Lechon or whole suckling pig is very popular in the Philippines especially during special occasions or celebration like Christmas. In fact, lechon is not just a popular food during the holiday season but a Christmas tradition.
The lechon in the Philippines regardless of size is roasted whole over a live charcoal. The method of cooking is similar to the Chinese peking duck and the balines guling celeng. The whole pig is roasted for long hours, until the meat inside is tender and the skin outside is crispy.
The pig is thoroughly cleaned inside and out, even the internal organs are removed out of the pig’s belly. Once cleaned, it will be stuffed with seasonings such as soy sauce, garlic, lemongrass, monosodium glutamate, salt and other seasonings preferred by the seller.
The stomach of the pig will be stitched again to prevent the seasonings from getting out. Then the pig will be impaled on a bamboo pole, similar to a way a pork or chicken barbeque are done. The whole pig is roasted for two hours or until cooked inside and crispy outside.
Lechon is best eaten with a liver-based sauce and the sauce can also be used to cooked the leftover. This dish is called lechon paksiw, made from leftover meat and sauce. Many Filipinos cook it, after the Christmas Eve to preserve the remaining meat and to make the leftover tastier and good to eat again, because the sauce itself is a meal already.
In Manila, you can buy lechon in La Loma, Quezon City. It is the place to go when you want to buy one. You can see endless stalls with lechon on a long bamboo pole displayed outside, which you can buy right away. The place sells lechon all throughout the year and not just during Christmas season, so you will never go home disappointed when you go there.
In other provinces, Cebu is another place that serves mouthwatering and delicious lechon. Other regions in the Philippines cook lechon as well, but Cebu lechon is the most popular because it has a distinctive taste that only cebuanas can duplicate over and over again. No wonder, many Filipinos from other provinces even buy in Cebu and just have it air shipped, which is also possible nowadays.
So, if you want to make your Christmas dinner even more special do not forget to buy a lechon.