Friday, November 10, 2006

ON BUYING A LECHON


For the upcoming holiday season, many will once again go for the lechon as the centerpiece of their family’s buffet table. It remains to be the most delightful local delicacy that widens the eyes of children and adults alike; secretly desiring to be among the first to peel off some of its delectably crispy skin.

Traditionally, no festive gathering is ever considered grand without a lechon. And with that in mind, there’s nothing more disheartening than to serve a lechon in which the skin has lost its crispiness while the meat had become tough and too chewy even for those with strong jaws and complete set of natural teeth. This is what typically happens to a lechon that hasn’t been sold or consumed in a few days. The main concern here then is how to be certain that the lechon you are about to purchase is truly freshly-roasted.

I live near the lechon central of Metro Manila — La Loma, Quezon City — and had on a number of occasions talked to some people in the business and seasoned customers. I had also made purchases in the past couple of years (for family parties). Thus, my main advice is this: if at all possible, choose from a selection as they are about to be done roasting (see top photo). This is the only way you can assure yourself of a freshly-roasted lechon upon making a purchase.


However, for those who are faced with selections already removed from the roasting pit and now on display as in above photo, rule of thumb is avoid those with dark spots and with several cracked skins which indicate they had been reheated and merely brushed with oil. Out of the entire selection in the above photo, the second from the right is the only one I would consider; the rest I am not sure about.


The ones in above photo clearly demonstrate lechons in their even worse state; absolutely a must to avoid. Besides their dark spots and cracked skin, the wrinkles further indicate these lechons had gone unsold for many days and now only suitable for paksiw (stew).


There is no particular store I will recommend because all sales employees are required by store owners to convince unsuspecting customers to choose from the older stock. During the last time I was shopping for a lechon, the selection in the above photo was what the saleslady led me to. I immediately declined and insisted that I be allowed to choose from the ones being roasted in their pit at that time. She agreed, though reluctantly.

Oftentimes, I had to wait an hour or two before the lechon was completely roasted and ready to be purchased. However, since I buy these pricey lechons only on special occasions, I provide enough time necessary for my shopping so as to get the best deal for my money and the best lechon for the guests to enjoy. Waiting, in this case, is no big deal. Almost always, those who buy in haste only get the less desirable return for their money.

Therefore, I can only recommend buying from those who will allow you to choose from the roasting pit. And the best time of the day to do so is early in the morning when the lechons are usually roasted. As for those living abroad who buy lechons online to be delivered to their loved ones anywhere in the Philippines, best bet is to ask for the recipients’ honest critique once they’ve received and consumed the lechon, and then base future purchases from their responses.


The last purchase I made I had chopped at the store where I bought it from. No sooner was it unwrapped when over-excited family members attacked it; scrambling for the incredibly crispy skin. Its meat, on the other hand, was juicy and easily chewable. Was I upset that they didn’t wait for the buffet table to be setup completely before jumping on the lechon? Not really, because such delirium can be incited by a lechon at immediate-family-only parties.

This medium-sized lechon cost P3500 and was served (whatever was left of it) at my mother’s birthday party last August. Of course, none of these commercially available lechons can equal the excitement of serving indigenous homemade versions from the provinces which are spiced according to the region’s taste, and roasted right in one’s own backyard. The Cebu-style lechon is one special and prime example of which. However, for those of us stuck in Metro Manila, the lechon central over in La Loma, Quezon City is a good enough alternative.

The usual suspects: some of the incorrigible attackers of our mother’s birthday lechon; the toddler in stroller was just as feisty in grabbing his share, while the little guy at the back waving to the camera started the whole pandemonium. The 88-year-old birthday celebrant is seated up front.


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Recommended read : Sidney's La Loma's Lechon photoblog entry




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posted by Señor Enrique at 1:50 PM


17 Comments:

Anonymous wilson said...

I am from Cebu, and visitors from Manla always make it a point to get it from here.

Do you have any impressions, comments on how Cebu's lechon compares to manila?

November 10, 2006 3:02 PM  

Blogger Berniej said...

Argh! This post made me want to have a lechon dinner later!

