Paksiw na Lechon / Roast Suckling Pig Stew, Revisited

I wrote this post almost exactly two years ago, when the readership of this blog was less than 10% of what it is today. Paksiw na Lechon is one of my all time favorites and this is a terrific recipe. The hint of cinnamon and thyme adds a fantastic twist and I would proudly present this as a main course of a dinner, with some homemade acharra. I hope you try this recipe if you have some leftover lechon this holiday season. My special tip? Don’t wait for leftovers, buy a kilo or two of lechon and make paksiw straight away!

The term paksiw is a bit schizophrenic… when used with fish or denizens of the sea, pak1it means to cook with vinegar and some spices and vegetables and the resulting brothy concoction is superb with tons of rice. Everyone has their favorite type of fish, whether bilong-bilong, those flat silvery fish, bangus (milkfish) or even apahap (sea bass). It is a very healthy dish as it is high in protein and good oils and generally low in fat. When applied to meats, however, paksiw not only means cooking with vinegar but often with sugar, soy sauce and in the case of paksiw na lechon, liver sauce. The resulting stews are often dark, substantial, artery clogging and absolutely delicious, also great with lots of rice! Take out your tooth floss as we explore paksiw na lechon a la Marketman…

As a kid, I recall many occasions when there was a lechon in the house. pak2First was a birthday of a sibling or my parents. My grandmother used to arrange for a nice Cebu lechon to be cooked in the early morning, picked up and wrapped and delivered to the Cebu airport for the first flight to Manila. This would get picked up and whisked home to become the centerpiece of a weekend lunch. More than the pig, I remember the old envelopes she used to tuck into the package with my name on it – usually a brief note in an incredibly distinctive script and PHP20 or so tucked in there for me to get a goody of some sort. With all that handling, transportation, etc, the pig was a big soggy. So while we all made the motions to be thrilled to have a lechon, I always thought to myself… “what’s the big deal?” Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I actually like paksiw na lechon more than lechon itself (in most cases, exceptions described below).

My mom’s version was a bit watery and the meat was shredding from being stewed for ages. pak3I recently tried the following recipe which would qualify as being a bit more on the “sophisticated” side but it was equally delicious. Base proportions are from a recipe of Enriqueta David-Perez but I have made changes. Start with 1.5 kilos of leftover lechon, mostly meat and skin. Add 1.5 cups of cider or native vinegar, 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, some salt, several cloves of garlic, whole peppercorns and 3 laurel (bay) leaves. I then added 3 tablespoons of the most fantastic organic muscovado sugar, one whole cinnamon stick and five sprigs of fresh thyme (substitute a smidgen of ground cinnamon or dried thyme if necessary). Boil on medium heat in a covered heavy casserole until meat is somewhat tender. Add a bit of water if it seems to be drying out. Then add 1.5-2.5 cups of lechon sauce (liver sauce) and let this cook until tender. Serve with steamed rice. Delicious! The muscovado and cinnamon gave this that little edge over the more basic recipe. The color was also stunning. I removed the cinnamon stick after 15 minutes to achieve a subtle flavor, not overpowering. The thyme worked surprisingly well. Tastes great when reheated as well, even better with my tart achara.

Now, what are those exceptions to the not keen on lechon rule? We have friends who know how to do lechon right. In their backyard they have a lechon roasting pit and the pig(s) are gently turned on a spit until perfect, then rushed to the buffet table sizzling hot. As you peel humongous sections of hot lechon skin, steam is still escaping from the butt of the pig. That is key… the skin is superb and at its best when the steam is still escaping from the butt…remember that bit of Marketman wisdom! Dip the skin in either liver sauce or just patis (fish sauce) and kalamansi (calamondin) and I am in lechon skin heaven. The meat tastes great as well but give me 72 square inches (1/2 square foot) of lechon skin done right and I will be one happy camper for the rest of the week!


29 Responses

  1. Cebu lechon is to die for! I have stopped eating rice (to lose weight) so how can I eat this delicious dish by itself?

  2. Does it matter whether you’re using yummy lechon to make your paksiw or any other lechon would do just as fine? :-)

  3. I miss Cebu lechon! I’ve had pretty good results trying to replicate Cebuano style paksiw na lechon (no liver sauce) using precooked carnitas….but nothing beats eating crispy salty shiny delicious skin! :)

  4. I love lechon and paksiw. I like it when the meat is shredding and the sauce is malapot. The cinnamon sounds a good idea.

  5. I was thinking of ham when you said add sugar and cinnamon :)I grew up with lechon paksiw that’s a bit sweeter than usual, and with Reno liver spread added to thicken the sauce. But I’ll try your version… perfect for the holidays! Thanks!

