18 Oct2015

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Plans started several months ago. The President of the university I attended was scheduled to make a visit to Manila, the first time this has ever happened in the long history of the school. It was to be a big deal, and some 40-50 alumni of the school were set to greet, fete and host our special guest an his party. A private reception was scheduled for Saturday night, and I had been asked if I could provide a lechon for the event. I didn’t want to just have a cooked lechon flown in (it arrives cold and not in the finest condition) so I had arranged weeks before to cook the lechon in our garage so that we could deliver it to the chopping block minutes after we took it off the fire. In other words, with steam still rising from its butt, which I have always said is the best way to enjoy a lechon…

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…but shit happens. And the storm that was about to hit Luzon forced the guests to change their travel plans at the last minute, so with just several hours to go, all scheduled events were cancelled. Months of planning up in smoke. Que sera sera. But with pigs on the premises, we decided to cook them anyway. One was to be sent to our hostess for her to enjoy with friends and family, and one we were to eat at home, with friends. Here is how we did it. Just in case you are mad enough to do the same for the President of your university… :)

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First, assemble a makeshift roasting pit in your garage, with fire bricks if possible on the base, and hollow blocks on the sides. Start a fire and fan it good. We ended up using an electric fan as it seems the humidity and coals were just so damp from the rains.

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Once you have a sack worth of coals at their peak, spread them out to create an instant, and incredibly hot roasting pit. Temper the heat until it is less searing. Move the coals about so there are hot and cooler spots.

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In the meantime, stuff your lechon, sew it up on fresh bamboo poles, and slather it with coconut water, oil and salt. Start cooking approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes before you need the lechon.

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The most important step, for me, was to previously book two airline tickets for our two best lechoneros to fly into Manila to roast the pigs for me. :) Seriously, this was the key to the whole exercise. One had never been on a plane, nor been to Manila, so this was an adventure of his own.

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Notice how there are no coals directly under the pigs. Just keep the heat to the front, back and sides.

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Eventually, with much care and dedication, you will end up with a lechon that looks like this, a 9 or 9.5 in our own grading scale for quality control. It smelled utterly intoxicating and it had the most amazingly crisp skin. Let it rest for say 15-20 minutes before cutting into it. Keep it out of a draft of an air conditioner. The other pig was swiftly carted off and delivered to the original host of the evening’s festivities for her to enjoy with her family.

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In the meantime, while the pig is roasting, frantically contact close friends to invite them to an impromptu dinner. set the table simply, using some very economically priced kalabasa from the market at the beach a few weeks ago.

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Prep a roasted talong salad with tomatoes. Prep a pako or fern salad as well. Pop a shrimp and tomato rice into the oven, and make a kinilaw to start.

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We fried and chopped up some tinapang bangus or smoked fish, and added some salted duck egg. This “relish” was meant to be sprinkled on your salads in case you wanted more saltiness and protein along with your veggies. This also had some deep-fried garlic bits.

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Finally, put out some simple sauces for the lechon, one a soy and vinegar with chili mixture, the other, a patis or fish sauce and home-grown dayap or lime which pairs beautifully with the lechon. Not such a bad outcome from a cancelled event. You just have to find the silver lining every time those storm clouds appear on the horizon. :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Skye says:

    Lechon ??? My favorite part is the ribs.

    I wonder what are the Manila impressions of your lechonero.

    Oct 18, 2015 | 8:12 pm

     
  2. Ron says:

    yum…eggplant salad! drooling!

    Oct 18, 2015 | 10:26 pm

     
  3. marilen says:

    Bravo !!!!!!

    Oct 19, 2015 | 2:33 am

     
  4. Footloose says:

    I can picture wisps of water vapour emanating from the void just left by the skewer pole but I will have to turn towards the other end for a more appetizing view of the crunchy critter.

    Lechon expertise is a rare and valuable culinary skill to acquire. May be the set of techniques required could be imparted through a cooking travel stay similar to those pioneered by the late Marcella Hazan.

