Omnipresent in Latin cuisine, chicharrones are rendered, dried and deep-fried swatches of pig skin. They’re typically shorn of all fat and meat, but some butchers like to leave a little of both on the rind for a heftier finished product.
Learn its backstory
People have been eating pork rinds since pigs were domesticated, about 9,000 years ago, and it’s entirely possible they were cooking up wild boar hides long before that. But pork didn’t reach the New World until the 15th century, when Christopher Columbus brought over eight pigs from Spain.
The animals weren’t an immediate hit with all indigenous eaters. Although they required very little tending and reproduced quickly, as Silvia Villanueva writes in "Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions," at least a few communities “found the pig dirty and disgusting.”
Eventually, though, chicharrones won over fans from southernmost Argentina to the northern edge of Mexico. Villanueva calls it a “major food group” in Latin American cuisine.
Chicharrones are most commonly sold as a snack, but they also figure into a range of dishes. In Mexico, for example, they’re folded into tacos and scattered over hot dogs. Chicharrones in tomatillo sauce and chicharrones in chile sauce are both served over rice; other countries’ traditions pair plain chicharrones with homemade bread or tortillas and pickled peppers.
In the U.S., chefs have lately embraced chicharrones as an upscale bacon bit, using them wherever seasoned crunch is called for.
And order it here
Mercantile, 701 East Bay St., 843-793-2636, mercandmash.com (Carolina Heritage Pork chicharrones, $3 a bag.)
— Hanna Raskin