I work at home and cook our favorite meals at home too but sometimes I get a serious craving for comfort food. My favorite dish when I’m hankering for something rich is Lechon Kawali, a popular Filipino style deep-fried pork belly. It’s savory and salty and everything I want when I’m worn out and don’t feel like cooking!
After a long day this week, my sister who lives next door and I ordered Lechon Kawali from a restaurant my sister loves, so that I could try their version of Lechon Kawali. She had been raving about it to me for weeks. I was so excited to try it! When our order arrived, I dove right in as she waited for my reaction. But instead of the crispy goodness I was expecting, I tasted…something like seafood? Not just seafood but…gross burnt seafood. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings since this was from her favorite restaurant, but this was not what I had in mind when I said I wanted pork. So I asked politely, “Does it always taste this…fishy?”
She looked confused, then took her first bite. She immediately looked as upset as I did. What was going on? We called the restaurant and asked if we had somehow received the wrong dish. Apparently not. Our Lechon Kawali tasted like straight dirty ocean water. They couldn’t explain it, but offered us another dish or our money back. We declined and ended up ordering from another restaurant.
While we were waiting for our food, we started talking about it. How had that place ruined our favorite dish? Did they cross contaminate or something? While we waited for our food from the new place, we both started googling. The more we read, the more grossed out we became. What we found online told us that the reason our food had tasted fishy was most likely due to degraded and contaminated fryer oil.
Apparently when food goes into degraded fryer oil (oil that hasn’t been changed or filtered enough), it picks up particles from all the previous food or meat that was cooked in it. For example, if a restaurant cooks fish in the fryer, little pieces of that fish fall off in the oil and become charred. Those pieces float around the oil and continue to become recharred until they eventually attach to something else… like our Lechon Kawali. Not only is this disgusting for flavor, my sister found an article that said that it’s actually more common than you would think, and dangerous to your health!
It turns out that those charred pieces of food that stick to other food in the fryer can actually contain carcinogens. I began to wonder how many fried foods I have eaten over the years could have contained cancer causing particles! In order to keep people’s food safe, all the restaurants would have to do is change the oil regularly or filter it. This seems pretty simple to me, so why aren’t they doing it?
Our health and safety are at risk. From now on, I’ll only be eating Lechon Kawali when I make it at home.