I remember, when my sister and I were young, my mother would always involve us in every household chore, especially the cooking. It’s a Filipino tradition that women, starting from an early age, acquire culinary skills not just for the daily meals but also for the occasional extravagant dinners.
But times and tastes have changed and with globalization steadily eroding tradition, finding food prepared in the old authentic ways, is becoming increasingly difficult. Despite this, there are still places in the Philippines where food is king, and its preparation taken seriously.
Filipino cuisine is a mix of a little bit of everything, from Malay to Indonesian to Chinese to other Asian and non-Asian influences and not least, the Spaniards, who colonized the country for at least 333 years. This diversity is reflected in the names and tastes of dishes from one island to another.
The lechon, or litson, is one dish known throughout the entire 7,107 islands. In fact, it’s considered the national dish of the Philippines. Lechon is Spanish for suckling pig. A favourite on special occasions, it is still debated whether the method and the ingredients, originated in Spain or Austronesia.
A full-grown pig, or a piglet 2-6 weeks old, is roasted slowly for hours on a charcoal fire. First its stomach is rubbed with rock salt and soy sauce, then stuffed with lemongrass, star anise, black pepper, onion, garlic and laurel or bay leaves. As it rotates over the fire it is dabbed with more soy sauce. Some people add tamarind leaves for a tangy flavor.
The lechon is ready when the skin is crispy dark-brown, smells yummy and clear oil drips from the body. By then the meat will be very tender and tasty. If so, voila! Have your lechon (skip the sarsa or special dip) with puso, a Filipino word for hanging rice, and a cold drink.
This dish might not be cholesterol-cool but it’s worth dying for! Kain na!
- By Joy Mahinay -
Erwin Mabunga, By order only (+856 20) 78350853
2nd flr, Petron Dasmarinas Vlg, Edsa Cor. Arnaiz, Makati City www.generals-lechon.com