03 Sep2014


I was recently testing some paella recipes for the restaurants and these were two of the ones that moved up to the top 5 on the list… Making a decent paella in a (non-Spanish menu) restaurant that tries to serve food in 15-20 minutes is a serious challenge. I can only think of a few restaurants in the Philippines that do it extremely well, and they are all Spanish restaurants. So perhaps it’s not a good idea to pursue this line of thought, but we did it as an exercise anyway…


Several compromises seemed necessary to come up with a commercially viable dish… the first was that I tried to get flavor without our home essential of a 4 hour sofritto with slowly caramelized onions and tomatoes and saffron. And we use arborio rice, which would give Spaniards all sorts of conniptions. But we did use homemade chorizo, an incredibly rich lechon broth/stock, and Spanish saffron powder instead. Lots of good olive oil, onions and some garlic too. And the chorizo paella turned out delicious, a slam-dunk according to our in-house test panel of hungry office workers. :)


We also figured that cooking to order would just simply take too long, so we tried medium sized pans and decided to cook up one or two paellas just around mealtime and serve them by platter good for three or in individual portions. Actually, the paellas held for an hour or two extremely well, displayed near the lechons, retaining their moisture and the flavors intensified as they cooled…


Another version was a crab paella with peppers and peas and lots of saffron powder. We used a crab/shrimp broth and while this one was less rich than the chorizo paella, it was chock-full of nearly 1/3 kilo of peeled crab meat.


So what’s the problem? After a few days of testing the paella at the new outlet, it didn’t seem to get sufficient interest from customers. I managed to sell a few orders to tables that seemed receptive to suggestions, and they seemed to love it (wiped out every grain of rice!), but perhaps the thought of paella paired with lechon just didn’t seem to make sense to most guests. Hmmm, so my question to readers is, was this a bad idea? Would you eat paella with your lechon? Wouldn’t you want to be able to order just a cup or smallish portion (say for 3) of paella rather than a whole pan? Or do I need to give this a bit more time to catch on? Your comments are greatly appreciated.



  1. ricky gonzalez says:

    sir marketmanila, in the filipino psyche, both paella and lechon are special faire, not something that you would pair, outside of a fiesta, or a party. This I think is the core of the problem. Why not offer paella only on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays instead?

    Sep 3, 2014 | 4:29 am


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  3. Jade186 says:

    I would eat paella on its own, or as a first course, but definitely not paired with lechon. For me, lechon goes with plain rice and some veggies on the side. I prefer it simple without a flavour overload. All the best on your “commercial” experiment :-)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 4:32 am

  4. Anna Banana says:

    I live in Madrid and here paella orders have a min. of 2 pax per order too because paellas are served by the pan :-) I agree with the comment above that paella is better served as a special, say on weekends, or on special holidays?Because for us filipinos, paella is a special dish not an every day kind of meal :-) Perhaps a weekend buffet, MM? where the stars would be the paella, the alimasag with laing, and other delish foods that seem too extravagant for the standard menu? :-)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 5:20 am

  5. Esquire says:

    I too prefer lechon with a veggie side and plain rice. Would probably consider paella if served in smaller portions.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 6:30 am

  6. john paul sarabia says:

    I Still don’t know how to cook paella but with this procedure i will.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 7:19 am

  7. Connie C says:

    Agree with all of the above….taste buds overload, and yes, special order days a good idea. Perhaps also helps in planning for the stocking the restaurant larder of the freshest of your ingredients on the special order days.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 7:21 am

  8. john paul sarabia says:

    mm it’s because people are health conscious now- but me i will eat both maybe 3x a week.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 7:25 am

  9. jay p says:

    yeah put a premium. sorta like ramen nazi’s tantan mien.

    put “only x servings available on y days” on a signage.

    the unobtainable makes people excited.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 8:51 am

  10. cora says:

