Cebu lechon the best tasting pork dish in the world!
Elena Peña (The Freeman) - January 19, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Once again, people from everywhere are gathering in Cebu City. These past days, most hospitality establishments in the city – hotels, bars, restaurants, pension houses, and even private residences – have been filled up. People come for the Sinulog, for their own purposes.

Okay, many visitors to the city at this time come for religious reasons. They want to pay homage to the Santo Nino, whose feast day is the center of the various celebrations. Others come for fun, social events are very much part of the festivities.

Sinulog is basically a fiesta celebration. And as with any fiesta in the country, it is a food event as well. Many homes prepare a feast for visitors, usually relatives and friends from other places. The fiesta fare would usually have the famous Cebu Lechon as centerpiece.

For the longest time, it was not called lechon hereabouts. It was “inasal,” meaning “cooked over fire.” When the Manila version of the special pork dish became known – thanks to mass media – Cebuanos were soon calling their own “inasal” the way Manilans called theirs – litson or lechon; the cooking process, after all, was the same.

The word “lechon” reportedly comes from “leche,” Spanish for “milk.” Originally, lechon was made from a suckling pig that was small enough to cook over low coal fire. A small, young pig was chosen so it cooked relatively quickly. The standard lechon in those days was what is today’s “lechon de leche.”

Cebu Lechon tastes uniquely different among the various versions of the dish in the country. While the Manila Lechon, for instance, relies on sauce or dip for taste, the Cebu Lechon is tasty by itself. The abundant spices that Cebuanos put in the lechon during the cooking give the resulting dish a unique flavor.

The website www. hubpages.com shares a supposedly ‘secret’ lechon recipe guarded by Cebuano families for many generations. Here, it’s no secret anymore:

 

Ingredients:

1 whole native pig (live weight between 18 to 20 kilos)

Salt and black pepper to taste

Soy sauce

 

For the glaze

1 liter of Sprite or 7-Up

 

For the stuffing

10 bundles lemon grass (tanglad)

¼ cup star anise

6 pieces laurel or bay leaves (cut into small parts)

5 cups of crushed garlic

2 kilos green onion leaves

8 pieces of halved saba bananas (half-cooked by boiling)

 

Procedure:

1. Shave hair of the whole slaughtered pig and remove the innards. Rinse the pig, making sure there’s no more lumps of blood inside the stomach.

2. Rub the insides with salt and pepper, as well as the outer body.

3. Rub a little soy sauce on the inside belly of the pig.

4. Stuff the belly with saba bananas, anise, green onion leaves, crushed garlic and laurel leaves.

5. Next, stack the lemon grass in the center of the stomach area, and then stitch the belly, making sure that no ingredients slip out.

6. Skewer the pig with a bamboo pole and roast over burning charcoal. It is good not to put the charcoal directly underneath the pig but at both sides, slowly turning the pig to roast evenly.

7. While slowly roasting the pig, glaze it over from time to time with Sprite or 7-Up using a sponge. This will make the skin extra crispy.

8. Roast for a couple of hours until the meat is tender. Check at regular interval; do not overcook.

 

An expert “mangangasal” or “litsonero” in Cebu says that the real secret to the Cebu Lechon is in the roasting. The pig has to cook slowly, to allow its natural flavor to come out. And the one doing the roasting must be attentive enough to put a certain ingredient at the right time.

It takes the patient passion of an artist to cook the Cebu Lechon. No wonder it is the “the best tasting pork dish in the world!”

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