Really good, high quality chicharron?
My wife and mother-in-law are Colombian and want to make good chicharron. The question is where to get it. Last week, they went to a local Latin grocery store to buy the chicharron and they were disappointed. I think most American pork is way too lean to make good chicharron. Where can we find high quality, fat chicharron? I am guessing that I need to be looking for some sort of heritage pork and a butcher who knows how to cut it properly. Any suggestions? Westside preferred, but this is not at all a requirement.
I have no idea where to get the raw materials, but if you want to purchase prepared chicarrones, head straight to Carillo's (Sherman Way near Corbin in the Valley).
I'm not sure what the difference is between Colombian chicharron and Mexican but I make mine from scratch using sheets of pork fat that may have a little bit of the pork meat attached and usually has the thick outer skin which I remove. I buy mine mainly at the Max Foods in Montebello but have seen it at Superior and other Latino based markets.
If you want chicharrones preparados, you can get several kinds at any Vallarta market. They have sheets, botaneros (snack size) and carnudos (with the meat still attached). $6.99 a pound.
Here's yet another twist. Chicharron duro is the crispy sheet of pork rind that's found all over the place. Like Neta, I'm not sure the difference between the Mexican and Colombian versions of this.
There's also the stewed shreds of pork skin used as a taco filling: very gelatinous and rich, as opposed to fried & crisp.
Yet a third is a rare beast, and I've only seen it at my favorite hole in the wall taqueria: El Toro Bravo in Costa Mesa. Theirs is skin on squares of pork belly, cut into cubes about 2" x 2" x 1" thick. Deep fried until the skin is crunchy, and the fat somewhat rendered and crisp, and the meat dark brown and toasty. It's served not in a taco, but as a combo "plate" with rice and beans. It's deep fried lard in its best form. Does that get closer to what you're looking for?
For make at home purposes, the pork belly will add the fat you're looking for, but the belly skin is much tougher than the skin higher on the hog.
re: Professor Salt
I am looking to make the third variety you describe -- skin + fat + meat. It's fantastic and I think it is much better than the Mexican version of chicharron, which is light, airy, and meatless (so to speak). Where can I get those raw ingredients?
Thanks for the help... a new son-in-law needs all the help he can get...
I havent been there in a while but I believe the original Antojitos Denises in East Los Angeles (on Olympic near Rowan) and the Amapola (on Compton Ave. in LA) both make a variety of fresh chicharron every morning. I echo a couple of the previous posters in stating the main difference in the two kinds of chicharron: 1) the airy crisp sheets of skin with not much fat or meat attached and 2) the denser chicharron that comes in cubes or at times small strips with a layer of meat and a layer of fat attached. This second type is delicious.
If you are looking for fresh meat to fry into chicharron, then speak with the butcher at any Liborio Market. They tend to specialize in cuts of meat from throughout Latin America, including Central and South, and would know the specific kind of meat needed. I have a wife from Nicaragua and their chicarrones are similar. This is where my mother in law goes to get meat when she is visiting us and wants to make the thick meaty kind of chicharron. I do think that in Mexico they make the meaty kind of chicharron also, but it is not as popular or easy to find here.