    Paella is already unique by itself without needing a pairing at all except for a good bottle of wine for a very special occasion or gathering. Will take a small side of green salad to cut its rich taste but that’s the only pairing which is appropriate. I think it is pretentious to have both lechon and paella, however each has its own preference of pairing food.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:42 am

  11. Betchay says:

    I know paella stuffed lechon is available now but I agree with the others…too rich and the “umay” factor comes in. Simple is always better. Welcome back MM!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:49 am

  12. Andrew says:

    While paella is a meal unto itself, I grew up with the pairing of lechon and paella and this is still a favorite pairing in our family.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:54 am

  13. rosa says:

    i love paella, and i love zubochon so ideally i’d welcome both if it were available. but if i were the diner and i’d been looking forward to zubochon for months (since i’d have to fly to cebu to get it), i’d allot majority of the space for lechon, and would think that the paella (carbs!) would be taking up space i’d rather fill up with zubochon.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:01 am

  14. ami says:

    I actually love eating at Alba’s because I can eat paella with cochinillo (spanish lechon). My theory for your restaurant is that lechon is best eaten with lots of rice so people would rather pay for 2 scoops of plain rice than 1 serving of paella rice for the same cost.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:02 am

  15. Julianne says:

    Prefer plain white rice to appreciate the flavour of the lechon. Just my thing. But I will eat the paella on its own.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:22 am

  16. Zerho says:

    Would definitely order both if available. Though I would opt for the smallish quantities of paella. Lechon is still better if eaten with plain rice.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:00 am

  17. Marketman says:

    This is SO COOL, your comments are so enlightening. I have naturally paired paella with lechon, but didn’t realize most folks might not… Hmmm, food for thought, definitely. Thanks!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:00 am

  18. Khew says:

    When people order paella, there is an element of selfishness involved, ie, “it’s all mine/ours and made freshly just for me/us in one pan from start to finish.” So what you can do is to make Chinese claypot paellas – individuals and for 2.
    The trick is to prepare the following mise en place:
    – stock (kept warm at all times)
    – soffrito-saffron infused rice (minus parsley or whichever fresh herb and kept in a bain marie or perhaps on warm function in a rice cooker)
    – chopped parsley or whichever fresh herb
    – the goodies (chorizo, lechon, seafood…etc)
    Once the order comes in, put stock and rice together into the claypot, cooking it to a quick boil. Add herbs and goodies, cover and simmer till done and with socarrat (crusted bottom). Top with more herbs and serve. I believe this can be done within 20 minutes.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:15 am

  19. Dhanggit says:

    Just like most of the commentors, I think both paella and lechon have over-powering taste. I would love to eat them separately. But I would give it a go to try and eat lechon with paella if ever the chance occur to me. But my “pinoy taste buds” are telling me that lechon is great with plain rice :-) Goodluck MM,

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:36 am

  20. cris l. says:

    I have had both at the same time and find it normal to have them together (beyond normal, really good in fact!). Actually, we’re having a party this weekend and the stars of the night will be paella and cochinillo. :) I really dont think that a flavored rice dish takes away from the deliciousness of the lechon. That being said, different strokes for different folks. Maybe you can have it as a dish pre-ordered a day (or half a day) in advance, like what some restaurants in Manila do, or serve it as a weekend special, as suggested above. Or make it a seafood paella so those who want a break from lechon (sacrilege!) have an alternative. :)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:53 am

  21. manny says:


    I guess when people decide to eat at Zubuchon, it’s for the lechon and anything that will complement the lechon. Unless it were a unique ‘lechon paella’ dish, then any other paella dish wouldn’t be ‘aligned’ with what people perceive zubuchon to be.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 12:43 pm

  22. Marketman says:

    manny, lechon paella here, it was very good if I say so myself… :)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 1:06 pm

  23. millet says:

    i’d love to have that crab paella, but i wouldn’t pair it with lechon – the combination would be too rich, and i would not want to be distracted from either. if i were a first-timer at zubuchon, i imagine i’d go for the lechon and then pair it with something lighter (or something that is perceived to be “less sinful”) than the lechon. plus, many Pinoys would insist on plain rice with lechon – no yang chow, no paella..again, so the tongue is not confused and distracted.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 2:13 pm

