Lechon is the name for roasted pork and it is popular in Spain and all those countries which were under the Spanish possession. The word lechon is derived from the Spanish term meaning leche or milk. This meat variant is usually derived from suckling pig. Suckling pig is a young born calf of pig or piglet which is primarily fed on the mothers’ milk and slaughtered when it attains the age of two weeks or before it reaches 6 weeks. The suckling pig is usually roasted as a whole in many cuisines around the earth. It is usually made and served during all gatherings festivals, and holidays in many Spanish colonies.
The suckling pig meat is very tender and is usually roasted with the skin until they turn crispy. The roasted meat is also used in the preparation of pork rinds. The collagen content is high in young pigs, and this is the reason why the meat texture often appears gelatinous in comparison to other meat variants.
Lechon is a very popular snack in Puerto Rico, Philippines, Spain, Latin American Countries and Dominican Republic. The whole pig is taken, sometimes smeared with herbals and spice mixtures and roasted over the charcoal. The pig is skewered on the charcoal after removing their entrails and placed on the large stick and cooked in earthern pits filled with charcoal. The pig is allowed to remain in the pit for long times until they get roasted on all sides.
Nowadays in Latin America, people have started substituting the suckling pig with small sized or medium sized adult pigs.
History of Lechon
Chinese and Romans were the ones who developed recipes for suckling pigs because they started domesticating the pigs earlier than most other civilizations on earth. The first references of suckling pig appears in the historical texts of Salic Law, which were published somewhere around 6th century A.D. Romans and Greeks adhered to those laws, which strictly forbid its citizens from indulging in theft of pig meat or other meat related issues.
Regional Variations of Lechon
Litsong Baboy – This is a popular roasted pig dish prepared in Philippines. The Filipinos mastered this recipe during the reign of Spaniards. The Filipinos follow the same cooking methods as Spaniards but the meat is completely drenched in oil before cooking. The banana leaves are used as a brush. The banana leaves are tied to a wooden stick and used to brush oil over the pig. Filipinos prepare this dish only on special occasions like graduation ceremonies, birthdays, festivals and Christmas, because the cost of preparation involved is very high.
Filipinos use the leftover lechons in the preparation of another dish known as paksiw na litson. The leftover lechon is cooked in vinegar and moistened before processing.
- Lechon en La Varita –This is a very popular dish in Puerto Rico, where the whole pig is roasted by tying over the stick above the earthern pit filled with charcoals. The pig is usually roasted atleast 8-10 hours before the serving time. In Puerto Rico this is the must-have dish during Christmas dinners.
- Hornado – This is a famous lechon recipe from Ecuador. The dish is usually available in many food markets across the country. The dish is usually teamed with vegetables, mote (hominy) and Ilapingacho (potato patties).
- Asado – It is a term used to depict the grilled meat or barbecued meat. Usually lechon is served as a part of the Asado meal. Apart from lechon various types of sausages, are served with salads and red wine.
- Siu Yuk – This is a roasted pig preaparation which is popular to Cantonese cuisine. The entire pig is seasoned with spices and roasted on a whole in a charcoal furnace. The roasted pigs have very crispy skin and have soft meats. The meat is either served on its own or is served after teaming with hoisin sauce or soy sauce.
- Babi Gulig – This is an Indonesian Pig roast, which is served with steamed rice and lawar.
Food Traditions Involving Roasted Suckling Pig
- In Batak Region of Indonesia roasted pig is offered as a gift to bride.
- In Papua New Guinea, people actually bury the yams and pigs in a hole dig within a ground and cook it for long time as a part of tradition.
- In UK, roasting a pig is a very popular tradition and it is commonly known as Hog Roast.
- Filipinos celebrate a festival called “"Parada ng mga Lechon" or lechon parade on every June 24 in the region of Balayan Batangas. This festivity is usually held to honor the patron saint of the place Sto. Nino, and during the procession 49 tribes living in the area parade their lechons in various attires throughout the region.
- In Hong Kong, people offer several roasted pigs to God of the Heavens – Jade Emperor prior to beginning of a new business venture or sometimes prior to opening of a new film. People believe that the pig sacrifice will help to ward of the evils affecting films success. The pig is garnished with slices of pineapple and cherries, around the eyes before offering. The roasted pig is usually wrapped in a red cover and placed in a red colored box before gifting. The Chinese staying in Hong Kong believe that gifting the roasted pig will bring them good luck.