creature when it comes off the deep fryer. It is then cut into bite sized pieces. To describe its texture, the petal part (looks more like fringes to me) of the chicharon bulaklak is delicate and crispy; the middle is creamy because of the fats. If I knew better then I’d say it was a heart attack coming. But I was young and I could indulge in just the pleasure of the taste of it which is oh so delicious. Now, as much as it tickles my appetite, I try to eat it in moderation. Yes, ‘try’ is the operative word here because once you start eating chicharon, it takes superhuman willpower to stop.

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