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12.22.2005

Chicharron (Fried Chicken Skin Chips)

Chicharron (in English, "Pork Rinds") is a snack food typically served in Latin American and Philippine cuisines, usually consisting of large chunks of cured pork skin that are deep fried and puffed into curls. Less common varieties of chicharron are those made from other animals, chicken being the most popular of the other varieties (Some Filipinos have even been known to make snail chicharron!).

I happened upon a Filipino restaurant in the East Village called Elvie's Turo Turo, which offers traditional Filipino fare, and of course, chicharron, but only made from chicken. Unlike their pork counterparts, however, they do not contain the chunks of attached fatty meat that line the underside of pork skin. As a result, chicken chicharron pieces are usually much smaller and lighter.

An order of chicharron at Elvie's consisted of a little over a dozen pieces ($4.00). Upon visual inspection, it was obvious that these were generously salted, which is how chicharron is supposed to be prepared. The pieces were curled, each with its own unique shape, a natural by-product of the deep-frying process. Some Filipinos prefer to eat their chicharron by dipping it in vinegar, patis (a salty dark sauce made from fish extract), or a combination of both before biting into it. I opted to sample this dish both naked and with a vinegar-patis sauce.

Upon first bite, I was immediately greeted with the familiar snap that I had expected--this was perhaps due especially to the use of cornstarch to coat the skin before cooking (though I did not confirm that the restaurant used cornstarch in their recipe). The constant crunch during chewing confirmed that the pieces were fried for exactly the right amount of time necessary to maintain consistent texture.

While salt in the flavoring was expected, it did not overpower the natural taste of the chicken--the distinct taste of chicken skin came through very clearly. If I had to describe the flavor experience to someone who's never had any kind of chicharron, I would say that it is akin to what you would expect if you just ripped the skins off of deep-fried chicken (the Man Show brought to life the fantasy that many men had of being able to enjoy a bucket that was filled only with fried chicken skin).

After having about half the pieces naked, I decided to have them in the vinegar-patis combination (one that I had concocted myself, based upon years of experience growing up in a Filipino household). You can either lightly dip the chips in the sauce or soak the pieces for 10-15 seconds, depending on what sensations you are looking for. Lightly dipped, the sauce counteracts the salty taste of the chips with the vinegar's sour flavor while maintaining the same snap and crunch that they have when served naked, and may be the option for most. When soaked, the sauce actually complements the chips very nicely, as it seems to actually bring out the juices within the skin, and surprisingly, the chips do not become soggy when soaked, though they are not quite as crispy as when naked or lightly dipped. I prefer mine soaked (though I will say that this is perhaps more of an acquired taste than anything else).

I highly recommend this dish to anyone who has ever dreamed of being able to walk into a fried chicken establishment and order just the skins as a dish. The dozen or so pieces would be enough for most as a stand-alone meal, though, as with many of the other foods we've reviewed, I do not recommend this course of action (share instead), as it will induce food coma in most subjects.

Click here for Elvie's full menu.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coolio i think but i ....

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I think it's high time that this farce of a site be put out of its misery...

6:42 PM  
Blogger Thankful Paul said...

Peace be with you

8:27 AM  

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