    Never to be attempted in a normally enclosed North American garage unless all volatile solvents have been cleared out of the way (and recently tested working fire-fighting equipment is within reach and ready for practical application).

    Oct 19, 2015 | 2:45 am

     
  5. jay says:

    Great job as always Market Man!

    question on roasting- do you periodically have to add more coals to the pit to keep the heat going? and if so, do you add hot coals or cold coals?

    my experience with local coal is it burns out pretty quick. im wondering how you kept it hot for almost two hours.

    Oct 19, 2015 | 8:10 am

     
  6. ami says:

    I’m guessing your neighbors were wondering where that delicious smell was coming from. First time I’ve heard of patis and dayap as sawsawan for lechon. I normally eat mine sans condiments. I’ll give it a try next time.
    I hope your lechoneros enjoy Manila enough to move here permanently so we can finally have Zubuchon here. :)

    Oct 19, 2015 | 8:50 am

     
  7. Gej says:

    Happy to see pictures of the dry run of Zubuchon Manila! The placement of the coals was a revelation.

    Oct 19, 2015 | 11:41 am

     
  8. Kasseopeia says:

    I second Gejo’s (e)motion: Zubuchon Manila dry run!

    Oct 19, 2015 | 2:36 pm

     
  9. Marketman says:

    Kass and Gejo… hahaha, we will need a much bigger garage if we were to do that… :)

    Oct 19, 2015 | 3:24 pm

     
  10. millet says:

    great way to make lemonade out of lemons!

    Oct 19, 2015 | 3:40 pm

     
  11. ricardo gonzalez says:

    sir marketman, hope that opening of italian resto in cebu went well, expecting pictures on your instagram account, pero sobrang busy ka siguro to post pictures of the opening. Anyway, congratulations and more power.

    Oct 19, 2015 | 3:50 pm

     
  12. Laura says:

    As a kid every town fiesta for the Sto. Nino in Pandacan, I watched my father (who is a Professional careered man), select the best piglet in our brood of pigs, and in the wee hours of the morning, slaughter it and roast it in an open fire in our cement backyard. He earlier cleans the stomach with sampsloc leaves and did not saw it, leaving the sides of the stomach gaping open with crispy skin afterwards. When turning the pig, he would every now and then dip a pole with short banana leaves into the margarine and baste the skin of the pig. We had the most delicious and colorful and crispy skin of Lechon which we shared with our extended families and guests.
    Now resuding on Long Island in NY, our best Lechon supplier happens to be some 15 minutes away. He created a mechanized roaster which turns the pig automatically (roasting is in his garage). He preorders his freshly slaughtered whole pigs from Kosher live markets in Queens (45 minutes away). Of course he only does maybe 6 sales a year bc this is secretly done to please the palate of discriminating tastes of Filipinos! Costs woul run $200-300 each, including the Mang Tomas sarsa (no substitutes here!).

    Oct 20, 2015 | 1:30 am

     
  13. Thel from Florida says:

    How creative! Those are great looking lechons – – SARAP!

    Oct 20, 2015 | 8:14 am

     
  14. Leoj says:

    Hi. I’ve seen your older post back in 2007 about Rhubarb. Where did you get your Rhubarb?Thank you

    Oct 20, 2015 | 8:47 am

     
  15. Irene says:

    Oh my, a Zubuchon piggy roasted in Manila… :) Did the blue linens in the talong salad photo come from Balay ni Atong? And it’s “steam rising from its butt” :)

    Oct 20, 2015 | 12:24 pm

     
  16. Mylene says:

    what a great idea…bring the lechonero here instead of the lechon…My husband’s family comes from Agusan del Norte and everytime they visit us, they bring a lechon. It’s very tasty but the skin is so soggy and the lechon is barely warm by the time we peel off the box, plastic bag and brown paper wrapping. thanks for the idea…now to find those fire bricks…

    Oct 20, 2015 | 2:06 pm

     
  17. Marketman says:

    Irene, thanks for that…edited. and yes, Balay ni Atong. leoj, rhubarb rarely at weekend markets around christmas and springtime…

    Oct 20, 2015 | 2:23 pm

     
  18. Betchay says:

    I bet the aroma was indeed intoxicating….it will drive me crazy if I was your neighbor!

