Lechon, Round 3 (Roast Pig a la Marketman)


Sometimes, you just get really lucky. If you are a fan of lechon, and you have been following the Marketman Chronicles here, here and here, and read the last recent entry “Lechon, Round 2,” then savor this post on Lechon, Round 3 when you have a few minutes of calm, and possibly slight hunger pangs. Do not breeze through this post. Few “experiments” of mine turn out this delicious on the “first try.” The photo up top features a few square inches of the most incredible pork crackling I have ever had. It was crisp, salty, flavorful and rich all in one bite. Blistered, airy, light, yet clearly from a beloved pig. Utterly gourmet chicharon might be another way to describe it. A bit “tortured” to look at, but I would put this piece of skin up against almost any other food on a line-up of the things one might crave at their last meal on this planet…


It was my intention to veer a little bit away from a more traditional “pinoy style” lechon during Round 3. I was inspired by a episode of a television program called River Cottage, where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (one of my favorite food programs of the moment) roasts a HUGE pig over charcoal. He did something unusual to the skin and it is that aspect of the preparation that I wanted to experiment with most… But first, the ingredients. We decided to “size-up” from earlier pigs at 20-22 kilos that didn’t have much fat yet. This time around, we purchased a 33 kilo pig (perhaps roughly 3 months old) and I think it was the perfect size for a hungry party of say 16-18 guests. For flavor, I concocted my own mix of aromatics and spices. Lots of lemongrass picked minutes before use from our garden. About 30-40 cloves of garlic, peeled; small red onions, siling labuyo (I used only 10-12 pieces, not everything in the photo) and lemons. Dried rosemary and thyme (I really wanted fresh, but Cebu groceries didn’t carry any), kosher salt and lots of black peppercorns. A small bottle of olive oil.


In a beautiful hand carved mortar made from a discarded piece of langka wood (more glimpses of the mortar in photos below), I first crushed several stalks of incredibly fragrant lemongrass. If you just picked the lemongrass, it is actually quite juicy, a huge difference from market or grocery bought stalks which tend to be rather dry…


..I added the garlic, onions, some salt, peppercorns, chillis and smashed them up into a very chunky paste…


…spread the paste all around the rib cage or cavity of the lechon. And sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. And I mean liberally. You could need as much as 1/4 cup of kosher salt!


Note that the meat and skin of the pig is separated from the bones in the butchering and preparation process, so you can stuff more of the aromatic paste outside the ribs, and likewise remember to season well with salt and pepper. Add 3-4 bundles of lemongrass (I tried not to overstuff)…


…and squeeze in the juice of 2 lemons and add a few tablespoons of olive oil as well. Now dance around the pig and chant “you will be brilliant, you will be brilliant…” in low monotone…


…then sew up the stomach with a nice tight stitch.


Next is the unusual step of scoring the skin of the lechon. With a fresh blade or the tip of a very sharp knife, make shallow slits on the skin that only go as deep as the fat, not the meat below. I did this at a diagonal, leaving a large solid piece at the “top” of the back. Then I rubbed lots of dried thyme and rosemary into the slits to make sure that the skin would be well-flavored. The herbs naturally “burned” during the roasting process, hence the black specks on the skin, but the meat/skin tasted wonderful as a result.


Add more kosher salt and then massage with generous amounts of olive oil, coating all skin surface areas until it has a nice slick sheen.


We roasted this pig over hot coals for roughly 160 minutes and used 1.5 sacks of charcoal.


Towards the end of the cooking process, I threw in a couple of yellow and red peppers directly onto the coals to roast them.


The resulting “lechon” or Roast Pig a la Marketman looked a bit beastly, but I knew about an hour and half into the cooking process that this was a definite winner. The slits on the skin served to release the fats in the layer just below, effectively producing a flavorful basting liquid as the pig turned on the spit. We never got flare-ups as the coals were to the side of the pig, not directly underneath. And the strips of skin turned marvelously crisp, a bit blistered and incredibly well-flavored. Once off the fire, the skin remained very crisp for a good 15 minutes, and we noted that roughly 60-70% of the entire skin surface was uniformly crisp, unlike so many lechons that have a larger percentage of chewy skin than not. And there were no sugary based tricks here.


The crisp and delicious skin (easy to peel off for individual servings, too) defintiely rated a solid 9. It wasn’t pretty in the classic Pinoy lechon sense, but it was sublime on the taste buds.


The meat was delicious but lacked salt, and thus this lechon would rate a 7.75 or 8 for taste in my book, for a total score of roughly 8.5 overall, the best of the three we have made so far. Hmmm, we may not need 10 trials to get a pretty darned good version of lechon!


