Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cebu's Lechon: The Big Fat Roasted Pig

Lechon... Lechon... Lechon... 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
Yes, that is an excerpt from (sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Browning. That maybe the best way to describe how fascinated Cebuanos are of lechon. It seems like no celebration is complete without the big fat roasted pig. It is like how staple rice is in our everyday meals, feasts are not complete without it. This has grown a huge following all over Philippines. In fact, back in 2009 there was a movie released called Litsonero; a tagalog film which revolves around a Filipino chef based in Macau. His uncle who belittled his culinary abilities challenged him to cook lechon to prove his worth as a chef and so the story goes... 
In Cebuano we call "litsonero" as "mangangasal", most often than not, they too would also know how to butcher the pig. Some Filipino specialty restaurants in other parts of the world serves lechon. I am sure that California, USA and Singapore are among those countries. It is good treat for Filipinos living abroad and foreigners alike to indulge in this sinfully delectable and "cholesterol-filled" dish. I am a Cebuano, you can call me biased but I would be speaking a universal truth when I say that lechon de Cebu has no comparison.

In my previous post, I had talked about the culinary tutelage during the housewarming party that Ms. Cherrie Brizo had hosted. She happens to own the lechon business, they get their supply of pigs from the northern towns of Cebu. For sanitary reasons, all imported meat should go through city health approval before it gets distributed for commercial purposes. 
I together with a few of my workmates were able to witness the whole process of cooking lechon. I would now be sharing the step-by-step process of making lechon ;-)

Ingredients : Depends on the size of the pig
    • 1 whole pig
    • 3-5 heads garlic
    • 3-5 red onions
    • 1/2 or 1 bunch of spring onions
    • salt 
    • ajinomoto
    • soy sauce 
    • needle & twine
    • mortar & pestle
    • bamboo pole
    • 2 sacks of coals
Cooking time: Depends on size, a pig this size would cook about 2 hours
Manong Ayet, the butcher. He was very gracious in answering all our inquiries whether it be about cooking lechon or about his job as a butcher.On the above picture, he had previously peeled off the skin of the garlic and red onions and mashed them all together with the spring onions using the mortar and pestle.On the above picture, L-R (1) the cavities of the pig were rubbed with salt and MSG (2) the pig is stuffed with mashed garlic, red onions and spring onions (3) the pig sewn up securelyOn the above picture, (top half) The skin was generously drenched with soy sauce (bottom half) Preparing the coals. In general, the lechon is smooth and crispy but according to Manong Ayet, there are customers who specifically ask that the skin be more like chicharon or pork rinds. That's where the skill and expertise of the "mangangasal" takes place, they would know at what heat they would expose the meat to achieve what the customer requested.
After 2 hours of turning the pig back and forth, here is the pig deliciously brown and ready to be served. 
the curious onlookers of Manong Ayet, my workmates =)
Matheo's Lechon can give some of the famous lechon houses a run for their money. For orders and inquiries you may call
Matheo's Lechon
1252 Leyson St. Talamban Cebu City
contact number: 09282207769 / (032) 3450983 look for Mark Medalle

Do note that Carcar and Talisay are very well known for their lechon. You can find equally tasting restaurants here in the city, below are some choices.
CnT Lechon
1377 Rama Ave, Guadalupe, Cebu City. 
You may call (6332) 254-4249, (6332) 254-6641
Alejo’s Lechon 
Labangon, Cebu, Cebu City 
tel. no: (032) 261 8575

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