  6. You are absolutely right lechon is best served when it is just off the pit piping hot! Lechon is always the epicenter of our gatherings. I do not like the idea of using the head stuck with an apple as a table center piece looks cheesy. Aside from liver sauce, I now enjoy lechon with sarsa verde made out of boiled tomatillo, cilantro, onion, garlic, dash of white vinegar and salt blended well with corn or flour tortilla. With leftover lechon after feasting paksiw is always the choice and it is even better after a day or two. Leftover lechon after trimming all the fats is also good in sinigang and nilaga. The broth is milky white.

  7. It was definitely our fault for having given her a name, Bechang, but when the inevitable day arrived mother simply roasted the head that the butcher brought back. All of us normally ravenous growing kids silently stared at our empty plates averting our eyes from the plate of glistening lechon properly chopped up to better baffle indentification so back it went to the kitchen for its next sub-incarnation as paksew but we hardly touched it in that guise either. Then there were a couple more subsequent meals when it found its way into the table before it was finally parcelled off to neighbors and cousins.

  8. do you cover the pot even before the lechon , vinegar, soy sauce etc reach the boiling point? i have been taught (and so practice it) to keep anything cooking with vinegar uncovered until it boils to avoid the “raw” taste of vinegar. but you may have experienced differently?

  9. Sonia,
    What i’ve heard is that anything cooked with vinegar should not be touched as in mixing or folding until the vinegar has evaporated, or your adobo,dinuguan or bopis will not be cooked right, is this true? ;-)

  10. i’ve heard both from my grandmother. If you cook off the vinegar covered, even if you don’t touch it the “raw” parts will probably fall back in (and anyway the fumes won’t be that pleasant)

  11. I use the same spices in making ‘black pata’ based on the malate cookbook. adding cinnamon stick and muscovado in place of regular brown sugar give it a delicious twist..and instead of vinegar, chinese wine and cilantro for garnishing..I would sure love to try it using lechon(maybe eat off the balat first…hehe). A totally yummy twist to our usual, coyingly ‘sweet’ paksiw.

  12. Apicio, I can relate. My sisters and I had a similar experience with our chicken, Krukie. Not only did we refuse eat her, may kasamang tears of recrimination pa! Bechang and Krukie, may you rest in Animal Heaven! :-)

  13. Paksiw na Lechon is indeed a traditional way of cooking left over lechon but we shred it too and cook it as lumpiang prito with parsley, carrots and other ingredients. Yummy!!

  14. Sonia and Ted, my mom who is a good cook taught me the same, don’t touch the thing until it has boiled. Yes, it gives a raw taste. I think Pia Mapua-Lim wrote an article some time ago as to the reason…something to do with the ester.

    Personally, cebu lechon is the best for paksiw. Eat the paksiw after two days and it becomes a lot more delicious, drink with a glass of shiraz and it’s perfect! MM, will try your non-trad recipe one of these days.

  15. i said it then, and i say it again…try sinigang na lechon. same procedure as any sinigang, only with lechon…and preferably with lechon bisaya (not necessarily cebu). we still do paksiw (sans liver sauce, as we visayans dont find any use for it), but sinigang na lechon offers a different and delicious twist! kaon na!

  16. i made this dish a few months ago when we had left over lechon from my parents wedding anniv, it was so good! Now I wonder, when will I make it again? My mouth is watering! hehehe

  17. “As you peel humongous sections of hot lechon skin, steam is still escaping from the butt of the pig. That is key… the skin is superb and at its best when the steam is still escaping from the butt…remember that bit of Marketman wisdom!”

    That is more like a Marketman VISION, if you get what I mean.. hehe..

    I honestly like lechon na paksiw better than lechon itself.. Recently, my grandmother asked me what other uses cinnamon could offer, besides the usual desserts and breakfast food, and I couldn’t name one dish.. Now this is something I could suggest! ;P

  18. Many years ago, we had a cook whose lasagna recipe included a touch of cinnamon. It was a revelation! Made the lasagna taste meatier, heartier, richer. I miss that cook. :-(

  19. Katrina and Blaise, yes cinammon and meat does seem a bit odd but it works. And cinammon is used in some middle eastern tagines and stews I think, to good results. dhayL, glad to hear the recipe worked for you. choy, YES, you are right and I have still not tried sinigang na lechon…MUST DO THAT soon. Corrine, Sonia and Ted, I have never really thought about that, but when I do cook with vinegar, I bring it to a boil with cover off as a natural or standard practice, not because I had tested that to be better than if the cover were closed… hmmm, I have to hunt down that Pia Lim article… Danney, shreded lechon in fried lumpia? OMG, heart attack material of the most delicious sounding kind! CecileJ and Apicio, I too learned not to name or get attached to farm animals after a cute little piggy at a relative’s provincial home was slaughtered right in front of me after I picked it out of a crowd of piggies. Let’s just say I didn’t have pork for a while after! If you are a fan of paksiw na lechon, try this recipe…it is quite good!

