The Recipe

Nicaraguan Chancho Frito and Vigoron
Fried pork rib bites on a salad of cabbage, lime, and yuca
As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME, June 2009
Total time: about 2 hours
Serves 4-6

Chancho Frito
Simmered-then-fried pork ribs
2 lbs boneless pork ribs, cut into 1 inch chunks
½ tsp achiote (annatto) powder
½ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup distilled vinegar
½ cup water
Rinse pork ribs with water, cut into 1” chunks, and put in a saute pan that has a lid. Immediately wash cutting board, knife, and anything that has touched raw meat. Rub achiote, salt and garlic all over meat with hands. Wash hands. Cook on medium, covered, until meat is ½ submerged in its own juices, about 20 min. Add water and vinegar. Cook covered for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally w/ wooden spoon, until meat is tender. While that’s cooking, make the vigoron (below). Once the pork is tender (the liquid will have nearly all disappeared except the liquified pork fat), remove the lid and let pork pieces sizzle and fry until browned.
Salad of cabbage, yuca, fried pig skins and lime
½ large bag fried pork skins (about 2 cups), may be called chicharrones
2 lbs yuca
1/3 cabbage
1-2 limes
½ tsp + ½ tsp salt or more
2 tomatoes
Put pot of water on to boil. Clean yuca by cutting into 2-inch thick rounds. Cut off thick woody skin. (See video) Flesh should be white; any gray marks mean it’s old. Rub white chunks with ½ tsp salt and rinse. Boil in water until mushy but firm, like cooked potato. Chop cabbage like Jenny does to get the delicious, light texture. Toss with fresh lime juice (use a spoon to press right into the lime to release juices). Salt cabbage more than seems sane, about ½ tsp for 1/3 cabbage. (The lime begs for a lot of salt!) Taste the cabbage. It should be bright and tangy, but not salty. Chop tomatoes into 8 wedges, then across, to get triangular bite size pieces, and decorate top of cabbage. Break up fried pig skins into bite size pieces and put into a bowl. When yuca is done, drain and let cool to the touch. There is a fiber going through the middle of the yuca root just like the one inside a pear. As you are cutting the cooked yuca into ½ inch pieces for the salad, discard that fiber. Put yucca in a serving dish.
Lay out all the fixin’s buffet-style in this order: a bowl of yuca, then fried pig skins, then cabbage, then chancho frito. On the plate, each person places a small handful of yuca, a small handfull of pig skins, a giant handful of lime salad, and 5 or 6 pieces of pork ribs.
This is Nicaraguan party food, and they eat it with their hands. It’s pretty fun, but, as Jenny said, “If you a scared, I get you a fork.”
Traditionally, the pork rib bites are bone-in, which can be hard to find here. I used the readily available boneless pork ribs and they were great. But the bones give the dish even more flavor – and fun if your people like the gnawing thing. If you are tight with a butcher, try asking for bone-in pork ribs cut crosswise in 1 inch segments.
Please email lindsay@lindsaysterling.com with questions or comments regarding this recipe.
copyright Lindsay Sterling 2009