Chicharrone, chicharrón, pork rinds, pork cracklings, or pork scratchings are just a few examples of the multitude of names of the salty, crunchy, filling, and much-beloved snack for Filipinos. These names are variants from all around the world of the Filipinos favorite pulutan, chicharon. Chicharon originated from Andalucia, Spain that was quickly adapted by Spain’s many colonies and is now a favorite snack in Latin American countries and especially in the Philippines.
Traditionally, chicharon is made up of deep-fried pork belly or fried pork rinds that sometimes have meat still attached to it but can also be made up of other proteins such as chicken, beef, and mutton. Filipinos love to snack on this tasty treats and often used it for their pulutan or snacks to go along with alcoholic beverages. Filipinos also use chicharon to sprinkle on various traditional Filipino dishes such as pansit and ginisang munggo. Most commonly, chicharon is eaten on its own as an afternoon snack and is frequently dipped in vinegar to add extra flavor.
You can find different versions all around the world and is called a variety of different names listed above in different countries. Chicharon is similarly prized as a go-to tasty snack or toppings for extra fillings on traditional dishes in Latin American countries such as Panama, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico, etc. Chicharon can also be found in western nations such as Canada, USA, and the UK with their own versions of the delicious snack.
With that said, there is probably no other nation in the world that is as enthusiastic about the crispy chicharon snack as the Philippines. Chicharon is thought of with fondness by Filipinos and it has become a comfort food eaten as a snack while sharing drinks with friends or pulutan and is often dipped in vinegar as part of the afternoon’s meryenda with the family. Chicharon in the Philippines is a nationwide favorite snack and it has been experimented on by Filipinos and evolved into different versions of the original chicharon.
Some versions of chicharon are sold commercially throughout the archipelago by food companies, some restaurants make their version of chicharon and incorporate it into their gourmet dishes, and some versions of chicharon have become regional specialties that can’t be found anywhere else in the Philippines. Although some places try to replicate these specialties into their version of chicharon.
Here are different kinds of chicharon found throughout the Philippines:
Let’s start with the classic chicharon found throughout the Philippines and can be bought in traditional markets, sari-sari stores, and even supermarkets stock company made pork chicharon. Pork chicharon is, of course, made up of pork, pork skin to be exact. It can’t go any simpler or more traditional than this. The pork rind is first boiled in water then deep-fried to create that crispy and crunchy chicharon that Filipinos love. This is the version of chicharon that is often dipped in vinegar for an afternoon snack. It’s also the most common and easiest kind of chicharon to make at home.
Chicharon bulaklak is made up of pork mesentery, prepared in a similar way to the classic pork chicharon. Most people think that mesentery is the intestine of the pig, but that’s incorrect. To be more precise, mesentery refers to the folds in the membrane lining in the abdomen’s cavity that attaches the stomach, small intestine, and other organs to the back of the abdomen’s wall. When the intestines and other organs are detached from the mesentery, the latter becomes frill or ruffled giving its name, chicharon bulaklak or when translated to English becomes flower cracklings.
Chicharon bulaklak is generally as common as pork chicharon and can be found in markets all around the Philippines. There some Filipinos who prefer chicharon bulaklak over pork chicharon because of its crispier crunch of the cut of the snack.
Now, this chicharon is the one people refer to as the chicharon that’s made out of intestines. This type of chicharon is mostly prepared into bite-sized pieces grilled or deep-fried. You can make this crunchy delectable at home or you can buy it in stores all over the Philippines as it’s the ideal size for food companies and manufacturer to mass-produce and distribute throughout the Philippines.
Shrimp kropek is the Chinese, seafood version the classic chicharon. It is often home-cooked and can sometimes be found in restaurants as side dishes in Chinese cuisine. Shrimp kropek, just like its name implies, is made up of fried powdered shrimp heads that goes perfectly with chili vinegar dip. Shrimp kropek is a favorite snack to serve as appetizers and as pulutan among Filipinos.
Chicha-rabao is where Filipino’s creativity and passion for food become evident. Chicha-rabao is chicharon made up of carabao skin invented in Tuguegarao City in the province of Cagayan by agriculturalist Arthur Tabbu. Chicha-rabao is now available as a notion wide snack produced under Tabbu’s label Carne Ybanag and offers different choices of flavors: salt and vinegar, hot and spicy. Filipinos love the taste of a different kind of crunchy if they want a break from the classic chicharon made up of pork with vinegar dip.
Porky Best Microwavable Chicharon
This version of chicharon can last for over a year if left in the fridge and offers a very convenient way of preparing chicharon for those too lazy to prepare and cook their own. It’s as easy as sticking the pork pellets in the microwave and waiting for them to pop and they’re ready to eat. Microwavable chicharon is processed in Davao City and imports their pork from countries such as Belgium, Germany, France, and Canada. This makes up for a unique chicharon eating experience.
This version of chicharon is made up of pork belly skin that results in thicker, saltier, and fuller pieces of chicharon with a rounder shape. Many food companies process this kind of chicharon and sell it in stores throughout the Philippines. This has become the sinful go-to snack for many Filipinos out there. This can be served as your everyday snack, finger food, or appetizer.
Chicharon with Laman
This chicharon may be the tastiest and toughest version of chicharon out there. Chicharon with laman in English translates to chicharon with meat. The extra fat and meat gives the chicharon extra thickness and makes it tougher and crunchier than the average chicharon in the market. Also, the deep-frying process made the chicharon curl up more than usual making for a filling yet delicious pork appetizer that everyone should try. Chicharon with laman is also processed and sold by food companies throughout the Philippines, making sure that every Filipino always has some version of chicharon of one kind or another within arms-reach.
Chicharon and Health
New studies have shown that chicharon does provide some health benefits despite being a deep-fried snack usually made up of pork skin or pork rinds. Well, compared to a bag of chips, it is considered healthier to consume. Of course, chicharon can never measure up to the health benefits of leafy green vegetables and juicy colorful fruits, but studies have claimed that the over 43% of fat in chicharon is healthy oleic acid also found in olive oil. Additionally, chicharon is a good source of protein as 0.5 oz serving of chicharon contains about 8-9 g of proteins, making it comparable to the protein content of Greek yogurt. Lastly, in the Philippines, chicharon is often eaten dipped in mineral-rich vinegar which has its own set of health benefits.
By all means, this is not to claim that chicharon is a healthy snack, but to state that it can be a healthier alternative to junk foods. Chicharon can be the better alternative for those trying to kick off the habit of being a chronic junk food eater and for those trying to eat healthily but still want that one less sinful cheat food to enjoy.
Keep in mind that it’s not recommended by doctors to consume high amounts of chicharon in your diet because of its high fat and sodium content. Its high-fat content means higher amounts of calories and high salt intake can lead to high blood pressure which can lead to heart problems. Of course, chicharon can still be enjoyed in small amounts similar to other junk foods. We should be warry on what we put in our bodies and chicharon can still be enjoyed as a beloved snack that it is to Filipinos and other countries around the world. However, it should be enjoyed as a small part of our healthy diet.
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