  20. Tried this on tuna flakes, for crying out loud.

    In a place where the likes of Bechang are scarce, this blasphemous tandem was created.

    It’s actually not bad. I’m having it now for lunch–3 days later. I successfully masked the fishy taste with all the spices and vinegar. And looking at this post helps me believe it’s pork.

    Btw, Blaise, I usually add cinnamon to pork dishes. Roast pork with apples and berries, or with peaches, or with whatever fruit in season. Add cinnamon and rosemary. Just add red wine to the natural gravy in the pan, or broth. Delish.

  21. lechon paksiw is one of my favorite dishes. always set aside lechon to make paksiw the day after and paksiw even tastes better the day after it’s made. my dad puts star anise instead of cinnamon and adds ground liver as well (sounds yucky but it makes it really good, better than the extra mang tomas). and who doesn’t love the balat that becomes soft and chewy?

  22. sobrang nakakatakam naman! I will definitely try this and I will not wait for the holidays. I saw lechon cebu being sold by the kilo at S&R…will go this weekend. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Hi MM. The first sentence of your post is inspiring to new bloggers.

    I love lechon cebu too. No need for sarsa. Same goes for Davao lechon.

    I tried lechon cebu being sold in Pioneer Center but it was a poor comparison to the original one I tried in Cebu.

  24. Lechon paksiw is some kind of comfort food for me. It reminds me of Nanay who makes such wonderful paksiw na lechon. Paksiw na lechon in Leyte is just that. Paksiw. No sugar, no toyo and definitely, no liver sauce. And the vinegar, it should only be from our side of the world. With all due respect to others but as far as my taste buds are concerned, no vinegar, except perhaps for sukang Iloko, can compare with ours–oh, and that goes for our own lechon,too, even if it’s not as popular as Cebu’s. …I’m getting hungry….

  25. we have the same basic lechon paksiw recipe. maybe because i’m also from the south. we always use muscovado sugar for this recipe. i haven’t tried it with thyme and cinnamon, though. but i’ll take your word for it and do the same on my next lechon paksiw.

    btw, we usually refrigerate the paksiw prior to consuming it. this allows the flavors to deepen and also solidifies the fat at the top for easier skimming.

  26. I love love love my Mom and my mother-in-law’s respective versions of lechon paksiw. My Mom also makes some sort of ilonggo style sinigang with left over lechon. But the vegetable she uses is takway (I’m not sure what it’s called in English or Tagalog); and she makes it sour with batuan. Super yummy! Our relatives always asks her for take home packages when they eat this dish at our house. While I like Cebu lechon, I love Capiz lechon better. :)

  27. I want to run out and buy lechon right now! A new store just opened in Cherry Shaw and it’s 2 blocks away! My next lechon ration will be Xmas pa. EQ… EQ…

  28. In most North American cities, the lechon comes from Chinese
    restaurants, oven-baked. The meat is usually dry in portions that are cooked and often a bit raw in thick portions and in
    instances when the thawing is incomplete. I always cook my
    lechon completely thawed and the meat already at room temp. It
    takes only 3 to 3.5 hours for a 50 pounder to be cooked and at
    that rate the skin should be crispy. U.S. lechon tastes and
    smells better than the oftentimes “self supporting pigs” we
    use for lechon in the Philippines. The thick portions of meat
    like the gluteus or the butt muscles are injected with brine;
    the belly cavity sprinkled with liberal amounts of onion powder, garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt, MSG, and a bundle of fresh lemon grass (citronella in Italian, tanglad in bisaya). The rositterizing is done in a covered barbecue
    pit made of concrete blocks, the rotisserie made of stainless
    steel, turning at 2 rpm automatically, powered by a 1/25 hp
    electric motor. Except for the actual preparation of the pig
    the process is easy. All you have to do is add charcoal or
    reaarange the charcoal every 20 minutes and after 3 hours the
    cooking is done using only 30 lbs of charcoal briquet. The
    aroma has the neighbors coming to see what you are doing! Then it is party time!

  29. the secret of the best lechon paksiw comes from the liver sauce,to make it perfect is adding to taste the vinegar,little soy sauce,pepper,salt,wash sugar,3pcs.laurel leaves..continue boiling until the lecchon meat bcms so tender..mmmm,,,,terrific!



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