  24. Eva Mondragon says:

    Paella is a special food unto itself. People don’t usually mix it with anything else – while they are eating it – especially if the paella consists of several ingredients, like seafood paella, chicken/meat/chorizo paella with some selected vegetables thrown into the mix. Lechon is another type of special food and, for some reason, really goes well with white rice, along with some condiments, and salad or steamed vegetables on the side. Also, paella doesn’t seem to be the type of food that people would want to eat everyday, rather it is something to look forward to on a special day. So, a sign on the storefront stating that paella will be served in the restaurants on such and such day, people can make plans with their friends and families and say, “Hey, it’s paella lunch/night at Zubuchon, let’s go.” To further the temptation (if your restaurants have the license), you might also want to show the bottle of wine that you are going to pair them with. Maybe a couple of whites for the chicken or seafood and a couple of reds for the assorted meat. As with anything else, you would want to give your customers enough time to see if they will appreciate this new addition to your menu. Good luck to you!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 2:18 pm

  25. chad says:

    I would concur with the general opinion to keep them separate. Most Pinoys haven’t had the two together and wouldn’t know or can’t imagine how they would taste together (although it is good). Plus when you order lechon, you automatically think of plain rice and personal condiment. Plain rice or puso would be the perfect blank canvas for that holy pork. Thinking like a customer, I also wonder where in that duo would my sawsawan fit in? Would my liver sauce/toyomansi clash with the paella? These may be pedestrian thoughts but the inner conflict would be real hahaha!

    How above a paella dish with liver and lechon broth, a la dirty rice of the South?

    Sep 3, 2014 | 2:23 pm

  26. Marketman says:

    I see the plain rice with lechon preference emerging in a strong way. But in our restaurants now, oddly, quite a few tables order lechon with our five pork fried rice, which is probably way “richer” than most paellas… so some do “go over the top” so to speak… :)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 2:28 pm

  27. Risa says:

    It’s like having Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos in the same movie.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 2:40 pm

  28. Marketman says:

    Risa, hahaha, good one. Imagine lechon being rejected as a national dish, that would cause such a furore… :)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 3:11 pm

  29. sanika says:

    I wouldn’t mind eating paella with lechon but I personally prefer just plain rice against the unctuous flavor of the lechon and a delicious spiced vinegar to cut through the richness.

    I would appreciate a store selling paella though, especially in big pans, if I am planning on an “instant” but impressive dinner party or celebration. Maybe making it family size and available for advance orders only will work?

    Sep 3, 2014 | 4:09 pm

  30. nuno says:

    Paella is more of a for “celebration” / “occasion” type of dish. So is a whole Lechon. But in a per order basis (group lunch / family dinner) Lechon is somewhat accepted along with dinuguan, lechon paksiw etc.. Maybe “retail paella” or “more affordable Paella” are seen as a turn off and frown upon. Have you tried “Ly*i*s” paella sold in foodcourts here in Manila? I wouldn’t have it even if you pay me. Glamorize your Paella and sell it at a higher price (even on chosen days only) Give it the love and care you have given your accuchon or prickchon. Who knows, it might become the star partner of your pimpled pig :) (My two cents only – also it might not work with the Cebu people cost wise.) Manila branch maybe?

    Sep 3, 2014 | 4:27 pm

  31. natzsm says:

    I have always enjoyed eating paella with the lechon at Alba’s but didn’t like the Lydia’s pairing of paella stuffed lechon. I found the later way to oily.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 4:41 pm

  32. Corrine says:

    I would not pair paella with lechon. Now, Im craving for paella!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 8:45 pm

  33. joem says:

    Man on the street prefer lechon with plain rice to savor the richness of the lechon.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:22 pm

  34. heck says:

    “I see the plain rice with lechon preference emerging in a strong way. But in our restaurants now, oddly, quite a few tables order lechon with our five pork fried rice, which is probably way “richer” than most paellas… so some do “go over the top” so to speak… :)”

