Saturday, September 25, 2010


Chicharrones are little crusty, salty bits of belly pork and are great for snacking. Every butcher's stall in the Cadiz market has a tray of them on the top of the counter, and you can buy a little paper cone full of them to take home with you.

Chicharrones are also popular in Latin America, and the great Eliades Ochoa has even dedicated a whole song to discussing what they are made of:

El chicharrón es pellejo
Tú te equivocaste, muchacho, cuando creiste,
que el chicharrón era de carne,
Siempre anda diciendo que que tu eres el rey de los carniceros
Y yo estoy seguro que de carne no sabe nada
Yo puedo creer que tu seas chicharronero
Lo que no creo es que tu de la carne hagas chicharrón
Claro que no!

(You were wrong, my lad, when you thought,
That chicharrón is made from meat,
You always go around saying you're the king of the butchers
But I'm sure you know nothing about meat
I might accept that you're a bootlicker
But there's no way you make chicharrón with meat
No way!)

Followed by a rousing chorus:

Nada más que pellejo, pellejo, el chicharrón es pellejo

(It's just the skin, the skin, the chicharrón is just skin!)

In Cuba, chicharrón, in addition to being a delicious meaty snack, is also an obsequious compliment, so the target of this song is being lambasted both for his ignorance of pork butchery and for his smarminess. Touché! (In Spain, however, chicharrón is not just made from the skin but from belly pork, which contains plenty of meat. No wonder I got strange looks when I sang this to an overfamiliar butcher the other day.)

I had a slightly worried moment when someone commented that surely this was just a poncey Spanish name for pork scratchings. (It's never pleasant to be hit by the realisation that one has been openly bullshitting!) So I went off to the kitchen and sliced into some chicharrones just to check. The proof is below - as you can see, under the fat, they are quite meaty!


Spillerjzy said...

Are you sure it's not just pork scratchings by another (slightly more glamorously continental) name!

Tim in the Kitchen said...

Don't think so. Pork scratchings are made from the rind, whereas these are belly pork. Not obvious from the photo, but when you bit into them what's inside is more like streaky bacon than scratchings.

Spillerjzy said...

They sound very interesting. I will seek them out when I'm next in Spain.

Tim in the Kitchen said...

Only thing to add is that they have to be at least at room temperature, and maybe even a little warmer, as otherwise the fat tends to harden!