Sunday, February 22, 2009

Anthony Bourdain: Cebu’s lechon is No. 1

It’s official.

The TV show feature that most Filipino foodies and epicures have been waiting for was finally shown last February 16 in continental USA. This long-awaited Philippines episode of the much revered Anthony Bourdain of Travel Channel’s No Reservation, taped October-November 2008 in the Philippines (Manila, Pampanga and Cebu), which unfortunately is still not aired in Asia, immediately was uploaded in youtube and the chef-cum-traveler’s declaration that in his hierarchy of pork, Cebu’s lechon is on top of the heap was greeted with much pride and pleasure by Filipinos.

lechon stalls are all over Cebu
picture taken by my wife

Before his Philippine visit, Bourdain has earlier declared Bali’s famous babi guling as his number one choice but that is history. Lechon or the Philippine roast pig, long a mainstay in Philippine parties, is considered a matter of pride by Filipinos. By reputation, the Cebu lechon is considered by most as the tastiest and crispiest, with such flavorful meat that condiments or sauce are typically not necessary anymore.

For the Philippine episode of No Reservations, it helped that top Filipino food blogger, marketmanila (he whose blog has more than 15,000 visitors a day!), was approached by Bourdain for the lechon segment.

the Philippine roast pig is always served whole during feasts
picture taken by my wife

Unbeknownst to those outside of the marketmanila readership, this guy has elevated lechon cooking to a different plane. He loved lechon so much he organizes lechon EBs. Most of all, he experiments with lechon cooking as if the dish were something you just whip in a casserole. For starters, he built his own hearth in his place in Cebu! And in a series of joyful studies that he blogged, he toyed with different fillings, researched on the various preparations and tinkered with recipes and cooking styles until after at least 5 cookouts (read his chronicles 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, he came out with what he deemed as the ultimate lechon.

lechon baboy and manok
Cebuanos are spoiled when it comes to availability and choices of lechon
picture taken by my wife

While we typically would just buy lechon by the kilo and appreciate the portions we can get – we in Cebu, I admit, are spoiled with our choices – marketmanila would not settle until he understands all that can be learned in the art of lechon. Suffice it is to say that Bourdain could not have picked a better man.

Come to think of it, the stars were aligned in so many ways. While I cannot claim any personal connections to the episode, or even to marketmanila (except for the fact that he is Cebuano), I have to thank my wife for whipping me into submission in following both the guy and Bourdain. You see long before Bourdain decided on taping a Philippines episode, my wife was already a committed fan of his, viewing all the No Reservations episodes posted in youtube, shoving me with must-view links. Coincidentally too, she has always been a dedicated lurker of the marketmanila blog for years way prior to the announcement that he would be Bourdain’s lechon guide. Imagine her giddiness when late last year, she learned that marketmanila showed Bourdain around Cebu.

the pig has landed at Nani's fiesta
the lechon is the typical centerpiece in Philippine fiesta preparations

Now, if only I could get my piece of lechon today…


The No Reservations episodes can be viewed in 5 parts in youtube (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). For the curious, the lechon recipe can be found here.

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Marketman said...

Thanks for the mention and links to posts. It was a terrific experience to host Mr. Bourdain for a lechon feast... and I am happy he enjoyed our Philippine lechon! Regards,

Farl said...

I'm honored you took the time to comment. You did the best job ever with the lechon. Props to you!

Manong's said...

Im so happy that an international personality was able to appreciate Philippines national food--lechon. And he was able to eat Cebu lechon which is the best of all lechon.

I myslef is a Cebuano and sells Cebu lechon for a living here in Metro Manila. My company is Manong's Tasty Lechon Cebu (7032133), and it gives me joy knowing that Mr. Bourdain hailed Cebu lechon as the best.

It only confirms my claim that if you want to taste the BEST lechon in the Philippines, go to Cebu or order from us. Hehehe.

philippinefacts said...

I love to eat lechon as well as to have a vacation in cebu

Anonymous said...

Cebu has the best lechon in the country. Tony nice job. Its great to read something about your country and where your ancestors are - that is hailed from someone credible like Tony when it comes to food.I hope he will cover a segment to find the best bibingka.

Farl said...

Bourdain has a weakness for pork so his proclamation of the Cebu lechon as the best is something to crow about. I hear though that he's not into sweets and desserts so bibingka (rice cakes) wouldn't be his thing.

Manong's said...

Hi. We would like to request our avid followers to order your lechon in advance for the holiday season. YOu may call us at Manong's Lechon Cebu 7032133 or 0908-3237727 or you may visit us inside SM North foodcourt. Thank you.

Toni B. said...

Thnx for the blog! I do agree w/ the whole Philippines - Cebu litson is the very best pig amongst mankind!!! Try Yummy Cebu for the BEST places to eat in the region!!!