The Food and Wine Hedonist

leave your inhibitions at the door

Mastering the Art of Filipino pt 2 – Roasted Pig

So I finally got past the bitter melon hurdle. This was a month ago and I was feeling proud of myself and slightly cocky about being a Filipino. It was also days before our annual family reunion when, during my weekly visit to the butcher, I saw this –

Lechon butcher


I instantly sent the pic in a group text with my brothers, nephews and cousins. When I asked whether I should buy one, I instantly received an avalanche of texts – my phone sounded like the penny slot section of a casino with all the bells going off. The consensus – “Hell yeah!”

Sure, there are a lot of cultures that eat roasted pig. But for Filipinos, it’s religion.

Lechon shirt

Filipino customs

Growing up, EVERY Filipino gathering – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals – had Lechon. It didn’t matter that there was only five people there, no party was complete without one. Every time my uncle in Indianapolis would have a party, he told my dad to bring down one or two lechons from Chicago. We’d pick them up already cooked on the way out of town and drove the 4 hours with the strong smell of pork wafting through the car. It was torture. Every time we’d make a pitstop, when my dad wasn’t looking, we’d pop the trunk and tear off a piece of the crunchy skin. By the time we got to my uncle’s, the pig looked like it was a character from The Walking Dead.

But while we’ve all eaten our share of roasted pig before, we’ve never actually tried to make it ourselves. We had to do this.

The problem was then – how the hell were we gonna cook it? Here were some of the suggestions

– cut off the head so it’ll fit in an oven

– take it to my cousin’s restaurant. D’oh! He sold it a few months ago.

– Dig a pit in the backyard, right next to the Hydrangeas.

– Use their copper bowl fire pit

and my favorite:

– get a turkey fryer and deep fry the bitch. Ass up at first, then flip it over so the head’s sticking out.

It turns out, that this baby was just that – a baby. It was about 18 pounds and a little under 2 feet long. So it was either going to be the oven or the grill. We went for grill.

We did a whole lot of Googling to try to come up with ways to prepare it and we ended up with a blend of recipes from Emeril, David Chang (Momofuku in NYC), and a couple others.

First off, the prep work. We decided to use Chang’s simple rub of 2 cups of salt and 3 cups of sugar (brown and regular) –

Lechon rubpork recipe

Then we followed (some of) Emeril’s advice

Make sure that your butcher thoroughly cleans the suckling pig. By cleaning inside and out and removes the eyeballs. With a knife make several cuts on the pig’s skin so the skin doesn’t burst during cooking. Prop the pig’s mouth open with a small yam. Season the entire pig with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place the pig in a garbage bag and tie the back tightly. Place the pig in the refrigerator and chill for 12 hours.


Throw it in a garbage bag and chill it for 12 hours? Sounds like a Dahmer recipe… Anyway, none of us took the eyeballs out. It was either that we forgot about it or we wanted to see if they’d come shooting out while cooking. I can’t remember.

But well cleaned out it certainly was.

Lechon ass

pig butt

Thank Goodness. I lost a bet to Shady a little earlier in the night and, luckily, I didn’t have to fulfill my obligation to eat the pig’s ringpiece.

The next day we went and played golf, which somehow wasn’t mentioned in any of the recipes we looked up. We put my cousin’s kid, Chemical Al, in charge of cooking it. He has three supreme qualifications for the job – he’s part Filipino, he went to culinary school, and he doesn’t play golf. So while we were Tiger Woodsing out there, he was cooking this.

Lechon roastingroasted pig

Beauty isn’t it? They cooked it for about 4-5 hours and brushed it with Sprite every so often to get the skin nice and brown.

The result? Heaven. Every single bit of meat was so tender it melted in our mouths. Since it was a suckling pig, there was a surprisingly low amount of fat on it. I really can see having this a couple times of year. The only disappointment was that the skin wasn’t crispy as we like. (I’m thinking that deep fryer just might do the trick)

So we can now check off roasting a pig off our Filipino bucket list.

OK, if you’re keeping track I said there’d be two parts. I decided to milk this a little more. The doozy is coming in part 3.



About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

15 comments on “Mastering the Art of Filipino pt 2 – Roasted Pig

  1. alexsioson
    September 26, 2013

    Now I really miss the Philippines! 🙂 Can’t wait to be a “balikbayan” soon! 🙂 Thanks for this post! Keep on rockin’ our world… Haha lol! 🙂

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 26, 2013

      Thank YOU for reading it! Hope you’re in a place that has access to some lechon.

      • alexsioson
        September 26, 2013

        Unfortunately, I’m not! But pork is not really prohibited here since this is the most open country here in the middle east… 🙂

  2. Go Jules Go
    September 26, 2013

    My goal in life is to get invited to some sort of pig roast. The ‘rub’ picture with the eyeballs just about made me change my mind, though.

    Sprite. Huh. After all of the family ball busting, I would have second-guessed that trick. (Although I have used it on apples to keep them from turning brown when I bake pie.)

    *standing ovation* I eagerly await my invite before you need to write Part 4.

  3. reversecommuter
    September 26, 2013

    Ridiculously good tshirt & posting!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 26, 2013

      Yeah, my niece got tshirts from the Philippines and gave tht one to her dad. I haven’t forgiven her not giving it to me… Thanks for kind words!

  4. JM Randolph
    September 26, 2013

    Funny, I just recently watched the Julia Childs suckling pig episode. She didn’t play golf while making it, either. I think you’re on to something. Did the eyeballs ever shoot out?

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      September 26, 2013

      No, they just kinda dried out. No one took the 5-buck dare to eat one.

      • JM Randolph
        September 26, 2013

        That’s surprising, really. I think I would have eaten it for five bucks. On a saltine with Tabasco. Like a dehydrated oyster.

  5. timmilford
    September 27, 2013


  6. Max D
    November 7, 2013

    This may be my favorite FWH post yet. First, I learned that in the Philipines, pig is called “lechón,” just like in Puerto Rico. In fact, PRicans also consider roasting pigs a religion. The places that make it are called “lechoneras,” and the best ones are invariably set up illegally by the side of the road by the beach or up in the mountains. (I imagine they are a health inspector’s wet dream or nightmare.) There must be people who buy their lechón from grocery stores because I’ve seen them sold there, but I’ve never met anyone who admits to buying lechón from a grocery store. Any any self-respecting lechonera will sell many other parts of the pig: feet, ears, intestines, etc.
    I’ve never prepared one, and this post has inspired me to try, but now that the weather’s colder, I’m thinking that maybe I have to do the whole production indoors. We have a brand new convection oven, but I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus. Any tips you care to pass on? If I had any cojones, I’d dig a hole in my yard and prepare one of those underground fire pits, letting the pig cook for twelve hours or so.
    Man, I gotta do some research.
    Thanks for the post.

  7. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Episode 8: Piggin’ Out | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  8. Pingback: Mastering the Art of Filipino Part 3 – The Final Exam | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2013 by in Cooking and tagged , , , , , , , .
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