The Lechon Chronicles, Chapter II : The Ideal Piggy

“Native” or Hybrid Piglet???

The native pigs supposedly have more flavor, less fat, more muscle and I suspect, more flavor. These are those black skinned and more scruffy looking piglets rather than the squeaky pink ones. It’s not so easy to find them in the markets or livestock dealers, you need to have your own piggery or know of a purveyor from the smaller cities outside Cebu, I think… I think the answer here is definitely native, IF you can find it.

Lechon de Leche or Lechon (Roast Suckling, no SUCKING pig / Roast pig)???

Lechon de leche means you roast a pig that is still sucking milk from it’s mother; as such it is a “Roast SUCKING Pig,” and NOT a Roast SUCKLING Pig, because the suckling pig is actually the mommy pig, not the baby pig (see Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food). Remember that bit of trivia the next time you are at a dinner, and some know-it-all but ill-informed foodie next to you translates Lechon de Leche as Roast Suckling Pig. You can casually say “you mean sucking pig, right?” Heeheehee. Sucking pigs are eaten at 3-6 weeks of age, and after that they start to eat solids, and in my book, are just called piglets or piggies. In Spanish, lechon refers to suckling or sucking pig, but now in the Philippines it is more broadly descriptive of the roasting process, on a spit in particular, so that Lechon Manok (should be Litson Manok) means a roasted whole chicken on a spit/rotisserie contraption.


I think the younger pigs have much less fat and a wonderful skin. However, if you are to feed a crowd, the larger pigs are necessary. For this first experiment, we got a pig that was some 8-9 weeks old and weighed in at roughly 15 kilos or so. It didn’t have much fat at all. This could easily have served 12-15 with very generous portions. For the purposes of future experiments, we will be mostly using 15-18 kilo pigs. Though there is one experiment I want to try on say a 25+ kilo pig with more body fat.

What do The Pigs Eat???

The commercial pigs we purchase will have been fed commercial feed, probably with all kinds of undesirable ingredients. Ideally, I would like to purchase a pig that we then feed for another 2-3 weeks with lots of good stuff like mangoes, chicos, vegetables, and other tasty things so that hopefully it will have a positive impact on the pork/meat. Conventional provincial wisdom has it that the piglet is only allowed to drink water the day before its slaughter, so that the intestines aren’t too crowded. I would have thought that the pig would be a bit stressed and hungry if it wasn’t fed… but I don’t know.

How Best to Kill the Pig???

Every single time I have seen a pig readied for the lechonan, it has been slit at the throat while it shrieks something fierce, and the blood drained out before it has its guts cleaned out. Now I don’t know if a stun gun or a quick burst of electricity is more humane, but I haven’t seen that latter version here. I guess one has to be as swift yet as safe as possible when the piglet is to be dispatched!


34 Responses

  1. In both Webster American and Oxford English on-line dictionaries, suckling is defined as unweaned animal (never the nursing sow) so the eminent English food scholar referred to might have gone too far back to more arcane and quaint usage in insisting on sucking. Btw in Spanish and Portuguese, lechon or leitão means suckling pig roast though we Filipinos are perfectly correct to say lechon de leche when referring to suckling pig roast because, as you have mentioned, the word lechon has passed on to also mean the cooking method.

  2. MM, would you be able to get a picture of a lechon de leche…I’d like to see one. If not I’ll google it. Tks.

  3. Maybe you can find a source for Vietnamese black pigs in Los Banos, not their pink Jersey cousins.
    After lechon, you could start making sausages, hams, etc. and become a virtual cottage industry, gotta find something for your staff to do other than collecting rent…

  4. sister, I actually looked into hams, but the refrigeration and humidity controls required in a tropical country will make them wicked expensive. Better to import smithfield hams! susan, you can see some young pigs at this link, but not de leche anymore. Lechon de leche should be roughly 6-9 kilos MAX. Apicio, yes, I think Alan Davidson was being difficult. But I do like the Roast Sucking Pig rather than the suckling… :)

  5. I didn’t know that’s what lechon de leche meant? The ones I’ve had are awfully BIG suckling pigs if that’s what they’re supposed to be. I remember having cochinillo in Spain and those WERE suckling piglets – I mean really really tiny. Almost like single-serve lechon – ok maybe one starving person or 2 pretty hungry people.

    Anyway, I always thought ‘de leche’ was more a method or special ingredient rather than a pig still on mother’s milk. Also, I’ve heard both suckling and sucking used interchangeably with suckling more common but always in reference to the piglets and never to the mother.

