The number of lechon houses in Davao has been growing steadily and with that, a wider variety of the types of lechon has also been growing. We are all aware of the Davao lechon baboy but something that may not be known to a few is that there is also Davao lechon baka. “Baka” means cow in Tagalog. Truly a more daring feat to roast a whole cow on a spit. Although the dish itself is not a very new thing in Davao or even in the Philippines as a whole, it is not as popular of a choice when getting a lechon dish.
The process of cooking Davao lechon baka is very similar to the lechon baboy. Both are roasted on a spit over an open-flamed charcoal. The difference is that the meat of the Davao lechon baka is denser than the lechon baboy. It is harder to cook it more evenly. The outer skin of the baka should be sliced off once it is perfectly roasted. This may take a few rotations over the charcoal flame. This method of cooking is quite similar to a Middle Eastern-Mediterranean type of dish called “Shawarma”, that is also meat cooked but in a vertical spit.
Similar to the lechon baboy, the quality of meat in Davao lechon baka also depends on how they are raised. Native cows are better for lechon baka than hybrid ones. Usually, cow farms have a variety of cow breeds and the native cows are those that are more likely to be sold off and slaughtered. The diet of these cows is an important factor in determining the quality of meat they produce. Those raised more naturally develop a more tender meat. Feeding the cow with grass, corn leaves and having them drink natural water makes all the difference, as long as no artificial feeds are given.
Davao lechon baka is, of course, cooked longer than lechon baboy. It is easier to cook them in parts, rather than as a whole. It would take double the effort to rotate a spit holding a whole cow rather than if it was in pieces. People who buy parts of the Davao lechon baka usually goes for the leg. It is the easiest part to separate and has a lot of meat. Although it is still tough to cook, it is worth the time and effort. It is best served in thin slices as an appetizer.
Davao lechon baka is a great dish to serve in celebrations with a lot of people. It is perfect for “fiestas” and Christmas reunions. There are always caterers from lechon houses as well that can be called if the process of preparing it is intimidating to you. Like other meats, there are also Davao lechon baka meats that come in parts and in frozen packages. They are usually used for home-cooked meals. These packages can be bought in lechon houses around davao or grocery centres in malls.
They can be served as it is – roasted. Some add them in different dishes like sandwiches and even pasta. Like Davao lechon baboy, it can also be served with a special lechon sauce made with liver spread and vinegar. The rich taste of the beef makes it suitable to be paired with a lot of the
milder dishes too like vegetables, noodles and soup. Others add it as their main ingredient in fried rice dishes with egg. A lot of Filipino families have come up with their own family marinades for making every type of lechon.
Davao lechon baka can be ordered in a lot of lechon houses in Davao. They even have other types of lechon like lechong kambing (roasted goat) and lechong manok (roasted chicken). Lechon houses such as Naty’s lechon house, the oldest lechon house in Davao, serves Davao lechon baka. Surely, most lechon houses in Davao already serves lechon baka as well. There are also restaurants that offer catering services that even prepares the lechon at the venue of the party or celebration. This kind of service is great as the lechon baka is kept hot and fresh. The cooking and preparations are also handled by those well trained to cook it.
Just like other lechon dishes, Davao lechon baka is a sinful choice of food. As it is a red meat, too much of it may not be the best for everyone. It has more calories than other meats and, unfortunately, also more fats. Nevertheless, a short indulgence of a guilty pleasure dish never hurts anyone. The key is always in the moderation of the food. When prepared in a right balanced meal, it can be incorporated in every meal of the day if your heart so desires.
Davao lechon baka has been a star dish in Davao just like their lechon baboy. It is the best authentic Filipino dish to be shared on huge special occasions. Just recently, in the cultural celebration of the 81st “Araw ng Davao” (Davao’s day), 50 whole Davao lechon bakas was shared among revelers around the town leading the celebration. As the saying goes,” Good food brings families together” and in a city celebrating itself, everyone is family. It is the Filipino way to celebrate with food and bring culture to life.
There are other parts of the Philippines known for their obsession with lechon besides Davao. Batangas city holds their “Lechon Festival” in June, and frankly, a lot of other cities celebrate it too. Davao is one of the most notable ones but they make it their own. Davao lechon baka is just another of their “trophy” that should be boasted among others. With Davao’s bountiful resources and talented locals, they effortlessly make things better when adapted from other cities in the Philippines. They promote authentic Filipino culture even amongst diversity and they make food that is fresh and always flavorful. Davao lechon baka is only one among many dishes that have been made with their unique Davao taste. “Life really is at Davao”.
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