We ate the cracklings without sauce, though I did put a side of freshly roasted capsicum that was a nice foil to the crisp skin. With about 15 hungry diners nearby, the skin of this lechon disappeared in under 10 minutes flat and when all was said and done, only the head remained for paksiw na lechon the following day. And even the cheeks of the lechon were roasted to a crisp. Yum. :)


60 Responses

  1. Oh man! I think this is it! The definite winner. Sounds flavourful and succulent. ANd that skin looks delectable! Must say, I love your second shot of all the herbs and spices!

  2. my oh my…..you really have a way of experimenting with foods… those people must be very lucky to be around you when you’re experimenting w/ your lechon…are we expecting another round? :)

  3. Looks like a tiger! Tastes like a pig!
    I love River Cottage, wish I could get home early enough to catch it more often. “Delia, come here old girl!” And his vegies!!!

  4. I sooo miss Pinoy dishes, especially with this latest post of your lechon series MM!
    I definitely will pig out when I get home this month :)

  5. YUMMY…….I could almost taste the lechon from the picture alone…nothing beats roasting your own lechon and experimenting on flavors! Lucky crew!!!!!!

  6. Cruel. This is cruel to me who’s on a DIE-T! That skin looks sooooooooooo yummy. Hey MM, have you ever tried using batwan/batuan in your stuffing? I see that in some lechons in Bacolod. Gives a yummy flavor too. There’s also some leaves, aside from the lemon grass. Not sure if it is tamarind leaves. But the flavor is very different from any of the lechons I have tasted. Even the Cebu ones. But salt is very key. Another reason why a hypertensive one like me should not eat lechon at all.

  7. Mein Gott…Almost Pavlovian. Just produce the lechon image on your blog and this overseas Pinay commences salivating.

  8. Ay ang sarap. Delicious looking and I think this one is healthy eating because more fat is released from the slit skin.

  9. I can’t seem to say anything intelligent after looking at those pictures of crisp and crackling lechon skin and reading things like “basting in its own fat”.

    Gaah, gaah, gaaaaaaah! …that’s really all I can manage right now…

    I’ll be back when my brain un-fritzes!

  10. The slash technique you used is quite effective in releasing fat and making the skin more crispy, although it makes for a less appetizing sight compared to the smooth skinned lechon we often see. For more aesthetic results, you could use a needle and puncture away or a razor blade to make finer, less visible cuts.

  11. Just two aromatics away from Jamaican jerk territory, allspice and scotch bonnet. Mmm another I can taste it on the tip of my tongue Market Manila moment. First and last pictures look wicked.

  12. this is soooo baaad! I am in that part of the world where lechon is just not available….

    wish I could sample even a small piece of the skin….

  13. Roberto, I hope you mean that in a good way :) Tommy, I agree it looks less pretty, but the gashes naturally widen as the pig cooks, they start out pretty shallow. joey, this version, knowing your weakness for chicharon, you would just love. danney, I would like to think the same, but I suspect this is still pretty wicked calorie and fat wise… Vanessa, sorry. :) iska, the skin was close to some Chinese restaurants roasted pig served in small portions but with a very crisp skin. maddie, I haven’t tried batwan yet because I have never seen it fresh, I have only seen it bottled. And yes, other leaves include sampaloc leaves, maybe even green onions, etc. elaine, it was one of our crew’s birthday to boot, so he got super lucky! Lee, you must come up with a really good name for this version, I will need to patent it… Zebra Lechon a la Marketman?!? I apologize for eliciting such strong hunger pangs… and for those in the middle east, my apologies again. chichay, I suspect there are still at least 3 more rounds before I am done with this lechon obsession! alicia, this version YOU would like big time.

  14. I’m still searching for the “golden ticket” that will get me in the next lechon round!!!

  15. What I’d give for a taste of that lechon right now…! Okay, here’s a deal: your lechon, my treasured reisling.

  16. MM, i have to say in all honesty, that your lechon blogs are the best for me. I always look forward to them. I feel like i`m there in the whole process to witness as the lechon is roasted to a crisp. You`re right, maybe you don`t need 10 trials to be able to come up with the perfect roast. It`s so yummy to look at. As you can see, my comments are mostly on your lechon blogs. I am just such a lechonaholic. Looking forward to your next trial. Good luck.

  17. Yes, my first time to see such a thing, its just so much mouth watering experience while only reading the process. More power to you guys… Love it.

  18. I don’t care if it’s not as attractive, and I certainly couldn’t give a hoot if it’s not traditional, because THIS has to be my favorite lechon you’ve made yet, and possibly my favorite lechon ever (yes, despite my not having tasted it)!!! The skin is really the only reason I eat lechon at all, so I know I’d be in heaven with this crispy, crackly, blistered sensation. Just by looking at the pictures, I can almost feel my teeth crunching into it!

    Love the second photo — pretty art direction, such vibrant colors!

