If there’s a special occasion happening here in the Philippines, whether a wedding, a baptism, or a party, you can be sure that it will be graced with the presence of lechon. But why is lechon famous in the Philippines?
Well, it could be argued that it’s because of Chef Anthony Bourdain calling lechon “the best pig ever”. Or could it be because there’s what’s called a Lechon Festival that brought lechon to prominence in the Philippines? (Although I’m not sure about the history of the Lechon Festival.)
There’s actually a simpler reason. Ask the question, “Is lechon good?” and you’ll likely get a resounding yes. The meat is crispy, crunchy and juicy, and oh so flavorful!
Here’s another reason: is lechon expensive? That’s also a yes – and according to the Wall Street Journal, that’s a way the host shows their prestige during their special event. Plus, when the host of a party prepares lechon and invites you, that means you’re important!
There’s now even lechon for smaller occasions, called the conchillo, arguably made famous by Marvin Agustin.
And that’s why lechon is popular, whether the occasion is big or small, and whether it’s in a hotel or a remote barangay. It not only tastes good, but it also symbolizes prestige, importance, value, and of course, a lot of good feasting!
But wait, where did lechon come from in the first place? And did you know that there are different ways of preparing it, and that it also has many variants?
Let’s take a closer look at this Filipino party staple and learn more about it, shall we?
*Note: This was originally published back in November 28, 2020. It was updated January 27, 2023.
- There’s a simple reason why lechon is popular in the Philippines: it tastes good!
- What does lechon mean to Filipinos? It means good food, feasting, and prestige. And if you get served this, it means you’re a valued guest.
- There are different ways of preparing lechon, depending on which part of the Philippines you’re in, as well as different variants.
What is the origin of lechon?
Where did lechon originate? Well, despite lechon being found pretty much everywhere in the country, it did not originate here – it’s actually of Spanish origin (like the basque burnt cheesecake). The Spanish word lechón means suckling pig.
And it’s entirely possible that it was indeed the Spaniards who came up with how lechon is made. Various versions of lechon in the world can be found in Latin countries – and most of those have been colonized by Spain.
However, it can also be argued that it wasn’t the Spaniards who invented lechon. After all, many food historians and chefs think that pigs and wild boar were already being cooked by native Pinoys. Plus, it could also be possible that it was Chinese traders who showed Filipinos back then how lechon is prepared.
I guess we’ll never truly know. One thing I do know, though? We’re glad lechon is around and is famous, making it easy to find and order!
How is lechon cooked?
The answer to this depends on where you get your lechon. Get your lechon in Cebu (arguably the most famous place for lechon) and you can expect that it will be stuffed with lemongrass, tamarind, or other fragrant local herbs. The lechoneros will also add spices to the lechon meat and roast the pig over a bed of hot coals to give it the distinct Visayan lechon flavor.
If you get lechon in Luzon, you’ll get a lechon that has fewer herb components. Cooks will also roast it over wood for a different taste, and it’s served with a lechon dipping sauce for added deliciousness.
If you get the chance to try both, you should!
What are some variants of the famous lechon?
Why is pork so popular and famous in the Philippines? Aside from it being delicious, it’s versatile! You can make many variants of the lechon, such as:
Lechon de Leche or Cochinillo
I mentioned this above in passing. Cochinillo refers to a small pig that’s between three weeks to a month old and has super juicy flesh and thin skin that gets crunchier while getting cooked. The crunch is important – that’s why you’ll see people cracking one using a plate! As I also mentioned earlier, it’s a great choice for smaller special events.
The pig’s belly is known for being very flavorful, which is why it’s a popular choice for the part of a pig. You’ll know it for its appearance: a thick, roasted tube with lemongrass in between. It’s great for intimate gatherings as well.
Crispy Pata – a famous lechon variant in the Philippines
Making lechon is actually a long process (think hours), so if you don’t have time to wait since you’re hungry, you can just eat crispy pata. And would say no to this pork meat dish that has tender meat and super crispy skin? I don’t know anyone!
Is it possible to just make lechon at home?
There are times when there is no special occasion but we just crave for lechon. Do you really have to buy one? Is it possible to make this famous dish at home by yourself?
In this class, you’ll be making delicious bellychon, a modified version of lechon, in the simplest way possible. But it won’t be ordinary lechon either: you’ll learn Chef RV’s secret for keeping the lechon skin and meat juicy and flavorful for a whole 24 hours!
What’s a good accompaniment to the famous lechon?
If you noticed, the class has two things to teach you. One is bellychon, and the other is paella!
And not just one type of paella , too. Chef RV will share his master formula of a paella recipe which he learned from Spain. It will let you produce as much as a hundred variations of paella!
Chef RV doesn’t stop there either. He includes in his class bonus recipes for Garlic Baked Salmon and Strawberry Shortcake!
You know what? You should just check out our class teaser and hear from Chef RV himself!
In short, not only will you get to make a variant of lechon, you’ll also get three delicious accompaniments to make a really complete meal! You can even start a food business with this class – and I’m sure you’ll more than get your return of investment.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy today and start making the famous lechon (and more) today!
Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!