Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail 馃嚫馃嚞 Singapore based food history researcher

Lechon in Cebu, Philippines National Dish. Best Pig Ever?

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Lechon or charcoal roasted pig stuffed with garlic, lemongrass, onions, Rosemary, spices and herbs is The Philippines' national dish. Lech贸n originates from Spain which ruled pre-independence Philippines for over 300 years. Spanish Lech贸n uses suckling pig, whereas the Philippines version uses young, medium sized pigs.

Cebu is reputed to have the best Lech贸n in the whole country. Filipinos from all over The Philippines go to Cebu to get the best Lech贸n.

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My first taste of Lech贸n was at the CnT outlet near SM Mall in Cebu City, Philippines. I flew into Cebu City on Cebu Pacific's red eye flight from Singapore. Landed at 4:00am and was at Golden Prince Hotel and Suites by 5:00am. After freshening up, we took a taxi to the CnT outlet at around 8:00am.

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1/4 kilo of  Lech贸n at 120 pesos (SGD3.40) 

CnT's Lech贸n lived up to it's reputation, actually exceeding my expectations which was already inflated by anticipation - this was my first taste of Lech贸n. The warm meat was smooth, tender, juicy and robustly savoury with some saltiness.

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The density and texture of CnT's Lech贸n meat is fine and tender like poached chicken. It is less fibrous than the pork available in Malaysia and Singapore. The skin was thin and roasted golden brown till it became a chewy savoury greasy biscuit.

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After enjoying CnT's Lech贸n, I set my sights on the other famous name in Lech贸n, Zubuchon. This is the Zubuchon outlet at Escario Central, Cebu City.

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I snapped this picture of a whole Lech贸n at the Zubuchon outlet at Escario Central during their evening delivery time, around 6:00pm. This Lech贸n is relatively large. The Zubuchon staff told me that the best time to eat Lech贸n is at delivery time when the meat and skin are the freshest, most flavourful and aromatic.

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These were the simple condiments provided at Zubuchon. From right to left - vinegar, soya sauce, chili oil, pepper and salt. Chili padi and calamansi are available on request. 

The waiter asked me where I am from. After I told him that I am from Singapore, he brought me a dish of cut chili padi at his own initiative :D  Good customer service! 

Personally, I like to eat the best Lech贸n without any additional condiments.

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Zubuchon Lech贸n set at 160 pesos (SGD4.55)

My Lech贸n set at Zubuchon with rice and a small clump of papaya pickle. In terms of taste and flavour, Zubuchon's Lech贸n is milder than the CnT version. Zubuchon's Lech贸n meat was also firmer and drier than CnT's (but still finer than pork in Malaysia and Singapore). Most of the skin was rather chewy except for one piece. 

That one piece of skin was like a buttery cream cracker with juices that burst and flood my mouth with a savoury wet gush of lovely flavour and aroma. Perhaps, this was what triggered Anthony Bourdain to proclaim this the "Best pig, ever"? But it was just that one piece out of the whole set meal that was special..... 

(Filipinos all have their own favourite Lech贸n and many felt that Anthony Bourdain was too hasty in pronouncing Zubuchon's Lech贸n "The best pig, ever" without trying other Lech贸n in The Philippines.)

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Besides CnT and Zubuchon which are big names, lesser known Lech贸n is found in many places throughout The Philippines. This is the Lech贸n stall at the food court in SM Mall in Cebu City.

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During my stay in Cebu, I also had the chance to visit "Lech贸n alley" at the Carcar City Public Market where the best Lech贸n in the country is reputedly found. Carcar City is about 2 hours by car or bus heading south from Cebu City.

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In Carcar City Public Market's "Lech贸n alley", there are about 10 Lech贸n stalls. Competition is stiff among the Lech贸n sellers at the Carcar City Public Market.

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Inside Carcar City's "Lech贸n alley" you will hear the familiar dull thump of chopper blades slamming on wooden chop boards as women sellers hacked at the roasted pigs. Some of the tasty juices and bits of meat flew and spluttered on to my clothes and camera :D

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Most of the stalls display their prices prominently. Whole roasted pigs are sold at between pesos 3,000 (SGD85) to pesos 5,000 (SGD140) each, depending on the size. Of course, we can also buy smaller portions sold by weight.

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In The Philippines, locals like to buy a whole Lech贸n and eat it together on special occasions like weddings, birthday celebrations and as a treat for guests visiting from overseas.

Whole Lech贸n is delivered wrapped in banana leaf and banana tree trunk covered with brown paper. We either carve the roasted pig up ourselves or with the help of the staff at restaurants and hotels.

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The crackly skin is considered a choice part similar to the way Chinese prized roasted suckling pig skin and Peking duck skin.


Other choice parts are the ribs, meat and skin around the mid section of the roast pig.

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We had our second whole Lech贸n from our hosts Taipan Toastmasters Club of Cebu City which we enjoyed at the Kawasan Falls (3 hours drive south from Cebu City).

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This whole Lech贸n was purchased at 4,500 pesos from Talisay City (another place renown for it's Lech贸n just 12 km south of Cebu City). When we cut through that golden brown crispy skin, we can hear it crackle like snapping biscuits. Puffs of warm vapour escaped through the cracks of the broken skin from the moist meat below, filling the air with whiffs of that lovely porcine aroma.

Standing in line with my paper plate in hand, I could feel myself salivating and couldn't wait for my turn.

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In my opinion, if you are a pork loving foodie who has not tried Lech贸n, it is worth visiting Cebu just for this. What's more, Cebu has lots more to offer foodies, which I shall share in future posts.

When you visit Cebu, don't leave The Philippines without tasting Lech贸n.

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Click on photo for review of Iskina Cebu stall in Singapore

If you cannot be in Cebu, you can also get a taste of Lech贸n at Iskina Cebu stall located at a coffee shop in Paya Lebar just beside the Paya Lebar MRT station in Singapore.



Needless to say, the best Lech贸n is in Cebu, but here in Singapore, Iskina Cebu Lech贸n is the only best Lech贸n we can have now.

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I travelled to Cebu City on Cebu Pacific Airlines. It was my first time travelling with this budget airline.

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I had a good experience with Cebu Pacific. Both inbound and outbound trips were on schedule (actually we landed slightly ahead of schedule, both times). The aircraft looked well kept and the cabin crew were friendly and helpful.

(Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Cebu Pacific or Golden Prince Hotel and Suites. My trip to Cebu City is fully self funded.)

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5 comments:

  1. Hi! I'm from Cebu. Enjoyed reading your blog on our lechon and was hungry looking at the pictures hahaha. Thanks for visiting Cebu. :D

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    1. LOL thanks. I hope to be back in Cebu again. There are many more interesting local food I want to taste and write about :D

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  2. I tried the CnT Lechon in Cebu 3 years ago. So far the lechon is quite crispy and juicy. I haven't tried other Lechon since it is not good for our health if we eat frequently. I am waiting for your blog to include the best Adobo in the Philippines or even here in Singapore. Great blog !

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    1. Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment. Yes Adobo is a very interesting topic :-D I hope to write a good story on it.

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  3. Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Many thanks for supplying this information.

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