11 Of The Crispiest, Tastiest Lechon To Rule Your Holiday Table
Lechon is festive. Lechon is celebration. It doesn’t even have to be Christmas to have this glorious whole roasted pig on your tables. A meal with family is always an occasion. Here are 11 of our favorites, and its variants, in the city, in no particular order:
(Photo courtesy of Ulcing's)
It’s my go to Cebu lechon in Manila. They use native pigs, raised in backyards, so the meat is dark, sinewy, and tender. No thick layer of fat between the skin and meat, just a thin sheaf of decadence to ensure a crisp skin and moist meat. Its stuffing of garlic, leeks, and lemongrass flavors the meat completely.
Bayani Road, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. Call Tess, Elerita, Ladyrose, Marlon, or Arnel (0919) 361-3291, (0915) 289-5178, (0946) 063-1541, (0929) 303-4514, (02) 828-4724
2. General’s Lechon
(Photo courtesy of General's Lechon)
The Chili Garlic Lechon is a personal favorite of good friend and eating buddy Sandy Daza. Inspired by lechon from the owners’ hometown of San Carlos, Negros Oriental, General’s Lechon is outstanding. The skin is golden and crisp, the meat is moist and tender, the flavors are intense and comforting. They have 4 variants: original, garlic, chili garlic, and curry.
2/F Petron Station, Dasmariñas Village, EDSA corner Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City, (02) 853-2466, (0917) 853-2466
(Photo courtesy of Elar's)
This is the lechon I grew up with. Traditional Tagalog flavors, tamarind leaves stuffed in the belly, fat tender juicy meat, an even crisp deep caramel colored skin, house-made liver sauce. They now have takeout kiosks all around the city for those that just want portions of lechon instead of the whole pig.
151 Quezon Avenue, Barangay Santa Teresita, Quezon City, (02) 732-4116
(Photo courtesy of Zubuchon)
Just to be clear, it isn’t Cebu lechon. Never was, never claimed to be. It is just that it had its start in Cebu. In the Cebu episode of No Reservations, the late Anthony Bourdain declared it “Best pig, ever!”, a story that never gets tired. And just like that, it altered Filipino lechon fame forever. The best news is, the pigs no longer need to fly—from Cebu that is. Zubuchon opened 6 new restaurants in Metro Manila where you can enjoy your lechon fix. They also accept orders for whole lechon, in de leche (5-6 kilos), small (10-12 kilos), and medium (14-16 kilos) sizes.
(02) 809-0149, (0956) 477-1999, www.zubuchon.com
5. Pepita’s Kitchen
Lechon stuffed with rice has been out there for decades but it was Lechon Diva Dedet de la Fuente who elevated it to iconic status with her Truffle Rice with Lechon. The rice absorbs all the flavors of the roast so that it is rich and the stuff foodie dreams are made of. Other stuffing flavors include Spanish Manileña (chorizo and taba ng talangka), Chinese (mushroom, cashews, chestnut), Sisig, Binagoongan, Laing, Bicol Express, Itlog na Pula Garlic and Anchovy, 8 Treasures (sticky rice with salted egg, chestnuts, cashews, ham, mushrooms, pork bits, Chinese chorizo), as well as other non-rice stuffing. They are extremely busy this season so make sure to confirm and reconfirm your orders.
(0917) 866-0662, email: email@example.com, FB: LechonDiva of Pepitas Kitchen, pickup in Makati
6. Ikbest Lechon
These native black pigs are naturally raised, without antibiotics and vaccinations commonly used in piggeries. Healthy lechon? Healthy pig maybe, but the best claim they can make on their lechon is that it is delicious and significantly cheaper than what you can get in Metro Manila. It must be the farm to hearth and the fact that Ikbest is all the way in Angeles City. They have lechon, lechon de leche, and cochinillo which they christened Lechonillo. Did I mention that Angeleños are colossal punsters?
No. 99 F.G. Nepomuceno Avenue (formerly Don Aniceto Gueco), Angeles City, Pampanga, (0917) 676-1597
7. Pimbrera de Barasoain
This Cochinillo is basically Spanish-style lechon using a 23 to 25-day old piglet, which is splayed and roasted in an oven. Flavors are simple, salt and meat, yet each bite is a welcome crack of crisp skin, each mouthful a succulent sliver of pork from a piglet that has only had its mother’s milk. This cochinillo is inspired by Conrad Calalang’s travels through Spain.
2/F San Antonio Plaza Arcade, 50 McKinley Road, Makati City, (02) 775-4128
8. Monique Santos Roxas
This Cochinillo al Horno is roasted Cebu style, with lemongrass stuffing. The delicate golden skin stays crisp long after pick up, while the soft, creamy meat is imbued with the aroma of lemongrass. No need for any sauce to accompany this pure expression of pork goodness.
(02) 844-3932, (0917) 327-3932, pickup in Makati
9. Tatang’s Boneless Lechon
(Photo courtesy of Tatang’s)
Arguably Cebu’s version of porchetta? Call it what you will, it is 100% pork belly, rolled with aromatics of garlic, leeks, and chili for the spicy version, and spit-roasted for over 3 hours over charcoal embers. The meat is tender and loaded with flavor, the skin is crackled and crisp. If you enjoy your lechon like a local Cebuano, ask for their special homegrown vinegar. If you’re looking for liver sauce, be happy with the commercially available bottled variant. Reheating tip: Use a turbo broiler to reheat. The blast of hot air keeps the skin crisp.
Available for take-out by the kilo or whole belly at SM Aura, BGC (0917) 779-0834; Gilmore Street, Quezon City (02) 535-7205, (0918) 828-2647; Xavierville Avenue, Quezon City (02) 945-2934, (0919) 507-5000; Reposo Street, Makati City (0916) 706-8223, (0999) 878-5384; Seascape Village, Pasay City (0921) 976-2928, (0967) 235-6282; Nuvali, Sta. Rosa (0918) 957-9311; SM Puerto Princesa, Palawan (048) 723-3120
10. Xiu Cantonese Fine Dining
This Cantonese version of suckling pig is served carved in picture perfect slices of tender meat topped with cracker-bite skin. It can be eaten alone, dipped in hoi sin, or wrapped with thin pancakes Peking Duck style. Order at least one day ahead. Takeout option available.
115 Connecticut Street, Northeast Greenhills, San Juan City, (02) 650-7189
11. Via Mare
Way before stuffed lechon exploded on social media, Glenda Barretto of Via Mare was serving a mean Lechon de Leche stuffed with paella. Today, they will still serve it only by special order and only to be eaten at the restaurant, and only at PICC. It does take quite a bit of effort to try something special. To those foodie souls who think food takes precedence over convenience, order ahead before making the trek to Café Via Mare.
2/F PICC Building, CCP Complex, Pasay City, (02) 832-1630