Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lechón - National Dish of the Philippines


 


Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School on Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

A family enjoys lechon on a weekend with relatives and guests. Pansol, Calamba Laguna 

Lechón is roasted pig, the most popular food served in fiestas and many gatherings, and for no particular occasion at all. Today, dial to order lechon, whole or say, a quarter, and pronto, the most delicious of all meat in the world is delivered to your doorsteps, hot and crispy.

Thanks to Spain which introduced the word which means suckling pig.  Thanks to China for serendipitous discovering lechon in a burnt village.  Thanks to the Pacific islanders for making lechon the center of celebration and unification among islands. Thanks to Mang Tomas et al for institutionalizing lechon as the national dish of the Philippines. Thanks to the many hog raisers - entrepreneurs, women and children - for keeping up with the big demand for lechon.  Cebu alone produced for the month of Dec 2010 some 65,000 lechón - indeed a world record. 

How important is lechon?  Basta - there's no way to describe it, the same way basta has no English.  Basta, lechon - superlative. Indeed, there is no substitute to it in any celebration -it is ultimate.

How do you gauge affluence of a host?  Lechon. A VIP coming?  Lechon. A bride- to-be or  bridegroom-to-be?  Lechon.  Balikbayan? Lechon.  Graduation? Lechon. After a funeral?  Lechon.  Winning a lottery?  Lechon.  First born?  Lechon. Para kay bunso (youngest)?  Lechon. 

Job promotion? Lechon. Birthday of a boss?  Lechon (either way).  Open house? Lechon (plural).  Political campaign?  Lechon (under Comelec's rule, of course).  Election victory? Lechon (shipload from Cebu or Davao, lechon capital after La Loma).  

As the litany goes, the Philippine air is the happiest in the world. Suddenly, guests pour in.  Suddenly, the karaoke becomes a concert center.  Suddenly, bottles arrive in cases, and the night never sleeps. 

You see, lechon is compatible with almost anything Filipino. Tinikling and rock, Kundiman and My Way. Wake and "For He is a Jolly Good Fellow." Barong and coat-and-tie. Five star and beach party. China or kamayan. Lunch or Dinner - that's given. Merienda and dessert, that's also given. Kitchen cooked and kilawin, likewise.  No wonder why some foreigners wonder why Filipinos love to eat.  Actually it is not the eating, but what accompany the eating - before, during and after.  It about nature - the nature of the Filipino molded by a rich diversity of culture  - Asian to European to American to  global.  It's a culture that runs in his blood, a melange of races in fact. The Filipino is is an example of  Epicurean philosophy in living a full life, no singular race can compare.  

Lechon attest to that. It is the center of cultural gravity. ~

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Experience lechon, contryside style.  It's a tourist and balikbayan attraction, barrio life. Here the piglet is chosen from a pig farm.  The pig is not purebred by a crossbred. Native pig lechon is becoming rare unless you go to an ethnic community. 

From among a litter of five to ten, it is the bansot (smallest) that is usually picked for  lechon.  The robust ones are raised for meat to give more profit. There are however piglets that are grown purposely for lechon. They range from pre-weaned for lechon de leche, to grower size, 20 to 30 kilos. 

The pig is tied on all fours, blood is drawn out from its heart with a dagger.  The blood is collected, mixed with some vinegar and salt, and used to cook dinuguan, or as dip for kilawin (medium rare roast). 

The carcass undergoes thorough cleaning, first with boiling water to remove the hair, second, the skin is scraped and rubbed with tanglad or lemon grass and citrus leaves, until it becomes white; and third, the entrails are removed completely, and replaced with tanglad, chopped leaves of sorosoro or karimbuaya (Euphorbia), which serves as vegetable, and rice which cook with the lechon. Now the whole stuffed is impaled with a whole bamboo pole, each end long enough to rotate the stuff while slowly being roasted for hours on live charcoal. 

When cooked the skin is attractively golden brown and crispy, which is the lechon's imprimatur. It is brought before the celebrant in lavish ceremony from decors to choreography.  Hushes and ahs! can be heard from the guests. Now relegated to the chopping board, the guests start queuing, plates at hands, their palates anticipating the unique taste of the world's ambrosia of all food.~     
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