Filipinos tend to light up with anticipation whenever they hear the words: “Merong lechon!” ("There’s lechon!") during nochebuena, birthday parties, weddings, fiestas, and other gatherings. I mean, who wouldn’t? Roast pig is one of those Filipino favorites that we usually flock to at any buffet spread because the crunchy skin runs out way too fast! Even Anthony Bourdain fell in love with lechon’s juicy, delicious magic. In one of his No Reservations episodes, he declared that Cebu’s famous lechon is “the best pig ever!”
But did you know there’s a difference between the lechon from Luzon compared to the lechon in Visayas? Besides their geographical origins, there are a few more factors that set these two equally delicious lechon apart.
In terms of flavoring or aromatics (before the pig is roasted over a pit of charcoal), the Luzon-style version is much less extravagant. It usually has no stuffing and only has a simple rub of salt and pepper on the skin. According to Chef Claude Tayag, a famous Kapampangan chef, "they [Luzon lechon] are not flavored, they don't have any stuffing. They rely heavily on the sauce of the lechon, yung liver sauce."
The savory liver sauce is one of the factors that make eating plain and simple Luzon lechon a delicious experience. The liver-based sauce lends a sweet and savory flavor to lechon. One of the most popular and accessible liver sauces found in the Philippines is Mang Tomas, which we’ve come to associate with as our go-to sauce for lechon.
How does the Visayan-style lechon differ? A great example is the famous Cebu lechon, which is usually stuffed with a variety of herbs and spices. There are varied ways Cebuanos stuff their lechon with aromatics, but most use an abundance of lemongrass, saba or taro plant, green onions, sliced onions, garlic, cracked black pepper, and salt. It’s packed with so much flavor, which is why you can enjoy eating it as is (of course, with tons of steamed rice).
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Chef Claude Tayag shared that usually, Cebuanos don't like using liver sauce with their lechon. "At most, they dip it in vinegar kasisobrangalatna" (At most, they dip it in vinegar because it's too salty already). This is why most lechon joints, like Zubuchon, serve vinegar with their Cebu lechon. Zubuchon has their own special vinegar sawsawancaledSukaLami, which is great with an additional squeeze of calamansifor an extra tangy kick.
So which one is better: Luzon or Visayas lechon? This is a question that doesn’t need to be answered because they are both equally delicious in their own unique way. Just enjoy these two types of equally delicious lechonwith lots of steamed white rice—and don't forget the sawsawan!