Learn a foolproof way to make the skin of your Crispy Pata crackle to the perfect crunchiness. This was made within the day without waiting overnight!
What is Crispy Pata?
It is a Filipino dish made from pork leg, usually from the hock to the trotters. Traditionally, t is cooked deep-fried but it can also be cooked in the oven. The main target is to have a crispy skin, as the name implies.
As this dish normally requires some time to prepare, it is usually reserved for special occasions or for the holidays. Many Filipino restaurants would also have Crispy Pata in their menus, including pubs as it is a well-loved pulutan or "booze appetizer". Some even offer boneless versions of it.
Crispy Pata is not complete without the accompanying dip— a mix of vinegar, soy sauce, chopped onions, ground pepper and, sometimes, chili labuyo.
Hind Leg or Front Leg?
You can use either hind or front leg to make Crispy Pata. The main difference is that the hind leg is usually bigger than the front leg. The front leg that comes from the shoulder normally also has more fats.
In this recipe, I used the front leg, which is big enough for 4 to share, more if it is only one of the other main dishes.
How to cook Crispy Pata?
You will find various recipes for Crispy Pata. Although cooking it usually involves deep frying, however, each presents different ways on how to prepare it.
To ensure that the meat inside of a rather big chunk is cooked and seasoned before frying, it has to be boiled first until tender with some salt and spices.
Most recipes would suggest letting it sit in the fridge overnight after boiling. The reason for that is to dry out the skin to have it crispy.
Foolproof way to a super Crispy Pata skin
But I learned that if you want a really good crackling, the skin proteins need to be denatured. It means to destroy the physical properties and loosen them up. Doing this will result in blistering and crackling. This can be done in many different ways like scorching, pricking, heating or applying some chemicals like acid, alkaline or alcohol.
In one forum I read, one experimented with vinegar, lemon, vodka, lye water, and other things. He got the est crackling with a light crunch using vodka (alcohol) and lye water. Baking soda comes next.
So I put it to the test. I used lye water as I have it for making Kutsinta and Pichi-pichi. Others are concerned that the lye water (or baking soda) will leave an after taste. To neutralize this a little vinegar and salt will do the trick. Although the small amount of lye will probably not leave any taste at all.
It really works! Just look at the photo below and check out that crispy-looking skin. It is indeed light and very crunchy without the chewiness or elastic resistance you get from pork skin. It also lessens the frying time to make the skin crackle so the pork is not over-fried and the meat remains juicy and tender.
Additional Tips :
- Remove any remaining strays of hair by plucking them with tweezers or scorch them with a kitchen torch.
- Boil the pork just until tender but not too long or the meat will separate from the bones.
- When deep-frying, use a deep pot to fry the pork so it could provide additional protection against the oil splatters.
- Immediately cover the pot with the lid after adding the pork, and let the spatters subside a bit then remove the cover. The lid will protect you from the initial splatters but it will build moisture later on that will drip to the oil and create more.
- Use a splatter screen if you have it.
- Do not fry too long or the meat will dry out.
- 1 whole pork leg - about 1.7 to 2 kgs with nails trimmed
- 1 tablespoons peppercorn
- ⅓ cup rock salt
- 1 head garlic - cut across into half
- 1 medium onion - cut into quarters
- 3 pieces bay leaves
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon lye water - See NOTE 1 for alternative to lye water
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 4 cups oil
- ½ cup vinegar
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon peppercorn -crushed
- 1 small red onion - chopped finely
- 1 piece chili labuyo - chopped or use chili flakes
- Place the pork leg in a snuggly fitting pot. Add salt, peppercorn, garlic, onions and bay leaves. Pour in the water ad bring to a boil over high heat.
- Once it starts to boil, cover the pot and bring the heat down to low. Let it simmer for 1 hour or until meat and skin is tender but not too tender. You may add some water in between if it starts to dry up and the leg is not cooked yet.
- Remove the pork leg from the pot and drain excess liquids. Place it on a rack over a pan so the liquids can drip easily. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Brush the skin part completely with lye water. Place the leg in the fridge uncovered for at least 5 hours or overnight.
- Brush the skin this time with vinegar then rub some salt all over. Rest again for 30 minutes then use a kitchen or paper towel to remove the salt from the skin.
- Heat oil in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, gently add the pork leg and cover the pot. Wait until the splattering sounds subside a little and remove the cover. Replace the lid with a splatter screen if you have it.
- Fry the pork leg until the skin becomes crispy Turn as needed to get all the skin to cook until they crackle. Takes about 30 minutes to cook all sides and maybe lesser if completely submerged in oil.
- Transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve with vinegar-soy sauce dip while still warm and enjoy.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Adjust as the ingredients based on personal preference.