Crispy Tokwa’t Baboy (Filipino Tofu and Pork)

Tokwa't baboy, meaning "tofu and pig" in Filipino, combines fried tofu and crispy pork belly in a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, aromatics, and chilies.
2 servings
Prep Time
24 Hrs
Active Time
1 Hr 30 Mins

Calling tokwa’t baboy healthy because it has tofu is like calling carrot cake a salad because it has vegetables. Much like sisig, tokwa’t baboy is a regular on beerhouse menus; you can't beat ice-cold beer paired with hot, deep-fried tokwa (tofu) and pork belly. A dressing of crunchy minced onions, soy sauce, and spiced vinegar helps cut through the fat. You can make tokwa't baboy at home as an appetizer, a side for lugaw, or ulam to eat with rice. (Or stay-at-home pulutan.)

How to make the crispiest, juiciest fried pork belly

The pork in tokwa’t baboy is deep-fried pork belly, AKA lechon kawali. And to make perfect lechon kawali with crrrrispy skin and juicy, fork-tender meat, you need to do two things: boil and air-dry the pork.

Why boil the pork? Can’t I just fry it straight?

Frying pork belly without boiling it first has only one outcome: tough, dry, flavorless meat that no sawsawan can salvage.

But when you gently boil the pork belly before frying, several things happen:

  • It makes the pork tender and soft. Like a hot bath relaxing your muscles, boiling breaks down the connective tissues in the pork belly.
  • It renders out some of the fat before frying. With reduced fat in your pork, the skin dries out—and crisps up!—a lot better.
  • It injects flavor into the meat. We season the boiling water with garlic, bay leaves, patis, and black pepper so it can infuse all that flavor into the pork.

This step ensures that your pork is soft and full of flavor. With that settled, you can laser-focus on the most important part of lechon kawali: deep-frying the skin into a blistered, crackling crisp.

Which brings us to our next step: drying your pork.

The best way to dry your pork belly: the fridge

Why do you need to dry your pork? Because wet things don't get crispy.

If your pork is damp and you drop it in hot oil, the oil needs to get the water out of the way before any crispy action occurs. And by the time all of the water's evaporated, your meat will most likely be overcooked.

Also water + hot oil = violent splattering. Not good.

The simplest way to dry your pork belly is to pat it dry with paper towels. But if you want to be thorough, we recommend letting it sit in the fridge uncovered overnight. The cold air will obliterate any surface moisture on your pork belly. It's a long wait, but you'll be rewarded with bubbly, blistered, and sinfully crispy golden skin.

Dry your tofu, too!

Tokwa or tofu holds a lot of moisture. If you want to get it crispy, you need to drain your tofu well.

Tokwa is Firm Tofu
Tokwa is the Filipino term for tofu. Compared to commercial firm tofu, locally-made tokwa has less moisture, thicker skin, and a more tangy flavor. It doesn't come in a softer variety—tokwa is always firm and dense. You can use it in recipes calling for firm or extra-firm tofu.

Out of the many ways to drain tofu, the most common method is to press it. Wrap the tofu with clean dish towels and place the block in a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet on top of the tofu, then set a heavy object (like a frying pan) on the sheet. The object needs to apply enough pressure to press the tofu down, but not crush it under its weight. Press your tofu for 30 minutes and discard the expelled liquid.

Cookbook author Andrea Nguyen suggests pouring hot salted water over your tofu. Sounds weird, using water to dry something out—but it works.

To do it, cut up your tofu and place the cubes in a bowl. Bring a kettle of salted water to a boil, pour it into the tofu-filled bowl, and let it sit for 15 minutes. The salt seasons the tofu, while the hot water forces the moisture out from the inside. Drain and blot tofu with paper towels.

No matter which method you choose, your tofu must be dry to the touch before frying.

Crispy Pork (Lechon Kawali) & Tofu

  • 1 kg whole skin-on pork belly
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp patis or fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 block firm tofu, drained and sliced into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 cups neutral oil, for frying


  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup Pinakurat (spiced vinegar)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 large red onion, minced
  • 1 stalk green onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green chili, sliced
  • ½ tbsp ground black pepper

Cook pork belly: Place the pork belly skin side down in a deep heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Add garlic cloves, bay leaves, patis, and black peppercorns. Add enough water into the pot to just cover the pork belly. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until pork is fully tender, at least 1 hour. If needed, add more water to keep the pork covered.


Dry pork belly: Transfer pork belly to a metal rack set over a baking sheet. Pat pork belly dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Set pork belly in the fridge, uncovered on the metal rack, to completely dry overnight.


Fry pork: Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until it reaches 360°F on an instant-read thermometer. If not using a thermometer, insert a chopstick or barbecue stick into the hot oil; if you see rapid bubbling around the stick, you’re ready to fry.

Using tongs, carefully lower the pork belly into the hot oil. Fry pork until skin is blistered and crisp, at least 5 minutes. Transfer fried pork to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and cool.


Fry tofu: After frying the pork, bring the oil temperature up to 350°F. Using the chopstick test, you should see steady bubbling around the stick. Fry tofu cubes, working in batches if necessary, until golden and crispy, about 4–5 minutes. Transfer fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towels.


Make dressing: Combine white vinegar, Pinakurat, and soy sauce in a large mixing bowl. Add onions, garlic, and sliced chili. Season with black pepper.


Serve: Place pork belly on a chopping board and slice into smaller pieces; aim for a similar size as the tofu. You can either toss the pork and tofu pieces in the dressing like a salad, or spoon the dressing over the pork and tofu in a serving plate. Serve immediately.

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