  6. Our use of Spanish words in the Philippines is Creole.
    Lechon de Leche = redundant terminology.
    Lechon in Spanish is (de leche)= suckling pig.
    The correct usage Lechón or Cochinillo =suckling pig.

    Same applies to:
    Flan de leche NOT Leche Flan.

  7. This chronicle is turning out to be “everything you wanted to know about cooking your own lechon” and everyone is just lovin’ it. Gosh! The choices for voting is tough! I love the well-roasted, crackling skin but that’s gone in a flash. Then you have the tender and tasty rib meat to get to afterward. The dinuguan is another beast altogether. Decisions, decisions…

  8. Lechón is never mentioned in the Real Academia Española as a method of cooking. i.e. roast (litson) in Filipino.

    By definition of the word alone, Lechón or cochinillo is roasted suckling pig.
    Mama pig is disqualified as Lechón, but “Litson” a Philippine roast pig.

  9. There are those who use hybrid stocks, but raise them naturally. No antibiotics, hormones, nor commercial feeds. They are fed beneficial organisms, legumes and forages. They really taste good and you can go near their pens without covering your noses :)

  10. Nonymous, you are right, our names are bastardized Spanish of sorts. Try this site for lechon and sucking pigs. For more creole, Lechon Baboy for Non-sucking pigs?! :) Oh and yes, cochinillo, definitely, the preferred spanish word, I suppose. Then there is pourcelet farci for the French, babi guling for the Balinese, Maialino allo Spiedo for the Italians and lechon asado for Cubans and in other parts of Central America… But let’s not forget, this whole roast pig thing could have come from the Chinese as well… and the Spaniards just helped provide the name, or part of it… Ah, one could certainly spend years on the topic and keep going, and going, and going… Hmmm, so what the Spaniards called a roasted pig that is no longer sucking? Or do they not cook those?

  11. So, would the “right” tagalog name be : Inihaw or Litson na Sumususong Biik for Lechon or Roast Suckling Pig, and Inihaw or Litson na Baboy for Roast Pig? Gosh, that’s a mouth full… :) Oh and how should we handle the Cebuano and Visayan term Inasal, which in Cebu used to mean a Litson na Sumususong Biik or a Litson na Baboy… Some sites define inasal as “literally cooked over a fire,” as opposed to specifically translated as roasted or barbecued…

  12. Well, if you’ve ever read Charles Lamb’s ‘Dissertation on a Roast Pig’, then there would be no doubt in your mind that lechon is very definitely of Chinese origin – lol

  13. Ah! terminology, terminology… I, myself don’t need to get personally acquainted (by name) to my dinner in able to enjoy it. I just eat. hehehe

    btw, I saw an episode of Gordon Ramsey’s F-word where he raised two pigs (he named them trinny and susannah) and fed them beer. I think the taste of the pigs depend more on what you feed them rather than their breed or age (ie not be racist or ageist)

    Think pigs used for Parma ham that are fed with the whey byproduct from the cheese-making process.

  14. chi, I agree, but there are some holes in that 18th century essay… did the pig’s shed burn down? Or was the pig already slaughtered and ready for cooking but left inside the kitchen when the house burned down? And was there enough wood and thatched roof to support a two-hour roast from a small shed? And with no spit rotating, then how did the skin fare? What more all of the entrails and blood still in the pig. And hair. Eeewww. Heehee… For those of you scratching your head, it was Charles Lamb who describes the discovery of roast pig when a Chinese man accidentally burned the shed or house of a pig and when he returned to the carnage and tasted the cooked beast, he had an epiphany of sorts…

  15. MM, I’ve been to Spain several times and got to tour the country extensively. I never once saw anything larger than their famous specialty of cochinillo. Even at huge ‘barbacoas’, they would have cochinillos and then large pork roasts or ribs from obviously grown pigs. And as long as we’re on the subject of pigs, they don’t eat corn on the cob over their either – did you know that? It’s considered pig food and is looked down on. That’s ok – more for us!

  16. siopao, BEER? Wow, I like THAT idea. Get the pig so drunk on San Mig a day or two before and the slaughtering process will be certainly less STRESSFULL for the drunken baboy…

  17. Why not try kobe pig? Beer and massage? The daily massage of sake (or coconut oil, or lambanog?) could do something heavenly to the skin, and the beer will make the piggy hungrier, and grow faster.

  18. MM….the piggies would be saying “Oooo….anong sarap…Isa pa nga!!!! hehehehe.

    I do recall that my grandmother’s helper would make the turkey, for our Christmas Noche Buena, drink Anejo before they slit its throat.

