Cebu Style Lechon

Prep time ~1hr  |  Cooking time: ~3.5hrs  |  Serves 15-20

The below recipe is from the guy who made Lechon for Tony Bourdain on his No Reservations: Philippines Episode. I’ve edited it a bit for clarity and added some bits, from my experience.

Hardware

  • Large bamboo pole (soaked in water) or steel spit
  • Plain Stainless Steel wire (NOT aluminium, NOT galvanized)
  • Leather needles and butchers twine (for sewing up)
  • Pliers (for twisting the wire, preferably with a wire-cutter built-in)
  • Gloves (you’re handling sharp wire, needles and entire raw pig)
  • Fire pit at least 10% bigger than the pig (is it going to be windy? did you set up a barrier and firebreak around it?)
  • A knife, large enough and sharp enough to carve an entire pig
  • A large place to rest and carve (restaurant supply houses have very large steel baking pans)

Ingredients

  • 1 whole pig. Young is preferred, source from a local farmer, no factory farms.
  • Stuffing (listed below)
  • 4cu Fresh young coconut water (most Asian markets sell young coconut)
    • Update: Now you can find bottled coconut water right next to the refrigerated juices. Pricey, but a good option to have.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

  • Start fire, coals must be white, no flames. (around 250-300F)
  • Run spit from mouth to rump.
  • Run stainless wire around the spine and spit every 6″
  • Tie pig to the spit and make sure the skin is dry.
  • Bathe in young fresh coconut water
  • Pin-prick the skin .125″ deep every .5” except the face. Do not pierce meat.
  • Add Stuffing to the body cavity and sew up the pig
  • Allow pig to dry (very important or skin will not be crisp)
  • Rub olive-oil over entire body
  • Then hang the pig on a spit about 18” above coals (no open flame, just hot coals)
  • Turn by hand as the skin browns.
  • When done (internal temp of 145F, move to the pan, remove spit, with a 5min rest)
  • Remove the skin (which should be crispy) and rough-carve the pig. It should be soft enough for people to tong or fork off the parts they want.

Stuffing (for 30lb cleaned)

  • 3 garlic bulbs, husked/smashed
  • 2 bunches thyme
  • 2 bunches rosemary
  • 6 lemongrass stalks
  • 5 bunches green onions

This was quite an undertaking. From sourcing the pig, to prepping, to sewing, to spitting… none of this is “average” kitchen work. Take plenty of time to fully understand what needs to be done and who (if not you) can do it. Do not let this animal’s life go to waste due to your lack of preparation.

Big thank-you to Nick for ethically sourcing the pig, and everyone else who helped out.

Love, Jimi

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