Ilocano Bagnet, or simply known as Bagnet, is a boiled, air-dried, then deep-fried slabs of pork belly (liempo). It is a famous native food in the province of Ilocos, Philippines. It is similar to Lechon Kawali of the Tagalogs but the difference, I guess, is the process of preparation, cooking, and of course, the place of origin. It is said that Bagnet has its origins in the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur where the “Bagnet Festival” is annually held and celebrated. I do not know the exact origin of the said dish but I think it is a handed-down tradition of deep-frying the meat as means of food preservation, in order to lengthen the meat’s shelf-life. Bagnet is locally known as Chicharon. You can find and buy Bagnet in any towns of Ilocos.
Bagnet preparation is a long process. Some rub and season the meat first with salt and the pork’s skin is pricked with fork or a bundle of sticks for it to pop during deep-frying, while some put the meat directly into a boiling water seasoned with salt. In Ilocos, since they are making large batches of Bagnet, they place the meat in a large pot called Sinublan to boil. After boiling, the meat is air-dried for few hours before deep-frying. After air-drying the meat, it is now submerged in a hot boiling oil for approximately 20 minutes, or until the pork’s skin pops. The process of deep-frying is repeated twice or thrice until the pork’s skin pops further. The secret to Bagnet is its crispy and crunchy skin, moist and tender meat.
Bagnet can be eaten as it is, usually with rice, and partnered with condiments like Bagoong (shrimp paste), Bagoong-Isda (fermented fish), Sarsa (a sweet and tangy Filipino pork liver sauce), and Toyo-Kalamansi-Sili (soy sauce with calamansi and chili pepper). You can also incorporate Bagnet into several Filipino pork dishes, such as Sinigang (a sour and savory Filipino soup), Kare-Kare (a Filipino stew with thick peanut sauce), Pinakbet (a Filipino vegetable stew in shrimp paste or fermented fish), Lechon Paksiw (a Filipino pork stew in pork liver sauce), and many other Filipino dishes.
Now, you can find Bagnet anywhere in the Philippines as some food establishments offer it in their menus. But, if you are up for an authentic Bagnet experience, it is best to visit the province of Ilocos, Philippines.