What else do we know about lechon, apart from the fact that it tastes oh-so good and is the much-anticipated main course of fiestas, parties, and other major celebrations?
My Pope digs into the history of one of the country’s beloved dishes!
We have our Spanish colonizers to thank for introducing us to lechon.
Based on the Spanish word leche (or milk), lechon refers to a suckling pig between the ages of two to six weeks that is traditionally roasted. As celebrations got bigger (and the clamor for the succulent pork and its crunchy skin grew), so did the lechon. These days, when people think of lechon, they think of it as an entire adult pig roasted over charcoal to a glorious-brown goodness.
Different countries have their own version of lechon.
The Dominican Republic calls it puerco a la puya, Brazil has its porco no rolete, in the UK it’s hog roast, and in non-Muslim parts of Indonesia, it’s known as babi guling, babi putar, babi panggang, or babi bakar.
Roasting styles differ from country to country, too. Cubans either roast a pig in a caja china, a roasting box made of concrete and steel mesh, or dig a hole in the backyard and place a marinated pig in it, covering it with banana leaves and metal sheets, before building a fire over it. Indonesians in the province of Papua rely on a technique called bakar batu, wherein a pig is laid on a bed of heated stones placed in a hole in the ground. Otherwise, pigs are typically roasted on a rotisserie, oven, or propane grill.
The Philippines has different lechon variants, too.
Back here in the Philippines, lechon variants vary, though the two most popular styles are from Luzon and the Visayas. Cooked over a woodfire, the lechon Luzon uses salt and pepper to season the pig, and lechon sauce to further enhance its flavor. The lechon Cebu, on the other hand, is cooked over charcoal with coconut husks. A generous stuffing of herbs and spices makes the pork flavorful enough to be eaten without sauces.
When it comes to lechon, there are little to no leftovers.
Here’s how versatile lechon is—and how creative Filipinos can get in the kitchen: Leftovers are usually turned into paksiw, a dish noted for its savory vinegar and liver sauce. Sisig is another by-product of leftover lechon: Kapampangan in origin, the popular pulutan (bar chow) is made of chopped pig’s head and belly. Even the pig’s blood and intestines are turned into other Filipino favorites, dinuguan (seen in the photo) and isaw!