The celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once visited the Philippines and tried our lechon. He then declared it is the best he has ever tried in all his travels.
This roasted pig adorns almost every buffet table as families and friends celebrate occasions from birthdays to anniversaries to graduations to weddings to baptisms to fiestas. It is the equivalent of a royalty dish. It is our Filipino equivalent to the American turkey, or to the roast beef. When lechon adorns a buffet table, every Filipino starts thinking of having a feast. And almost always, the roasted and crunchy skin is the first to go. Some stuff the roasted pig with various herbs and serve lechon without any dips, like the lechon from the Visayas, a group of islands south of Manila. Others serve lechon with a dip of liver sauce (some sweet, some a little spicy), or with a vinegar and soy sauce dip. We have heard of many tales of fatal heart attacks in many parties where the victims indulged of this cholesterol load. You may say you can savor lechon and enjoy it at your own risk. The health hazards are however set aside in favor of this savory meal.
Many restaurants serving Filipino dishes include lechon in its menu, but if you want to see the whole pig chopped up into half kilo or one kilo servings, you may want to try going to Baclaran Church in Pasay-Paranaque along Roxas Boulevard (lining Manila Bay), or just try your luck in supermarkets with food stalls (like in SM Supermarket, Cash and Carry Supermarket) where lechon is available for take out .
To “ease” the guilt of that cholesterol load, you may order any of these vegetable dishes :
Pinakbet or Pakbet : this came from Northern Philippines but has somehow become a mainstay vegetable dish in many Filipino homes. Vegetables include ampalaya (bitter gourd), squash, stringbeans, eggplant, and okra. Some cook it a tad dry, others soupy, flavored with the very Filipino bagoong or shrimp paste. If you are a vegetarian, be sure to tell the waiter to have it cooked WITHOUT pork or any meat slices.
Laing and Bicol Express : From Bicol Region some 8 hours drive south of Manila, this spicy dish is cooked in coconut milk. Taro leaves are used for the laing and again, some cook it a bit dry or saucy. Either way, it is spiced up enough to make it a dish hailing from Bicol, which is famous for its peppery dishes.
Chopsuey : If you are familiar with Chinese cuisine, this is the same chopsuey which has become another Filipino favorite. In Bicol, there is a variation of the dish: Buko Chopsuey.
Kakanin: Bibingka, Puto Bumbong at Iba Pa
I live near the area of Greenbelt Makati where many trendy and gourmet restaurants can be found. Italian, Greek, Spanish, American, Chinese, Thai, Indian……….take your pick. Among the Filipino restaurants , you can try the very established, not that expensive “Via Mare” . Here, one finds the very Filipino rice cake called bibingka served either with our local buffalo cheese or salted egg, fried noodles served with eggs, shrimps, squid, pork rinds called pancit luglug and again, the guinomis or halo halo. Our local bread called pandesal is also available here, served with kesong puti which is the equivalent of the Italian mozzarrela, but way cheaper! There are other rice cakes and desserts like puto bumbong (colored purple!) and palitaw which are all priced so reasonably I have to insist you try them all! Most rice cakes are served with shredded coconut meat.
Happy eating, everyone!
Have more cravings? More photos can be found in my TravelBlog site.