A secretly guarded recipe for many generations lechon is the Filipino version of the roast pig and is a highly popular main dish during events holidays and festivities. Especially sought for is the craving for the lechon's crispy skin and soft juicy flesh. But among many varieties, the Cebu lechon is tagged as the Philippines finest and probably the whole of Asia. It is so widely popular that even domestic airlines have accepted it as normal freight straight from the oven to various parts of the country. What makes the Cebu lechon distinct is the arousing flavor that the Cebuanos have carefully tendered for so many generations. Historically, the word lechon is literally leche, a Spanish word for milk. So called because young pigs that are not yet mature enough are cooked over low coal fire during colonial times. Thus, the colloquial for suckling pig among other popular terms. The first known recorded fact of such method was practiced by the tribes of Papua New Guinea, who hunted wild boars for offering and cooked them over deep pits of burning hot stones. Eventually, Spanish adventurists in the Pacific began to import the method back to Europe and its Spanish colonies like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. But the Filipinos actually inherited the method from its Chinese trading partners and eventually perfected the technique after World War 2, soaring into popularity by the 1980’s, a time of great political upheaval and celebration after the fall of the Marcos regime. It was during this decade that the Cebu lechon started to flourish and spread to all over parts of the Philippines. It even gave way to festivities celebrating lechon as a tradition of rich cultural values like the Parade of Roasted Pigs in the Balayan Festival of Batangas, Philippines. But the original Cebu lechon recipe still remain the most popular to this day, still sought by Filipinos and foreigners alike. And here’s that original secret Cebu lechon recipe that everyone of us has been so eager to learn.
Ingredients:1 whole native pig (live weight 18 – 20 kilos)
salt and black pepper to taste
For the glaze:
1 liter of Sprite or 7up
For the stuffing:
10 bundles lemon grass (tanglad)
1/4 cup star anise
6 pieces of laurel or bay leaves (cut into small parts)
5 cups of crushed garlic
2 kilos green onion leave
8 pieces of halved saba bananas. (half-cooked through boiling)
- First, shave hair follicles of the pig and remove the innards. Rinse the pig and make sure there’s no more lumps of blood inside the stomach.
- Then rub the insides with salt and pepper including the body.
- Rub a little soy sauce on the inside belly of the pig.
- Stuff the belly with saba bananas, anise, green onion leaves, crushed garlic and laurel leaves.
- Next, stack the lemon grass the center stomach, and stitched the belly, making sure that no ingredients slip out.
- Skewer the pig with a mid-size bamboo and split roast over hot charcoal. Do not put the charcoal directly underneath the belly of the pig but over both sides, slowly churning the pig roast.
- While slowly roasting the pig, glaze it from time to time with sprite using a sponge. This will make the skin extra crispy.
- Roast for a couple of hours until the meat is tender. Do not overcooked.
The spices and the lemongrass makes the flavorful Cebu lechon aromatic aside from its rich succulent taste. When you visit the Philippines, try every carnivore's favorite dish, whole roasted suckling pig or lechon baboy!
The main reason of its great popularity is because it is a delicacy which is so versatile that it can be combined with all kinds of ingredients and then come up brand new dishes. These new dishes can be sometimes termed as the recycled or leftover dishes. An example of these dishes is lechon paksiw (paksiw na litson) which consists of leftover meat soaked in a vinegary sauce. The most popular part of the lechon which usually eaten by many is the crispy pig’s skin which is like brittle candy or broken glass. I love it because of its crispiness and it is the most delicious part which can be dipped in a liver gravy sauce, ketchup/catsup. But most times I prefer Tabasco sauce and shoyu or my fave sili labuyo a Filipino condiment in a jar consisting of vinegar, garlic, spices, and baby birds-eye chili peppers. The Philippines consists of 7,107 islands throughout the country, so you can expect that every island has its own versions or processes on how to roast lechon with its selected variant (chicken, pig, turkey, or beef). The best is the Cebuano version in my opinion because of the use of tanglad or lemongrass. The Indonesians have their version which is another story. ;)