Among the most popular food in the Philippines is a crispy spit-roasted suckling pig called “Lechon”. Coming from the Philippine’s Spanish roots, the dish has been a staple for special occasions, “fiestas”(or festivals) and gatherings. Being wildly popular and indubitably delicious, it is a guilty pleasure to a lot of locals and foreigners that have had a taste of it. The crispy texture of the skin paired with a tender, juicy and savoury meat filling will make your knees weak, and your tummy growling for more. It is unavoidable that a lot of lechon houses has been constantly sprouting around the country and one that is ever prominent is “Davao lechon”.
Davao is a city in Mindanao, one of the three island groups in the Philippines. It is the third largest city in the country, therefore, it is not surprising it has held one or even a few more of the oldest lechon houses in the Philippines. Despite having a few areas of Muslim majority, lechon houses in Davao are still prominent for its historical relevance. Davao Lechon has been a staple for Davaoeños (Davao locals) since the 1960s and still very much a sought-after dish by a lot of people. The dish has become a household viand and no longer limited to being served only on special occasions. The emergence of lechon houses in Davao has shown that it is true to not withhold the joys of life, in this case, the joy of eating lechon, when it can be readily available.
Although a lot of cities have come to make their own version of the dish like Lydia’s lechon in Metro Manila and the more known, Rico’s lechon in Cebu, there are undoubtedly a greater number of places in the Philippines where we can get great quality and delicious lechon. Davao Lechon is well known as it is one of the oldest places in the Philippines to serve the dish. One historic area is known to Davaoeños as the “lechon capital in Davao” and it is near Chavez street. They have been serving lechon in the location since the 1960s. This is around the time the Spanish colonization has ceased in the Philippines but a portion of their culture has been acquired and retained.
The popularity of the dish continued to grow and as such, it was reinvented into different types. As with other cities, Davao lechon comes in different sizes – like lechon de leche (baby roasted pork), and types – like spicy lechon for those that want a better kick with their food. It is also enjoyed in many different ways. Some dip it with sauces like gravy ( a famous bottled brand paired with it in the Philippines is called “Mang Tomas”) or make their own.
Davao Lechon is not only a staple food known for its crispy roasted goodness. Some people use lechon to make different types of recipes. Some pair it with soup or other traditional Filipino dishes like Sinigang and Adobo. Some mix it up even more and even convert the dish as snacks; making lechon into chips. A famous variety now of Davao lechon is their boneless lechon rolls. Restaurants like Azon’s boneless lechons have been gaining popularity in the past few years. Although it is not a new trend as there have been quite a few lechon houses that provide this, it has been a popular choice with the pork-loving community. It is undoubtedly better to eat without the distraction of removing the bone.
The continuing growth of lechon houses in Davao and other cities in the Philippines has not been a surprising trend. Filipinos stick close to their culture and are very fond of food, mostly comfort food, and have always been a community of sharing. Davao Lechon is something of a “fan favorite” that is kept through tradition like a lot of other dishes. Being one of the bigger cities in the Philippines, Davao has a lot of events and festivities and with festivities comes food. It is only natural that it is celebrated with food that can be shared with many such as lechon. It has been the way to keep the tradition of sharing and celebration going.
The dish has not shied away from the international eyes and even known chefs such as Anthony Bourdain (naming it “the best pig ever”) has given it notice. A lot of Filipinos around the world has set up lechon houses even in different countries such as Singapore and the US. A lot of other nationalities has also tried and reinvented the dish as well. Countries such as China has their own version of a roasted pig. Some have noticed the similarities between the two and it is great to see a different take on a certain dish. This goes to show that not only the Philippine culture has made its name, but also the food is a great discovery, whether there are similarities or not from different places.
To travelers that are interested to tour Davao, it is a must to explore the different lechon houses available in the city. Visiting fiestas such as “Kadayawan Festival” will include a get-together celebration that would have a “family style” of eating and will surely not be lacking the famous Davao lechon. Although it is true that there are a lot of other places in the Philippines that serve a scrumptious portion of lechon, Davao lechon is unique in its own right when mixed with the cultural inclusivity and historical relevance of the dish.
There will always be the debate for “The best lechon in the Philippines”, but a certain thing we know is that Davao lechon is one of the best there is. Locals and tourists alike will not run out of places to explore and enjoy the dish all around Davao. With the continuing establishment of a lot of lechon houses all over the city, Davao lechon will continue to be one of the top places for a great lechon find.