    True. But then you need to remember that that item is way less expensive than paella. So, another point worth considering here is the financial capacity (limit) of your customers.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:47 pm

  35. Marketman says:

    heck, paella and five pork rice at roughly similar price points, so the economics shouldn’t matter… but I think it is a perception thing, paella = expensive, so sometimes we have to just acknowledge that. Not all people make rational economical choices… :)

    Sep 3, 2014 | 9:59 pm

  36. Sarah says:

    Seconding Manny’s suggestion for a lechon paella! Having them as separate dishes is a bit much for a “regular” meal.

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:00 pm

  37. natie says:

    I’m just so happy that you have a new post!!!!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:14 pm

  38. gezel says:

    In Bacolod we eat arroz valenciana ( my fave) with Lechon so why not. Goodluck marketman..

    Sep 3, 2014 | 10:28 pm

  39. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Since I always order lechon and 5-pork fried rice whenever I eat at zubuchon, I have no problem having paella lechon. The paella lechon I prefer would be similar to the paella tinto (replacing beef with lechon) of The Corner Table of yesteryears.

    Welcome back MM!

    Sep 3, 2014 | 11:28 pm

  40. pinkytab says:

    How about serving seafood paella only in Zubudagat, not in Zubuchon?

    Sep 4, 2014 | 2:27 am

  41. Nina says:

    I would rather be going to a restaurant like yours expecting to eat the “best” of everything (lechon, zubudagat [?], btw, perfect combo), than eating a paella that is not authentic and I agree with lots of comments, not a good combo bec. it will be too rich.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 3:00 am

  42. Eva Mondragon says:

    Please tell me what five pork fried rice is. It is “pork” we are talking about, are we not? Does this fried rice have five different kinds of pork cuts or organs in it?

    Sep 4, 2014 | 9:46 am

  43. Marketman says:

    Eva, our five pork fried rice has lechon minced, chicharon, drippings from freshly roasted lechons, tampalen (the renderings of leaf lard) and a bit of homemade lard along with bagoong and some diced green mango and other spices. It’s quite deadly in a good way. :) And probably more deadly than any paella I can cook.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 9:49 am

  44. Jaybee says:

    Give this a chance. I always eat my paella with cochinillo.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 11:33 am

  45. Rona Y says:

    I’ve always viewed paella as a meal unto itself–strong flavours all in one dish. I can see eating lechon with pork fried rice (complementary), but I can imagine the chorizo from paella competing with the simple flavours of lechon. If I’m choosing a restaurant based on its lechon, then I want the lechon to be the star of the meal.

    Still, I would try a small dish (think tapas-sized) of paella. I’m always searching for good paella!

    One thing to try, some restaurants in my city might advertise on Facebook a particular special one day a month, and in limited portions. That way if it doesn’t sell as well as hoped, the waste is minimal. But it also gives the impression of rarity and exclusivity, something many people fall for, which may help give it the boost it needs in sales.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 11:41 am

  46. Eva Mondragon says:

    OMG – Geez, MM! I want Five Pork Fried Rice!!!

    Sep 4, 2014 | 3:00 pm

  47. robin castagna says:

    It’s like how tuyo tastes so much better with plain white rice than sinangag.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 7:30 pm

  48. Reggie Rullan says:

    I would not hesitate to order paella with lechon. Actually a version with lechon on top would be hard to resist!

    Sep 4, 2014 | 7:45 pm

  49. ros says:

    Yes! Definitely [fried rice] + [lechon] = YUM!!

    Also if I may suggest, how about offering different kinds of fried rice. Like say one that is the standard fried rice but with aromatic and smokey roasted garlic; one that is on the sweet&sour side, like omurice w/o the egg but with atchara or pickled veggies; one that is chock-full of veggies, (mushrooms, napa cabbage, aromatics, corn, carrots, etc.) basically a vegetarian Yang Chow fried rice(to counteract the guilt of eating lechon, :D); lastly a variation of the pork rice but this time flavored with your home made chorizo/longganisa.


