Their has been many variations to this favorite dish which has always been present in Filipino
celebrations and family occasions. With the Christmas and New Year festivities nearly approaching, the lechon shops are preparing for the busiest and their most profitable time of the year. The lechon business has always been thriving because it’s a dish that has become a staple in any celebration, and of course, everybody knows that we Filipinos love to celebrate. Dabawenyos prove that they know how to celebrate as evident in their twist to the traditional lechon baboy. I’m referring to the ever popular Davao boneless lechon. 

Although our ancestors may have been roasting pigs long before the Spaniards came, the lechon’s origins cannot be completely traced as a delicacy originating from the Philippines. Researchers link the origin of the lechon recipe to Spain. The flavor and cuisine influence of Spain to our own dishes can’t be missed. However, our innate creativity led the way to discovering new tastes and flavors to something that’s been around for centuries.

Derived from the Spanish word “Leche” meaning milk, the Philippines’ lechon is a suckling pig that’s slowly roasted over smoldering coals . The way it’s prepared and cooked may vary, but it’s the same famous dish that has been served around the world. As simple as it is, this dish has earned global attention almost at the same level as the Philippine adobo.  

Lechon has always been the highlight in buffets prepared for baptisms, fiestas, weddings, or any celebration. The Lechon used to be defined as a roasted whole suckling pig, but as our lives became more fast paced, and convenience and time have been given much value, we’ve discovered new ways to prepare the lechon. It used to be a dish that’s prepared on an open pit of smoldering hot charcoal, but now the same flavors and texture can be achieved inside the kitchen of one’s home. After all, cuisines are continuously improved and innovation can be applied to almost anything.

Boneless lechon costs less but gives the same mouth-watering goodness. For a significantly more affordable price than that of a whole lechon baboy, boneless lechon belly roll would look just as fancy on the buffet table. It will grace any special occasion worthy to be remembered for years to come.

More and more people are opting for lechon belly because it’s easier to prepare. One can easily make a lechon belly roll with almost little to hassle-free preparation. You can come up with your own unique recipe for the stuffing, but these are the basic and most common ingredients:

One whole pork belly (without ribs and about 3-4 pounds), half a teaspoon of pepper, about 10ml of calamansi juice, peeled garlic cloves, and 2 cups of coarse salt.

Here’s one way to prepare it. Poke the skin all over – creating random holes which will allow the seasoning to seep through. Rub the entire pork belly with the salt and pepper mixture you’ve prepared ahead of time. Let rest for around half an hour.

Blend the calamansi juice and garlic using a food processor. The mixture is then massaged onto the pork belly meat, and make sure to let rest for another 30 minutes. One technique in making the best tasting lechon is to be careful in adding just enough of the herbs and spices to bring out the natural flavor of the pork, and not to overpower it’s natural taste. (Easier said than done as we tend to think that more flavors mean better taste.)

Then it’s time to make the meat into a tight little roll. Roll the pork belly with the skin side up and secure this with a thread or baker’s twine. This should be refrigerated making sure it’s uncovered while chilled overnight.

Before baking the meat, it’s surface must be completely dried, and this can easily be done with the use of paper towels. Preheat the oven to 180 F and bake the meat  for about 3 1/2  hours before gradually increasing the temperature to 320 F. The lechon belly is continued to cook for about another hour or at least until the meat is cooked.

The secret in making the skin crisp is to give it another 30 minutes in the oven while increasing the temperature to 430 F until you achieve the crispiness that lechon skin is known to have.

It’s easier and more convenient to cook this in an oven, but others claim that the open pit rotisserie style of cooking the lechon brings out it’s flavor more. I guess, to each it’s own. No matter how it’s cooked, a lechon always hits any craving spot.

The coming together of all the flavors initially teases you taste-buds until you have to choice but to give in to this mouth-watering goodness. Lechon is always best paired with
steamed plain rice. Any Filipino can attest to that. 

The boneless lechon belly is swiftly becoming a more popular option for many food lovers because for one, it’s easier to prepare, and two, it’s more enjoyable to eat because, well, it’s boneless.

Anyway, any form of lechon is welcome at my dining table anytime of the day, especially if this is sent from Davao. Yes, sometimes, I day-dream about Davao lechon being shipped directly to our doorstep. It’s that good!

Although nothing still beats flying to Davao to get it where it’s prepared- freshly roasted! There’s a street in Davao called Chavez street which is marked in the foodie map as lechon haven. Another street called Mabini is also a crowd favorite for anyone who in need of a crispy, succulent, and meaty lechon fix.


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