What is lechon? Where to Find the Best of Filipino Pork Dish

THE DISH

Lechon, Philippines

PLATE UP

Get ready to devour – sorry – the Philippines’ national dish, lechon. This cherished treat comes in many forms, though its essentials remain the same: it’s a whole pig, roasted over charcoal on a spit, and usually served at celebrations or other important events. There are two main forms of lechon. One is from Luzon, the native island of the Philippines’ capital, Manila, where pork is roasted with a simple seasoning of salt and pepper, and the meat is then dipped in a rich sauce of mashed pork liver, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic and onion. In the Visayas archipelago, home of Cebu, pigs are stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, onions, salt and chili peppers before being roasted, and there is no dip. These days, many Filipino cooks use a mixture of both techniques.

FIRST SERVED

The word “lechon” is quite easy to find: it is a derivative of the Spanish word lechona, which means suckling pig. However, this does not mean that it was a Spanish colonialist invention. Pigs had been domesticated in the Philippines long before the arrival of the Spaniards, and most historians believe the practice of roasting whole animals over charcoal had been going on for some time.

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In Cebu, head to Rico’s Lechon (ricoslechon.com) for a taste of Visayas style, while in Manila, try Elar’s Lechon (facebook.com/elarslechon) for Luzon style, or Pepita’s Kitchen (home of the self-proclaimed “Lechon Diva” Dedet de la Fuente, instagram.com/lechon_diva) for experimental versions of the dish.

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Melburnians, head to new Filipino wood-fired restaurant Serai (seraikitchen.com.au) for a great take on lechon. In Sydney, try Sydney Cebu Lechon (sydneycebulechon.com.au), which does what you’d expect.

ONE MORE THING

If you ever see a lechon being prepared, keep an eye out for the “lechonero”, or head chef, who will be busy for many hours moving hot coals, adjusting the spit and making sure the meat stays tender. while the skin achieves a perfect caramelized crisp.

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