A simple guide to the devilishly delicious variations of the beloved lechon

There are actually many ways to savor one of the Philippines' finest culinary treasures!
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There are actually many ways to savor one of the Philippines’ finest culinary treasures!

Even the mere thought of this devilishly delectable dish elicits unbridled joy for Filipinos, and its presence nearly always ensures a joyous mood. Is it really a proper Filipino celebration if one the nation’s most popular dish, lechon, is not present? The spit-roasted pig is the real star of the show at any gathering. From birthdays to festivals, weddings to Noche Buenas, you won’t find a table barren of the beloved lechon.

Because the lechon is so adored, Filipinos have developed a variety of preparations for it dependent on what they can get their hands on and how quickly they can make it. Here, you’ll find the various ways lechon can be prepared so if there’s a big celebration looming around the corner for you, this article can serve as a source of inspiration!

The traditional spit-roasted lechon

Good-old sinfully delicious lechon


Because it's Noche Buena time: how to make your own lechon de leche 2
Photo by Pat Mateo and Jan Concengco via ABS-CBN News

An entire pig, with its internal organs removed, is spit-roasted until it is wonderfully soft on the inside and the skin is immaculately crisp. This is undoubtedly the most popular variation of the meal. The optimal age for the pig is between a few weeks and a few months, which is just old enough for it to have put on some weight without being so old that it needs to be weaned from its mother’s milk.

Versions of lechon from Luzon are typically just roasted plainly and occasionally stuffed with lemongrass and garlic. It’s best served with a sweet and sour sauce that is created from sugar, vinegar, and the liver of the pig. However, there are several varieties of lechon available in the South, including those from the Visayas and Mindanao areas packed with everything from ginger to pineapple. They’re salted more liberally, so the lechon is tasty enough to eat on its own without any accompaniments.


Lingayen Lechon Bagoong
Photo from Out of Town

Lingayen’s Lechon Bagoong is an absolutely one-of-a-kind take on the traditional lechon dish that is certain to make heads turn. It was really Mayor Leopoldo Bataoil who came up with the idea of combining the Lingayen lechon with bagoong, which is a unique and delicious product renowned in the province of Pangasinan that consists of fermented fish. Having just been made available to the general public in October of 2019, it is a rather recent development in the line of lechon variations. A lechon bagoong concept arose out of discussions between the mayor and market sellers in Lingayen when former President Rodigo Duterte ordered to remove vendors and unlawful buildings from the nation’s sidewalks. Local lechon seller Emil was persuaded by Mayor Batoil to experiment with using bagoong to coat the lechon in a novel recipe. In Lingayen, the lechon is becoming more popular, and it wouldn’t be surprising if other parts of the country start to take notice.


Photo from Rico’s Lechon Facebook

The people of Cebu have uncovered another strategy for making this meal, which is already notoriously addictive, even more mouthwatering. Adding chili and other fiery ingredients to counterbalance the pig’s inherent greasiness gave Cebu’s lechon its gloriously delectable taste, and the dish quickly became a local favorite. In all of Cebu, Rico’s Lechon is widely regarded as having been the first business to introduce a lechon dish with a flaming flavor.


Screencap from Unang Hirit

Ingenious and inventive chefs also cram their pigs with additional food in order to differentiate themselves out from a swarm of the typical delectable lechon. You’ll now find lechons that come filled with all sorts of rice, from paella to truffle to sticky ones. Sometimes lechons are packed with entire chickens and even Hungarian sausages. There are even food establishments that sell lechon packed with seafood.

Other recipes that use lechon

Say you have some leftovers from a feast, why not transform it into something more?


Paksiw na Lechon in a white serving bowl
Photo from Kawaling Pinoy

When it comes to matters concerning food, Filipinos have an extremely low tolerance for wasting food. In order to prepare a savory stew that is often consumed on the day that follows a massive feast, the scraps from the lechon, such as the bones, skin that has lost its crunch, the head, and the legs, are mixed in a pot with vinegar, chilies, black peppercorns, and any residual liver sauce. It has the right blend of sweetness and sourness, making it a meal that goes well with steaming rice.

Try a recipe here: https://www.kawalingpinoy.com/paksiw-na-lechon/ 


Crispy Pork Belly Lechon Roll - Kawaling Pinoy
Photo from Kawaling Pinoy

Only the tastiest and most juicy section of the pig, known as the belly or liempo, is used in the preparation of lechon belly, making it the ideal solution for satisfying the cravings of a smaller number of people for lechon. As a result of this variation, this particular style of lechon is now more readily available for the masses. Lemongrass is also often packed into the roll and served alongside either the liver sauce or seasoned vinegar. It’s a lot easier to enjoy lechon because this kind of lechon is now being sold by a lot of food stalls. No need to wait for fiestas or celebrations!


Photo from Charlie’s Pritchon Website

This kind of lechon gets its name from a combination of the words “prito,” which means “fried,” and “lechon,” which means “suckling pig.” After being seasoned and then deep-fried, the entire pig is then encased in a flat bread that is comparable to pita and served with a variety of sauces. It also comes with other fillings such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and malunggay with flavors like cayenne, turmeric, and more.  It is also possible to serve it in its most basic form with a traditional liver sauce.

The owners of Charlie’s Pritchon, Charlie and Dina Esguerra, were the pioneers in the distribution of this kind of lechon in the year 2001. A recipe based on the manner in which peking duck is cooked served as the inspiration for the pritchon.

Learn more here: https://www.charliespritchon.com/ 


Photo by Melissa Hom from Serious Eats

Frying up a good chunk of pork belly in a kawali or wok (hence its name) is the answer to the lack of resources for a spit-roasted lechon. After being brined to enhance their taste, strips of pork belly are further simmered in water until they are fork-tender. The pork would then be air-dried for at least a few hours to one night before being fried until the skin is brown and bubbling in hot oil. Even though it’s prepared differently, lechon kawali has a similar texture and crispiness to the original lechon. The liver sauce or a condiment made of soy sauce, vinegar, chiles, and garlic is commonly served with these.

Get a recipe here: https://panlasangpinoy.com/lechon-kawali/ 

Lechon is already sinfully delicious, but that has not prevented people from striving to improve upon it, and the people who eat it are the ones who definitely benefit the most from these improvements.

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