A multitudinous amount of lechon houses has been sprouting around Davao and it has been a common sight to the locals and foreigners who live there. This growth in lechon houses, rather than a trend, has become more of a competition on who can make “the best lechon” in the area. If you have had your fair share of the taste of this wonderful delicacy, it is safe to say that no matter where it comes from, it is worth every mouthful. Like any other good thing that has potential, it eventually evolves into something better. Davao lechon belly houses have also flourished in the area due to popular demand.

Davao lechon belly is a new technique of cooking lechon, where the bone is removed and only the pork belly side of the pig is kept to be spiced up and roasted in a spit. It originated from Cebu, back in August 2011 by Mr Marlon Gochan. It has now been adopted by many lechon houses, including the ones in Davao and had made it their own. Davao lechon belly is widely popular among lechon lovers as it is not only an easier way to eat the dish but also includes only the best part of the dish, which is the “tiyan” or pork belly. There is no more need to “save the best for last” because every bite is the best.

Some can say that the preparation made into cooking Davao lechon belly is more tedious because besides removing the bone, it is stuffed with herbs and spices to develop its flavor whilst cooking, It is then rolled and tied together with a string to be slow-roasted over an open charcoal fire. Every district that adopts their own way of making Davao lechon belly differs from how they prepare the spices and the aroma it gives after it is cooked.
Ultimately, the outcome will still have its signature crispy roasted skin but the better part of the meat is the main appeal of the dish.

Another reason for the popularity of the Davao lechon belly is because of its price. As it is only meat, it is cheaper than buying the whole Davao lechon. The price of a normal small Davao lecon belly from a good lechon house is PHP 1500 (approx. USD 30) for around 4kg while the price of a small Davao lechon is double its price at PHP 3000 (approx. USD 60) which is around 15kg (with bones). As there are also different sizes of the Davao lechon belly, the price increases as the weight increases, same with the Davao lechon. It is a more practical choice as well for families with smaller celebrations like birthdays, graduations and even for small “salu-salos” (or gathering) between friends or co-workers.

A distinctive difference with the Davao lechon belly compared to those in other parts of the Philippines is its authentic sauce. Manila usually uses ready-made sauces when serving lechon and Cebu prides their lechon dishes that do not need to be served with sauce.  In general, Filipinos like sauces and it is a treat when a dish comes with one that perfectly compliments it. An authentic sauce for Davao lechon belly includes one with herbs and some main ingredients like vinegar, liver paste, breadcrumbs and other condiments to taste. Although a lot of Davao lechon houses have their own unique tastes, it is an integral part for them when serving Davao lechon belly.

Some of the most well known Davao lechon belly restaurants are “Azon’s boneless lechon” and “Beloy’s boneless lechon belly” which have arrived in Davao shortly after the lechon belly’s growth in Cebu. This was around 2012, unfortunately, “Beloy’s boneless lechon belly” has closed but “Azon’s boneless lechon” continues to thrive. To pork-lovers who wish to visit Davao lechon belly restaurants, quite a few of them are located in strategic locations near or inside NCCC malls.  There is also no longer a need to buy a whole Davao lechon belly as these restaurants offer rice meals with a serving of their Davao lechon belly. It is perfect for those that are craving for the dish but does not want to eat or spend too much.

Although it is evident that the Davao lechon belly taste is very flavourful, a lot of health enthusiast discourage the excessive consumption of it due to its fat levels. Like a lot of comfort food, there is nothing wrong with its consumption but it is a delicacy that needs to be consumed in moderation. There are a lot of similar dishes around the world that can contest and have their health value debated as well, but it is always up to the consumer to make the decision. All we know is that food is an ever-present part of our lives and discovering dishes like Davao lechon belly not only opens our eyes to different cultures and traditions but when we come across it, we can take part in that tradition and share it to the world. A lot of initiative from lechon houses that serve the dish also make it a point to serve their Davao lechon belly with rice and vegetables. This allows a balanced portion for every meal served.

Like the Davao lechon, the Davao lechon belly has also made its rounds internationally. It is easier to produce as it is boneless but the challenge is preserving its authentic taste when it is made in a different country. Ingredients needed to spice the lechon belly may be a bit of a struggle to find in other countries and the pork might also be more expensive but there are still a lot of Filipino-owned lechon houses around the world serving Davao lechon belly. By now, it is safe to assume that there are already a lot of unique tastes and mixture of dishes paired with Davao lechon belly. It is natural to experiment with a food with potential and make it better but at the end of the day, when we want and crave that authentic Davao lechon belly dish, we know where to go.

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