When it comes to Filipino fiestas, weddings, or family gatherings, the stars of the show aren’t always the celebrants – but is the lechon! Think we’re exaggerating? We kid you not, the lechon is the highlight of any Pinoy gathering and rightfully so!
With its crispy skin and tender meat, enjoying this with loved ones and friends definitely brings everyone together.
Tracing it’s roots back to Spain, “Lechon” is derived from the Spanish word “leche” which refers to a roasted, suckling pig. Originally, the roasted pig served was smaller in size, but over the years became bigger and bigger as to accommodate the growing number of people at a celebration.
There are a lot of things to factor in when buying the prized roasted lechon for a special occasion. For “veterans”, everything from the kind of pig, the manner in which it is roasted, the pig’s size, and more all have to be taken into account for.
Don’t know what we’re talking about? Don’t get what the fuss is? Don’t worry, read on for a better understanding.
When choosing a lechon, size matters as it affects the tenderness of the meat and crunchiness of the skin. Pigs actually have tougher skin the older they get, so it is better to choose younger pigs that are within the 17 to 23 kg weight range.
Also, the cooked weight is 50% or less of the live weight (organ removal & water weight).
This cooking method plays a big part in the lechon. Traditionally they are cooked with bamboo poles, but nowadays the bamboo’s been replaced with stainless steel tubes. It is very important to note because galvanized steel tubes can lead to the leaking of its chemical coating onto the lechon being roasted.
How a lechon tastes is distinct to where it’s from, case in point – the “Manila” lechon and “Cebu” lechon. The former is simply seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked over wood fire, and is served with its distinct liver-based sauce.
The sauce of the Manila lechon is made up of vinegar, salt, pepper, brown sugar, mashed liver, breadcrumbs, garlic and onion.
On the other hand, Cebu Lechon is stuffed with bay leaves, scallions, garlic, black peppercorn, lemongrass, garlic, salt, and other spices. It is then served with a salt and vinegar dipping sauce, or “silimansi” (soy sauce, small chilis, and calamansi).
These are two major lechon flavors, but overtime people have begun to improvise. Some lechons are stuffed with truffle rice, seafood, and more. When ordering, make sure that the stuffing is to your liking.
Choosing a pig is similar to choosing which prime cut you want for your steak. In the Philippines, there are two types of pigs you can choose from: native and commercial/farm pigs.
Native Pigs are a prime choice and are more expensive as they have thicker skin and tender meat. So try to find a lechon provider that specializes in that to get the most out of your purchase.
Party planning can be stressful, so why not take the stress of having to bring the lechon home yourself off of your shoulders? Look for a provider that not only cooks lechon the way you want, but who’d also be willing to deliver it to your place.
Take into account how they pack the pig as it plays a big role in keeping the pig warm and the skin crispy.
Image Credit: @zubuchonphilippines via Facebook
Zubuchon is one of the most popular lechon brands you can find in Cebu. In fact, it is so popular that there are branches in Manila as well.
The restaurant roasts a full lechon and serves it hot and fresh by lunch time. Also, nothing goes to waste here as lechon trimmings are used in a lechon broth to give umami to their dishes.
Image Credit: @generalslechon via Facebook
General’s Lechon is one or the tastiest around and was founded after a trip to San Carlos, Negros Occidental. The owner, Byan Ong, and his wife wanted to bring the experience to Manila, thus the birth of General’s Lechon.
Their lechon is made with an intensive collection of spices and herbs with their hand picked pork selections. They even have other flavors like chili garlic and curry.
@jlblechonhaus via Facebook
Lechon can vary from place to place, but Iligan’s pride is that their lechon doesn’t need any sauce to enhance the flavors. In fact, their meat is so tasty it is said to trump that of Cebu!
The secret to their lechon is a mix of bell peppers, lemon grass, garlic, onion bulbs and leaves, laurel leaves, and iodized salt. Plus, their lechon’s skin will always stay crispy even if you ship it all the way to Manila.
Image Credit: @jegratz via Facebook
It is no doubt that Cebu is the land of lechon, even their public markets roast some of the juiciest lechon around.
Car Car Public Market is popular among the locals for their slow roasted pig and twists in flavor. They have crunchy, sweet, and even spicy variations to choose from. You can choose to buy a whole pig or to buy per kilo.
@lydiaslechonrestaurant via Facebook
For over 50 years, Lydia’s lechon has served the best original boneless lechon in Manila. The unique aspect of this lechon is that it is stuffed with seafood paella and got its start in Baclaran many years ago. They have different sizes to choose from, as well: small, medium, large, extra large, and lechon baka.
Find the best places to stay while you do a lechon food crawl. Check out these Cebu hotels!
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