Lechona Tolimense, or stuffed “pork” skin (Colombia)

Yes, today’s recipe is vegan “pork” skin filled with “pork”. More about that below. Colombia is a large country in the northwestern South America. Considering that it houses almost 50 million inhabitants I’d say it is very poorly known here in Europe, compared to other Latin American countries. Ethnically it is very diverse and ecologically even considered megadiverse. The capital Bogota houses over 7 million people and the busiest airport in South America. Sadly there has been an armed conflict going on in Colombia since the 1960s, though nowadays it is considered fairly safe for tourists.

The cuisine of Colombia is similar to many other Caribbean and South American countries, featuring fish, rice, beans, avocadoes, tomatoes, plantains, coconut and cilantro. Peas are quite common, too. One of the most popular dishes is ajiaco, a potato soup which usually contains corn, chicken and an aromatic herb called guasca (a soup with the same name can be very different in other Latin American countries). Arepa is a staple corn bread similar to tortilla. Tamales Tolimenses are wrapped in plantain leaves instead of the usual corn husks and contain e.g. peas, carrots and potatoes. Exotic fruits, many of them all but unknown in the west, are enjoyed fresh and as juices.

Making a vegan version of a recipe which is originally pork skin filled with e.g. pork meat and pork fat may seem bizarre, revolting or just downright stupid. I apologize if you feel that way. Some people have complained about my use of “mock meats”, that I should pick only intrinsically vegan dishes. However, this is my blog, and occasionally I need to amuse myself, and/or try out something bordering on absurd. This is one of such occasions.

Yuba or tofu skin is a common substitute for various animal skins, e.g. when making Christmas “turkey”. It can be It can be bought in many Chinese/Japanese stores (under various names; it can be recognized as white or transparent thin sheets, which list soy as the main (usually only) ingredient. Fresh or frozen is the best, but dried works just fine. However, there are several kinds of yuba. Some sheets are so fragile that they essentially just crumble if you touch them; try to avoid these brands. I don’t think there are any substitutes, sorry.

Jackfruit “pork” is another very old invention (I believe?), which is now catching on, thanks to e.g. this recipe which I used as an inspiration, but I decided to first boil the “pork”, then fry it, to get out as much of the brine flavour as possible. You need “young green jackfruit in brine” (or in water, if you can find it or frozen/fresh jackfruit as long as it’s green/raw, to be used as a vegetable, not a fruit (usually it will be ripe and not suitable). Do not use jackfruit canned in syrup! Jackfruit is also Chinatown stuff, if you can’t find it, use some other kind of mock pork. If you want to make jackfruit “pork” for some other recipe, I recommend using the aforementioned recipe instead.

I used soy sauce, Maggi and toasted sesame oil (also from Asian stores) as flavour enhancers and coconut butter to mimic pork fat. You could also use liquid aminos for the former and margarine for the latter. If you don’t have sazon goya (a South American spice blend), use a mixture of annatto (or turmeric), dried garlic and cumin. The original recipe didn’t mention anything about boiling the potatoes, so I assumed they were raw and would cook during the long baking time, but they didn’t. So, I would use cooked potatoes.

The dish was surprisingly good, though the pork wasn’t very porky and the yuba skin didn’t fully crisp up like I wanted it to. But it was tasty in a greasy home food kind of way. I only made half of the recipe, which made two portions (it would have made more, but I had to ditch the potatoes). You can make the original amount by doubling the recipe, to serve 5-6 people or more, but then you need two cans of jackfruit.

Lechona Tolimense

Lechona Tolimense

(see recipe notes above!)

Jackfruit

1 large can of young green jackfruit (something like 20 oz/580 grams)
(soy sauce, stock cubes etc)
1 tbsp coconut butter, coconut oil or margarine
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
~1 tbsp soy sauce, Maggi or a combination of both (low-salt soy sauces may work even better)

The rest

2 tbsp coconut butter, coconut oil or margarine
0.5 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic
1.5 scallions
1-2 tsp soy sauce or Maggi
0.5 tsp ground cumin
0.5 tsp sazon goya with azafran (see notes)
1/3 cup/0.8 dl peas
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp/1.5 dl cooked white rice
salt and pepper
1 potato, boiled, peeled and diced

2 sheets yuba
about 1-2 tsp sesame oil for brushing

Drain and wash the jackfruit, squeezing out as much water as you can. Cut the pieces into smaller pieces. Remove any seeds you spot and also “seed covers” (membranes covering the holes left by the seeds).

Cover with plenty of water, bring to boil and simmer for about an hour. You can add soy sauce/stock cubes to this water, but it may be a waste. After cooking the jackfruit, let cool and again wash it well, squeezing out as much water as you can.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C. Melt the 1 tbsp coconut oil/margarine on a frying pan, add the sesame oil and mix well. Add the jackfruit pieces and fry for a bit. Add as much soy sauce and/or Maggi as you can without the jackfruit becoming too salty.

Remove the jackfruit from the pan. Melt the 2 tbsp coconut butter/oil on the pan, add the sesame oil, garlic and scallions. Fry for about three minutes. Add the soy sauce/Maggi. Mix all the ingredients (except for yuba) together.

If yuba isn’t pliable, dip it in water and pat dry. Place two sheets of yuba on top of its other on the working table. Brush the top side of the topmost sheet with sesame oil. Place the stuffing mixture at the center of the sheet and roll both ends to make a closed packet (as if wrapping a present) and tie it securely with kitchen string from both ends (not too tightly though, or the yuba might crack). Brush all over with sesame oil.

Place in a baking pan and bake covered for an hour, uncover and bake for 20-30 minutes more. (The original instructions include turning the roll half-way through baking, but yuba gets somewhat fragile when crisping up, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Remove from the oven and cut. Serve hot with lime wedges and arepa (tortilla or pancakes could be substituted for the latter). Makes about three servings.

3 Responses to “Lechona Tolimense, or stuffed “pork” skin (Colombia)”

  1. 1

    Tuollaiseen ei tullut törmättyä Colombiassa käydessä.Täytyykin kysyä sieltä kotoisin olevalta ystävältä,tekeekö hänkin tuota.

  2. 2

    Perinteinen versio on sellainen, jossa täytetään koko sika. :-P Mutta kun se ei ole hirveän sinkkutalous- yms ystävällinen, niin on alettu täyttää pelkkää possunnahkaa. Ainakin jomman kumman version pitäisi olla hyvin yleinen ja tunnettu.

  3. 3

    Ola! Vegventures,
    I take your point, I’ve seen in recipes that saffron is really expensive and you can substitute with turmeric for the yellow color. Others say use some saffron and the rest turmeric. What exactly is the purpose of the saffron, for flavor or color? Also, please share any recipes for saffron rice that you have tried and are good. Thanks!
    Great Job!


Want to Leave a Reply?

You must be logged in to post a comment.