Battle of the ABC Liempo: Grilled Pork Belly from Andok’s, Baliwag and Chooks-To-GoSeptember 3, 2017
It’s time for another taste test, and today we’re tackling one of the dishes best at pleasing almost any Filipino: the simple, fatty, and deadly delicious liempo, or grilled pork belly. With a sweet brown soy-based marinade deep within the lean meat, and one side of the slab glistening with fat, each bite gives an even distribution of texture and flavor in your mouth, for a perfectly satisfying bite. The brands that we chose are best known for their lechon manok (you can check out our lechon manok battle that includes of all them), but don’t be misled. These brands are not just for those seeking a manok-fix.
Our taste-test revealed wildly different flavors coming from our three competitors. Let’s check out our ABCs of liempo from some of Manila’s most widely available brands.
The liempo from this iconic chicken chain had the most noticeable contrast between the char and the white meat—and that contrast was telling. The char gives an expected smoky taste, but overly so with undeniably burnt bits of skin, and a meat that was plain dry. To their favor, they had an herby and fresh taste to it that stood out amongst the rest, and their marinade resulted in a flavor comparable to bacon.
Their sauce was unsalvageable. Too sweet. Too watery. Don’t bother getting any sauce with your Andok’s liempo at all.
Baliwag was just a little on the dryer side, but still with a palatable texture. The smokey flavor enveloped the skin and permeated through the meat, giving the dish a smoked ham quality to it. The edges of the meat were cooked just right. Without a doubt, Baliwag’s liempo skin brought it home with the crunchiest skin. And their sauce? Not so bad. On the sweeter side, rather than the liver-y, but with a nice, somewhat-pasty consistency.
Chooks-To-Go had the most tender meat, being incredibly juicy to the bite. The flavoring was confusingly similar to their chicken, though not as sweet, giving us pause as we tried to understand their thought process in making such an un-liempo-like liempo. It stood out from the rest with a punchy calamansi taste that we admit was enjoyable. It’s sauce was darker than the other sauces, and appeared the most gravy-like, matching the flavor of the liempo to a T.
For the Pepper.PH team, Baliwag stood out the most for its overall flavor and texture. We were a little saddened by the dryness of the Andok’s liempo—with a better cooked batch to match their exceptional marinade, this could have swept the game. But the game is all in execution, so, sadly, Andok’s liempo did not make the cut for this battle round. As for Chooks-To-Go, while the liempo was not bad, the flavor simply was not what we were looking for in a liempo, and their mixed ideas left us only with mixed feelings.
In our experience with Baliwag, their liempo is consistent every time we order up a batch, giving us that crispy skin crunch that is like the cream cheese icing on top of a carrot cake. And for that, Baliwag’s belly wins our prize for top pork belly.