    Sep 4, 2014 | 8:26 pm

  50. Adobo Diaries says:

    I love lechon. I love paella. But I think I prefer not to have both together.

    When done right, the rice of the paella tastes of what the paella is, even without the seafood or the meat. So it is a bit rich and pairing it with another rich dish like lechon may probably be too overwhelming.

    Sep 4, 2014 | 9:24 pm

  51. Tessa says:

    Your customers might be hesitant to try your paella because they’re probably thinking it would cost a lot as compared to plain steamed rice. Why not try to introduce it to them by having a promotional combo or family meal that has the paella rice instead of plain white rice. You can run the promo for a month or two and by the time the promo is over they’ve tried the paella rice and will order it from the menu without hesitation. Just a suggestion.

    Sep 5, 2014 | 3:53 am

  52. jr peralejo says:

    i remembered when i was young, our lolo would get a lechon stuffed with paella inside it. it was a special treat during our family celebrations in the 80s. he stopped getting that lechon stuffed with paella sometime during the 90s.

    Sep 5, 2014 | 3:07 pm

  53. chrisb says:

    This is fascinating. Come to think of it, I never really eat lechon with rice. I like it on its own. It’s more pica pica than ulam for me. I would order paella and lechon together BUT I think I won’t eat them together in one mouthful, which is the way most Pinoys eat rice. It’s more of a filler, or something to extend flavour. In this vein, it does make sense that most would prefer plain rice to paella.

    Sep 5, 2014 | 8:47 pm

  54. Mandy says:

    I would love to eat paella with lechon. Although, I would prefer a “plainer” paella rice, meaning it’s just flavored rice, with some bell peppers & beans perhaps but no added meat because I’d prefer the lechon to be my ulam still.

    Sep 5, 2014 | 10:06 pm

  55. sister says:

    Lola used to stuff the lechon with rice and razor clams, basically a seafood paella.
    I always though that was classic Cebu fiesta fare. Maybe gone with the fifties…

    Sep 6, 2014 | 9:20 pm

  56. Mike De Guzman says:

    i would eat paella and lechon if they were paired… you can make individual servings (served on small pans, which would be super cute) and something like good for 3-4 people… although, since many consider paella to be “special fare”, maybe you can serve it on the restaurant on weekends only… give the people something to look forward to…

    Sep 7, 2014 | 10:51 am

  57. Christine says:

    I grew up with memories of each family gathering having lechon meticulously prepped and cooked by my grandaunt paired with seafood paella/valenciana. So it would be a pairing I would actually enjoy.
    But MM, I think the pairing is not a usual fare for us Filipinos. Lechon is considered ‘fiesta’ food eaten with white rice. Paella is oftentimes considered a special dish only served in spanish or high end specialty restos.

    Sep 9, 2014 | 7:40 am

  58. Marketman says:

    Christine, Mike et al, I have to agree that this pairing is unusual, but something I had reasonably often growing up. But I also buy the argument that most folks enjoy their lechon with plain rice and will probably leave it at that. Have to use the paella pans for special occasions or weekend specials… or open a more Spanish type restaurant… :)

    Sep 9, 2014 | 9:32 am

  59. farida says:

    Hi MM. l love both and I’d have them any day for that matter. So if you offer the paella in your restaurants, you can be sure my sister and I will order it. Back in the good old USA again. Didn’t make it to Pigafetta but I will make sure when I get back to go there.

    Feb 24, 2016 | 2:50 am

  60. Marketman says:

    farida, we briefly introduced paella in one of our branches, and while the guests who ordered it seemed pleased, we didn’t have the volume of orders to justify cooking pans of paella, much of which went to staff meals afterwards when they weren’t sold. It’s hard to cook paella to order (it would take 25+ minutes), so a properly made paella is not likely to join the menu line-up soon…

    Feb 24, 2016 | 7:56 am


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