A roasted whole pig or lechon is very popular in the Philippines. The food menu of any celebration like fiesta, parties (Christmas, birthday, baptismal, victory, wedding, etc.) is more special when served with lechon. It can be eaten as main dish or simply as pulutan (appetizer). It goes well with San Miguel Beer, the most popular beer in the Philippines.
Lechon connoiseurs prefer suckling pig than a full-grown pig because it is leaner, the meat softer and the taste more delicate and savoury.
Here are two recipes that you can do at home. One is cooked in traditional manner while the other recipe uses an oven. The blend of aromatics and other seasonings vary in different regions of the country.
Here’s how to prepare and cook lechon the traditional way:
1. Clean whole pig well. Rub inside with sea salt. Let it drip until all water is drained.
2. Meanwhile, prepare a mixture of: ground black pepper, bay leaf, red onion and crushed garlic. Just eyeball the quantity of this mixture. The best measurement would be according to your taste.
Variation: Tamarind leaves may be used as stuffing in lieu of the above mixture.
Lemon grass may be added to the garlic mixture. Lemon grass enhances the aroma of the roasted pig.
3. Stuff this mixture into the belly part. Sew the opening with butcher’s twine or string. Truss the pig with bamboo pole.
4. Roast over live charcoal, basting and turning the pole slowly until cooked. Pig’s skin should be golden brown and crispy.
If you feel the above method is too tedious, don’t lose heart. Here is another way of roasting the pig, this time, using the oven.
Prepare and clean the pig in the same manner as the traditional method. Truss the pig with skewers or with string; then place in a big rack with pan to catch the drippings. Brush the whole pig (skin) with melted lard or shortening. Then pour about 2 cups of boiling water (depending on size) over the pig. Wrap with greased baking paper. Roast in oven for about 4 hours in 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit (or whatever is moderate heat as ovens do differ). Baste every 15 minutes with the drippings. You need a big oven to be able to roast a whole pig in it, although a suckling pig’s length can be about one to two feet only.
I have tried the second method with 2 kilos of pork belly. I roasted it in a slow oven (moderate heat) for about an hour and thirty minutes or until cooked. While the taste was good, the crispiness of the skin was not quite the same as when roasted over live charcoal.
In Luzon, the lechon is served with liver sauce. Bottled liver sauce is available in most supermarkets. In the Visayas region, particularly in Cebu, the lechon is served simply with vinegar dipping with chillies added according to taste.