    Oct 20, 2015 | 10:51 pm

     
  19. Kiko says:

    Yummy!!!! :)

    Oct 21, 2015 | 2:51 am

     
  20. EbbaBlue says:

    Yes a good Lechonero is must.
    On my yearly visit to Pinas/Quezon Province, I order a fresh pig to be slaughtered and then cook into Lechon. I always hire a professional Lechonero to do the job, but last year, my cousin insisted to do it himself with the help of his brother. Nakakahinayang raw kasi yng ibabayad ko sa Lechonero, eh maliit naman daw yng baboy (I bought a young piglet), kayang kaya naman daw nila, at ikot-ikot lang daw yon.
    Result? Sunog na balat, but still medium raw inside. Ang inis ko (especially yung ibabayad ko sa Lechonero ay sa kanila ko ibinigay, as utang ba loob).
    Grrrrr…

    Oct 21, 2015 | 2:29 pm

     
  21. ros says:

    Whoa! How did I end up here? Was Googling “smokin’ hot butt”… oh well… :D

    Needed to do a back search to your “New Beach Barbecue Station” post, for your firebricks supplier contact info. Thanks MM! :)

    Oct 21, 2015 | 8:46 pm

     
  22. Betchay says:

    Oct 23, 2015 | 9:43 am

     
  23. joem says:

    See you cebu, see you zubochon next week.

    Oct 24, 2015 | 3:05 pm

     
  24. Ana says:

    I noticed that your lechon looks pale compared to the one’s you can order. I assume that you didn’t add any soy sauce-based mixture to you lechon skin? Well your technique is nothing special but its really ideal for those who would love to roast some lechon on their backyard or garage.

    Oct 26, 2015 | 7:39 am

     
  25. Footloose says:

    Here is a handy website to use for shortening long unwieldy web addresses:
    https://goo.gl

    Oct 26, 2015 | 8:07 pm

     
  26. Marketman says:

    Ana, our lechon is only sprayed with fresh coconut water and natural uniodized sea salt, so a totally organic and all-natural caramelization occurs as a result… Ordered lechons for the most part today are brushed with soy sauce to achieve the deep dark color that is sometimes a bit bitter if it goes too far, but which perhaps you associate with being more “special”. Our “technique” is natural and old-fashioned in many ways, and I would actually argue that the short cut version is for convenience, looks and not necessary flavor nor authenticity. After all, we have been roasting pigs in the archipelago for far more than 600+ years, and soy sauce was only commonly available since the early 1900’s (or only 10-15% of recorded lechon history) and even then, not to most folks in the province. It’s the same argument I would posit for adobo made without soy sauce. I understand recipes evolve, and should, but if you associate “special” with brushing your lechon with a commercially made soy sauce (as well as using iodized salt), and perhaps using a blowtorch to even out the dark color, go ahead and do it your preferred way. It’s truly different strokes for different folks.

    P.S. As an interesting point of comparison, check out my old post on an order of lechon from El Botin, in Madrid, supposedly the OLDEST RUNNING RESTAURANT in the WORLD at 290 years since it opened, and note the color of their lechon skin in the photos. They use ovens rather than a rotisserie, but the hue of their skin is more golden, not reddish dark brown. The same goes for say Chinese roast pork in China, HK or Singapore, that have the same light golden color. And finally, if you happen to ask your grandparents about lechons made in their day (say 1960’s and before)… they would probably have to say that they were not the intensely reddish dark brown color so commonly seen today.

    Our methods for cooking a lechon are detailed in a series of posts called the “lechon chronicles”… just in case you wanted a more detailed and complicated take on a home-cooked lechon…

    Oct 26, 2015 | 10:41 pm

     
  27. ros says:

    Hmmm… spelling error maybe; “unionized sea salt” conjures up images of labor union of salt makers of Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte. :D

    On color:
    It’s the commercial hijacking of our primate brain. It’s hardwired. We’re all descended from successful primates which has a preference for red/orange/yellow stuffs; e.i. ripe/more nutritious fruits, that gave them an edge on their survival.