  19. I learned from the butchers that in order to get soft tender meat ..slaugthering should be swift,slow and gentle (slashing and killing it softly). This prevents the beast from feeling the effects of fear and anxiety and the muscles are not so tense..therefor you have tender meat.Also heard somewhere that some farmers feed the pigs lots of basil leaves for flavourful meat.

  20. Hello Marketman!

    One “humane” way of doing it would be to have the piggy down a half bottle of gin. We did this some twenty odd years ago with a late brother in law. We transferred some gin into an empty bottle of Remy (for easier pouring) and when we did the job, my late brother in law was frantic, shouting “Huwag Remy!”. We placated him by showing him the half empty gin bottle.

    The piggy couldn’t remain standing after and died relatively painlessly. The lechonero was amazed at how his job was made much easier. Can’t say anything about the flavor difference. They did it the Luzon way – I’m biased towards Visayan preparations.


  21. Myra, you think we should shave the pig before the massage? :) Pigs/piglets squeal like crazy when you try and give them a bath. I can just see the week running up to slaughter, Marketman trying to give the pig a bath every afternoon. Then check if it would like a shiatsu or Swedish massage, then a selection of Ilocos salt scrub treatment followed by virgin coconut oil masaje… Artisan, you sure the Anejo wasn’t for the slaughterer instead? Raneli, hmmm, basil leaves, that sounds interesting indeed…

  22. Hahahahaha…Actually, we had our doubts! Can’t imagine a turkey downing an entire lapad by itself!!

  23. i was told that the cochinillos now being sold in manila are actually imported from china. they come in at a standard 5.5 kilos per and ready for roasting

  24. Marketman, are you lookin for a native or a hybrid piglet? We do have a farm but we have stopped supplying around Metro Manila many years ago. I believe we still quite have a bunch of piggies but for a small community consumption. And the last time I was in the farm, they were testing to feed them with beer,bath every morning with massage,etc. I think it was inspired by Kurobuta(Berkshire?) pork/Kobe beef, I believe those used were Vietnamese black pigs though.

  25. Told you beer and massage isnt a far-fetched idea :) Tulip, did the spoiled pigs come out tastier, crispier?

  26. Kylie Kwong puts crabs and lobsters to sleep in a frrezer first before she cooks them. Maybe….naaaaah. Don’t have a freezer that big.

  27. Roberto, hahaha, actually we have a chest freezer in Cebu that could semi-freeze a pig, but I wouldn’t want it kicking and screaming and pooping in our freezer! :( Myra, I am willing to try it if you are willing to massage the beast :) tulip, omigod, think we can get a black pig to cebu somehow? sonianer, I presume these are frozen, right? ihid, to answer ChrisB’s question on a different post, do darker skinned pigs have different colored cooked skin?

  28. Shall we grant at least that lechon de leche and leche flan are Filipino locutions that cannot be forced fitted into glass slippers of foreign usage. It has been a good forty years since I witnessed my dad bristling with indignation on the use of the word (or non-word) protectado. They might very well be abusage in the Spanish language but they seem to me quite legitimate Filipino. Only a handful of Filipinos I know now will get what is meant in Spanish by lechon and flan de leche and rather than risking dire miscommunication (disappointment, or worse hunger) pienso que mejor hablar el idioma del terruño.

    But sucking conjures Transylvanian images while suckling has that ever so slight suggestion of smallness and succulence, like dumpling or the German liebling.

  29. ¡Se me hace la boca agua!

    Anyway, has anyone ever tried lechón/cochinillo/suckling pig Peking Duck style? Had this once at a catered dinner years ago and it was delicious. The lechón was prepared with a very young piglet as the skin was crisp & thin like a potato chip.

  30. Myra P. & Marketman, the lechon and conchinillo I had last Christmas season was great! Those were said to be fed by corn, oats and beer. And they were confined to a limited space, for little movement. I dont know how to describe the taste but it was really good.
    Marketman, I’d ask my folks as how it is possible to send some black piggies to Cebu. I know we used to get some pink piggies from Cebu but doing it the other way around it something new (I think!). If only I do frequently visit the farm, I would invite you to roam around and observe how they do it. But I havent even checked it out it, I just wait for the good looking, great tasting lechon & conchinillo to feast on. hehehe.

  31. I can’t wait to use that roast SUCKLING pig bit! I say, your obsession with lechon is truly astounding! Looking forward to you adventure on lechon

  32. if you are looking for native pigs or tagalog na baboy for your lechon or lechon de leche you can contact us 09175045919 we are located in batangas.
    thanks marketman more power to you!!!!!!



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