November 10, 2006 3:29 PM  

Blogger DOPS said...

Wow! lechon!! hehe... but the cholesterol... tztztz...

By the way, i thought you had posted already something about lechon...i know i read it somewhere...

I agree, lechon from cebu is delicious...

Dops=)

November 10, 2006 3:47 PM  

Blogger sheilamarie said...

Where there are Filipinos, there is lechon :) thrice here in Nigeria, we've been invited to parties where they have lechon! Can you believe that? Here of all places. I'll be sure to buy a bottle of Mang Tomas next time I am home to bring back here.

November 10, 2006 4:29 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Wow! You are a lechon expert!
Nice that you live near those "lechon" outlets... you will never be hungry Eric! ;-)

Thank you for mentioning my photo series about the subject.

November 10, 2006 7:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I had the Cebu-style lechon a couple of times already, Wilson. Personally, I prefer the Cebu lechon - its skin is crunchy compared to the Tagalog lechon which is crispy. There used to be a place here in La Loma that sold Cebu-style lechon but they closed shop. There's one in Cubao somewhere which I haven't discovered, yet. I can also order directly from Cebu but I have to pick it up from the domestic airport here in Manila myself; no door-to-door delivery.




A couple of lechon places here in La Loma have dining facilities wherein you can order per kilo of lechon, BernieJ. However, they tend to use not the newly-roasted ones for obvious reasons.




Yes, I had once featured lechon already, DOPS ( http://senorenrique.blogspot.com/2005/10/food-feature-lechon.html )

Some folks fondly call lechon as the "silent killer," but it's such a part of our culture that most Pinoys still crave for it despite the health risks.

November 10, 2006 8:15 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That is simply unbelievable! Lechon in Nigeria. But I believe you Sheilamarie! I know in New York we used to order it from a Chinese restaurant in downtown Manhattan.

Yes, you have got to have Mang Tomas lechon sauce. It is the best commercially available sauce for this delicacy :)




That's right, Sidney ... hehehe! However, although I can get per kilo from some eateries, there's nothing better than a freshly-roasted lechon so I had disciplined myself to wait for those special holiday occasions to eat lechon.

My pleasure, Sidney! I thought your photoblog entry would provide an added dimension to my entry, as well as readers (those who haven't yet enjoyed your entry) the insight to the business and a bird's eyeview of the hustle and bustle that is distinctly La Loma's lechon central!

BTW, after almost 6-7 weeks, I finally got my telephone service back late this afternoon!

November 10, 2006 8:25 PM  

Anonymous JV said...

I like lechon and it's been years since I haven't eaten one. It's because everyone here are diabetic people, except me, my mom and my aunts. Hay... I really miss lechon!

November 10, 2006 9:59 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Who knows? Maybe this holiday season you'll get a chance to enjoy one, JV!

November 11, 2006 6:22 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Eric,

I was just wondering, could one not buy the whole lechon but half of it instead?

But it's wonderful; the taste of lechon meat and crispy skin in one's mouth. Now I'm hungry!

:P

November 11, 2006 10:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Nope! No half purchases at all. As for the per kilo, no way to know the condition of the lechon they chop them off from.

November 11, 2006 10:52 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Nice to hear you got your phone connection back! Enjoy the coffee and the surf! ;-)

November 11, 2006 11:52 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, eric! long time no visit here! i dont have that much time these days to bloghop as frequent as before.

but eneweiz, that group shot is very nice. ingat sa choles..

November 11, 2006 9:40 PM  

Anonymous bingskee said...

oops that anonymous is me - BING!

November 11, 2006 9:43 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Bing! Thanks for stopping by. Yup those usual suspects are quite a bunch.

November 12, 2006 10:32 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you po sa advice :) Very informative. My mouth is watering kahit na katatapos ko lang kumain. Ang sarap talaga ng lechon kapag fresh na fresh.

Bye! Take care!

Maria

November 15, 2006 9:17 AM  

Anonymous alex said...

Thats true. Lechon cebu is different from lechon here in Manila. Lechon cebu taste really good. Even without sauce it can stand on its own because it tasty already.

October 21, 2008 10:44 AM  

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