It’s just a roasted pig’s head on a platter. No need to cringe, or go ewww, or label me as a savage. All it is is pork. It’s Lechon and it’s delicious.
As I’m sure all of my Pinoy readers already know, Lechon is a whole roasted pig that is usually served for big parties and special occasions. For my family, we have Lechon on Thanksgiving (there’s turkey too, but who cares really?). And as I mentioned in my last post, I only get to experience the awesomeness that is Lechon every other year since my wife and I alternate between families. And my wife’s family does not eat Lechon (read: they be white).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I get along famously (famously, I say!) with the in-laws. But the years when I’m at their place for Thanksgiving, my mind is invariably elsewhere–all I can think about is how I’m missing out on Lechon. Glorious Lechon.
In fact, when spending Thanksgiving at the in-laws, I always sneak out to the front porch and give one of my brothers a call on my cell phone to see what’s going on at grandma’s house:
Me: Hey man, how’s it going?
Bro: Good, everyone’s here and we’re all…
Me: Yeah, that’s cool. Is there Lechon?
Bro: Yup. Hey you wanna talk to…
Me: How’s it look? You eat yet? It’s good right? Crispy? Tell me it’s crispy, dammit!
Bro: Yup. It’s the same as always. Hey you wanna say "Happy Thanksgiving" to anyone?
I then crumple to the ground, curl into a ball and I quietly weep. Then my father in-law steps outside and I mumble something about dropping my contact lens, watery eyes, and pork, and then I slink back inside to have some turkey. Good times.
This year, however, it was time for my wife and I to go to my grandmother’s house! Whoooo! I said, Whooooooooooo! Yes, very exciting, I know.
I was intending to get a picture of the whole roast pig, but we got to grandma’s a little late and she was already in the midst of lopping off the wonderfully crisp skin and succulent meat of the Lechon:
Grandma’s tools of choice.
Mmmmm. Pork. Crispy, crispy skin and juicy meat.
Grandma’s deft hands.
Piggy style. Lots of meat left for seconds and thirds and leftovers.
For the uninitiated, the best thing about Lechon is the crispy skin. It’s so crispy that alls you has to do is tap the roast pig and the skin shatters into shards of delicious. The skin only stays crisp for a couple of hours, so Lechon is best eaten ASAP. And also for the uninitiated, Lechon isn’t something you can make at home, you have to special order it from elsewhere.
I’m not exactly sure where my grandparents procure their piggy from, but perhaps after paying homage to the Lechon Fairy on every 3rd Tuesday, a crispy roast pig magically appears on my grandparent’s doorstep upon Thanksgiving morn.
Or maybe Lechon procurement involves cryptic phone calls, secret handshakes, and my grandfather plucking a toothpick from his mouth and flicking it at the feet of a cowering pig farmer. My grandfather then shouts in no uncertain terms that the pig to be delivered better be good, and it better be on time. He then drags his thumb across his throat and then turns and walks away. Gangsta!
Or maybe my grandpa just knows a guy.
Yeah, that’s probably it.
Anyhoo, besides Lechon, there were plenty of other goodies on my grandmother’s table this past Thanksgiving:
Copious amounts of lumpia, of course.
Seaweed and tomato salad. I’m not sure what the Filipino name for this is.
And Tamales. Tamales??! Yes, believe it or not, we have tamales for Thanksgiving. But these also are not made by my grandma. Like I said, my grandpa knows a guy.
Here’s a look at my first plateful of food:
1. Rice and pinakbet
2. Pancit (delectable Filipino noodles). Pancit por your pace, you pool!
3. A big ‘ol pile of Lechon
4. Mang Tomas lechon sauce. Or as I like to call it, "That Homeboy Tommy" sauce.
5. A single slice of turkey (saving room for more pork).
6. Something my grandma called "parda". Not sure what it was exactly, some kind of pickled vegetable, but it was tasty.
Don’t you just love the tri-compartment styrofoam plate? Or as I like to call it, "The Filipino Coat of Arms". In fact, I think I’ll commission an artist straight away to design my crest of plated Pinoy goodies. Then I’ll have it embroidered on a Polo shirt that I will wear whilst on a fox hunt. Or maybe not.
Anyhoo, no Thanksgiving at my grandma’s is complete without having to bring home leftovers (well, that and my dad passing gas at an inappropriate time). Not only is my grandmother’s kitchen fully stocked with styrofoam plates, she is also equipped with styrofoam take-home boxes. I’m serious.
I’ve been living off of this box o’ pork for the last few days now. Traditionally, leftover lechon is made into a dish called "Lechon Paksiw" in which the leftover lechon is stewed in vinegar, sugar, and spices (kinda like an adobo, I assume). I’ve never had lechon paksiw before, so I didn’t want to try and make it. But whenver I get lechon leftovers, I just drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then grill over high heat for just a couple of minutes on each side.
The meat gets beautiful grill marks, but still remains juicy and tender. The skin crisps up again and becomes the most bestest pork rinds of all time.
Oh, Lechon! I am so thankful for your porky existence! Until we meet again, in two years, my tasty friend.