    Also:
    http://www.thekitchn.com/outsmart-food-label-colors-while-you-shop-tips-from-the-kitchn-208689

    and a research paper for the scholarly: :D
    http://udel.edu/~rworley/e412/Psyc_of_color_final_paper.pdf

    That is why “tokneneng” and other fried/barbecued street foods are dyed orange/red.

    :D

    Oct 28, 2015 | 7:29 am

     
  28. Marketman says:

    ros, hahaha, BLASTED SPELL CHECK, it’s uniodized salt. I have always wondered about the shocking nuclear orange meats barbecued roadside… now I know better… Thanks.

    Oct 28, 2015 | 8:01 am

     
  29. Entaro says:

    Though the attempt at being organic and all-natural, your Zubuchon franchise killed its own hype. Check out your branches here in Cebu, the lechon are dry and makunat. The spices and herbs used, probably with rosemary and thyme, wee so misplaced.

    Do a personal survey of your lechon, most Cebuanos nowadays avoid it.

    Nov 5, 2015 | 1:46 am

     
  30. barang says:

    Laura, is it possible to get the contact person for your lechonero fr Long Island? We in Boston are in dire need of the real lechon. THANKS.

    Nov 6, 2015 | 11:21 am

     
  31. Marketman says:

    Dear Mr. Adun (Entaro),

    So sorry you were unsatisfied with your visit to Zubuchon. My apologies for this late reply, I just recently revisited the blog after a month’s hiatus.

    It is unusual but certainly not impossible that your portion of lechon was not up to standard, but we do pride ourselves in creating and serving our lechon in as best a manner as we can. Perhaps you will consider another try and if I am around, allow me to join you and to buy you the replacement meal so that you can tell me face to face where it is not to your satisfaction. I would happily spring for a kilo of the other top 3 brands in Cebu so you can conduct a comparison taste test. It will not offend me if you prefer other brands, some of them are quite tasty. And people themselves have different preferences.

    As to your claim that Cebuanos are avoiding Zubuchon, that is your opinion, and you are, quite simply, factually wrong. We continue to have over a thousand customers a day at our restaurant branches, and 70-80% of our guests are indeed Cebuano, with tourists from elsewhere in the Philippines making up 20-25% of our guests and foreign tourists a percent or two. Over 70% of our clients are repeat clients, with an estimated 20% that have dined with us/ or purchased our lechon at least 10 times since we opened. At least that is what our internal surveys tell us. And I would put more credence in those surveys than the opinion of just one person, credibility wise. And over the past 4.5 years, our customer base has grown steadily from month to month, as our VAT payments quite clearly indicate (probably placing us at the TOP of the list of lechon purveyors in Cebu that remit taxes to the Philippine government).

    If other preparations for roast pig are your preference, I can certainly point you in the direction of several other well-known purveyors in Cebu. The vast majority of them use significant amounts of MSG (sometimes up to a cup per pig) as a stuffing ingredient and brush their skins with soy sauce to achieve the burnished look. Neither MSG nor soy sauce were popular for the first 600+ years of the roasting of pigs on the island of Cebu, so I certainly wouldn’t consider the addition of a new herb or two like rosemary and thyme to be so off the path as to not be considered. You may not be aware, but lechons from Carcar, in the south of Cebu, are stuffed with epazote, an obscure mexican herb that looks a bit like marijuana and which came over with Mexican sailors during the Galleon trade from 1650-1850 or so. Epazote only features in dishes in Ilocos, Cavite and Carcar, the three major stops of the galleons to the islands. And they have been used for hundreds of years. Surely that shouldn’t strike you as being icky, or at least, not as icky as MSG and soy sauce…

    Best regards,

    Marketman

    Nov 16, 2015 | 8:00 pm

     
 

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