  19. MM – this is extremely making me salivate! Need to copy cat your version ASAP, while is still summer here. BTW, what’s rosemary and thyme in tagalog?

  20. Your dedication to this experiment is amazing! And I could care less how the skin looks, the crunch and taste is what matters. I have a question though. After a few more experiments, and a lot more fat dripping to the bottom of the pit, will there be a point where you have to replace the sand at the bottom? Or does it get so hot that any fat eventually vaporizes and turns to smoke?

  21. Never mind that it looks rather beastly, you can take it a notch higher with good plating, and it’s the taste that matters in the end. And when you say it’s good, I really think it is.
    Ngapala, we got some good creamy dory fish and tried the recipes you featured here eons ago. Sarap!

  22. I actually had to stop first and gave it a bit of a thought if I was continue reading this post or not….I could not help it so I went on and read on, and now my mouth is watery, i’m hungry and now craving for some authentic a la marketman lechon! huhuhu.

  23. I am a traditionalist when it comes to lechon.

    This is a new way of cooking lechon and I bet it has a different taste. Nonetheless it has a disticnt charm.=)

  24. MM LDL: MarketMAnila Lechon de LasLas

    And the abbreviation becomes more meaningful because LDL is the bad cholesterol!!! yahoo!!!

  25. SUICIDAL PORK, OMG, that is good… But some would frown at the implications. But I am running to the patent office… Thanks, Lee.

  26. Mouthwatering…Salivating…Staring at your photos…
    Never mind about the appearance, since it will be cut up anyway. :)

  27. MM, this is what you call torture during lunchtime. i was warned of hunger pangs from the beginning of the article but decided to read anyway..and man! that is definitely what you call LECHON, but im pretty sure you can produce something better, AGAIN, in the near future.
    “Now dance around the pig and chant “you will be brilliant, you will be brilliant…” in low monotone…” now this line got my hunger pangs mixed up with good abs workout hahaha!

  28. Now dance around the pig and chant “you will be brilliant, you will be brilliant…” that crack me up! ;p

  29. francis, sorry, I almost always leave Cebu hours after the lechon, so I never get to the paksiw. But I have a good lechon paksiw recipe in the archives…

  30. Is there anything else left to be said? That first picture is horrible! It makes us all just wanna bite the screen. I think we are officially hooked on the “slitchon” series. It looks incredibly good! Cholesterol be damned!

  31. Lee, you’re hilarious!Filipinos really know how to play with words!I vote for SLITCHON!:)

  32. Lee, wagi ka! Both Lechon de Laslas and Slitchon are HEEEELARIOUS!!!!!! Are you an advertising man?

  33. Market-man…thanks so much for your extensive posts! I live in the state of Iowa here in the USA, my wife was raised on Camotes Island…just next to Cebu City. To make a long story short, I fell in love with lechon as well and I am currently building my own lechonan too.
    I have so many questions and possibly a few suggestions I want to communicate with you.

    I am constructing it on a mobile trailer so I may trasport it where it is needed, and I am useing and old liquid propand tank as the main cooking shell. It is 1/4 inch thick metal, which I think will reflect the heat up towards the pig nicely.

    I noticed in your last post that your pig seemed to be about 12 inches above your charcoal bed. Did this seem to be too low? I ask because the plans I have will put the animal at about 12 to 13 inches above my charcoal bead as well. Do you think it’s too low?

    About the slits you cut into the pig…have you tried(or heard of someone trying) to poke holes in the pigs skin? On “you tube” if you look for a video called “E Z QUE” , it is a commercial made cooker, and they poke holes about every square inch on the skin for the same results you have.

    Also,the basting process…everything I read says 7-up or cola for basting. Does the coconut milk THEN just olive oil at the end really give you a nice crispy skin?

    What would(will you) do differently next time?

    Give me an email… I would love to exchange information with you. And thanks again for your posts! My wife is the one that found them for me…as she wants Talisay style lechon!

  34. Lee, pity. You should be in advertising. I can see you coming up with such memorable one liners for commercials!

  35. Thanks CecileJ. I’m a freelance graphic designer.. almost close to advertising but not quite….

  36. WOW!!! can i join your next lechon adventure? will bring Lipitor for all, hahaha :D Good one MM! looks sooo yummy!

  37. Oh…please please perfect this recipe as I cannot wait to try it….although in my little home oven ala Julia Child.

  38. Wow!!!..Looks Very Very Tasty! Hi!..How’z ya doin? I was just looking around google searching for tagalog word for Thyme…Then POP out of my screen this very tasty looking lechon…By it’s looks…Very Mouth Watering!..Thyme did serve me well today coz i’m trying to learn how to cook and i think i found the right site to start. So I think i’ll take my Thyme reading you’re recipes and see what I will learn.



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