In this new year of the pig, there’s one pig you do not want to miss out on! Lechón is a Spanish term for a roasted suckling pig cooked over a pit of charcoal. The pig is usually cooked whole, with all of its parts still intact. The belly is slit to remove its internal organs which are replaced by spices. After that, the belly is stitched back together using a thin abaca rope to keep all the flavor in. The thing that makes cooking it very fascinating is the fact that it is rotated by hand on a bamboo spit. Lechon is found at almost every Filipino gathering but Cebu lechon stands alone as the “Best pig, ever.”
So what’s the fuss about Cebu lechon?
In one of his No Reservations episode aired in 2009, the famous Anthony Bourdain referred to Cebu lechon as the “Best pig, ever.” With it dubbed as the best in the archipelago – arguably, the world – you can never go wrong with trying this dish.
Cebuanos will always say that if the lechon requires sauce, then it’s not from Cebu. The famous Cebu lechon claims to be independent of sauce due to its luscious flavors purely enhanced by the seasoning and spices used. Its skin is crispy golden-red and its meat is tender. Most locals say that the slow consistent rotation done for eight hours straight is one of the many reasons that this lechon is one of a kind.
Through the years, lechon has had several innovations that continue to diversify the variety that you can find. There’s the popular Lechon kawali made with pork belly that is simmered until tender and then deep-fried until golden and crisp. Another big hit is the boneless lechon. Having perfected the method of deboning the lechon belly before cooking it Cebuano restaurants have allowed customers to eat all the meat without hassle. And guess what? They also serve it spicy! Because, why not?
With its reputation, it is no surprise to spot a number of Lechon restaurants in Cebu where you can savor the all-time famous “Best pig, ever”.
But will that esteemed title, validated by Anthony Bourdain’s culinary expertise, justify the widespread popularity of Cebu lechon? Well as people would like to say it, “Taste it to believe it.”
Written by Zipporah Faye Ibarra