4 ways you can make bellychon at home
Lechon is the star of the show at most Filipino family gatherings. In the Philippines, it’s customary to celebrate a big occasion (like weddings, birthdays, family reunions, baptisms, and whatever else you can think of) with a showstopping whole roasted pig as the centerpiece.
If budget allows, lechon is usually also the centerpiece of Noche Buena (Christmas Eve dinner) and Media Noche (New Year’s Eve dinner).
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Back home, there are tons of different lechon houses that churn out hundreds of pigs on those special days for families to enjoy. In places like Canada and the United States, though, it’s way more difficult to just pick up the phone and call in your order.
Lechon can also be a little too much for one family. While Filipinos usually like staying close to extended relatives, there are also Filipino families who exist as a sole nuclear family outside the Philippines. And ordering a whole roasted pig is also very expensive.
If you still want the lechon experience without the mountains of leftovers and the dent in your bank account, you can always try your hand at bellychon.
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As the name suggests, “bellychon” is a slab of pork belly that’s cooked in the same method as lechon. It’s not only more budget-friendly, it’s also a lot easier and quicker to make. For the squeamish, it also blessedly doesn’t include the pig’s head or tail.
Bellychon was allegedly invented in Cebu, the lechon capital of the Philippines where the pig needs no sauce. The dish has the same addictively crispy exterior with a meaty, tender, and flavorful inside.
Depending on how traditional you want to go (a.k.a. how hard you want to try and how much time you have on your hands), here are four ways to cook your bellychon at home.
The traditional way of cooking lechon and bellychon is outdoors over a bed of red-hot coals. You’ll have to wrap the pork belly slab around a bamboo or metal pole and constantly turn it to achieve the desired crispety-crunchy results. It’s time-consuming and labor-intensive, but if you want to do it the traditional way, this is how it’s done.
The oven method is by far the most regular method to cook bellychon if you’re not in the Philippines. This method’s best asset is the set it and (mostly) forget it aspect. After doing the prep work, you can just stick it in your oven and let it bake until it’s ready to come out.
This method is probably the closest you’ll get to perfect, traditional results without the effort. Pre-steaming the pork belly roll ensures that the pork is cooked all the way through and tender as can be. The crispy skin, though, comes when you stick the cooked pork belly roll in the broiler. After it comes out, you’re left with a picture-perfect bellychon that’s ready to be served.
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If you’re a little low on energy and don’t have an oven, you can still make bellychon with an air fryer. It’s a lot less labor-intensive since you won’t have to switch cooking methods, but you’ll have to do multiple rounds of cooking if your air fryer is small and you’re cooking more than one roll. You’ll pat yourself on the back once you get to eat the finished product, though.