Monday, September 12, 2011

Lechon Manok, A Filipino Favorite

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The Philippines had been under Spanish occupation for over 300 years. It is not surprising that a lot of Filipino dishes are derived from Spanish cuisine. Among this is lechon. This simply means ‘suckling pig’ in Spanish. The whole process of lechon involves slowly roasting a whole pig in charcoal until the skin is brown and crispy. Since roasting a whole pig can be tedious, expensive and simply not practical for everyday consumption, chicken (manok) has been a more viable yet just as delicious option.

To get a closer look at the origins of lechon manok, we now travel to Iloilo city. Iloilo is located in the Visayan region of the Philippines. It is known for its ostentatious lechon industry. I had my first taste of lechon manok from a corner stall called Toto’s Lechon Manok. Toto is originally from Iloilo, the stall used to have about 10-15 whole chickens skewered on long metal spikes, rotating slowly all at once on burning charcoal. The chicken was stuffed with lemongrass (locally known as tanglad), marinated in its own secret sauce, and was served with lechon gravy. This was in the mid 80’s. The stall was located across church, and every Sunday there would be a long line of churchgoers buying their Sunday lunch. All had the same idea of wanting lechon manok after getting a whiff of its delicious aroma which was the main cause of distraction from having to listen to the priest saying his gospel.

Lemongrass is mainly used for its scent which perfectly complements poultry and fish. It’s easy to grow and looks very much like weeds. I was never aware of what lemongrass looked like and it’s not always available at the supermarket, when I asked the gardener at my home to get rid of the unsightly weeds growing in the backyard, I was pleasantly surprised when he corrected me saying that they were not weeds but lemongrass. I now have the luxury of having it whenever I want it and it doesn’t need any tending, it just grows abundantly like weeds, really.

The gravy is a liver based sauce. I always prefer making my own liver sauce from scratch if I have the time, I whip up a batch and it can be stored in the freezer ready to be microwaved when I need it. My recipe is as simple as chicken liver fried in onions, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and Reno liver spread. I like chunks in the sauce so I don’t use a food processor. Mashing it with a fork works perfectly for me. This recipe was handed down from generation to generation from my maternal grandfather’s mother. But today we settle for Mang Tomas’ Lechon Sauce which has found its way into every Filipino household and is readily available in every supermarket and used as a sauce for almost anything and everything.

Over the years, lechon manok stalls have sprouted in every street corner and are available everywhere. It’s a staple dish whenever you need something quick to serve for lunch or dinner. It’s always freshly roasted and is one of the healthier ways of preparing your food.

2 Response to Lechon Manok, A Filipino Favorite

June 22, 2013 at 6:38 AM

I love love lechon! see my very own Lechon manok preparation tips.

February 10, 2014 at 12:43 AM

here is how to make a business out of lechon manok
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AONnV99d_Uk&feature=em-share_video_user

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