Cycle 5 – Item 121
6 (Tue) May 2014
Best Pig … Ever!
(Mactan-Cebu International Airport)
-Ibo, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Philippines-
with the Family
Our Second Family Vacation to Plantation Bay Resort & Spa (This Time with Momo) (Day 4)
Lechon is a Filipino dish. It’s whole pig, spit-roasted over low coals for several hours, then chopped into pieces. The marinade/seasoning/sauce differs dramatically depending on the region and/or the person in charge. But so long as the whole animal is involved, it qualifies. Often made/served on special occasions. One of the national dishes.
During my time in Manila, lechon has been on the table at every single celebration that I’ve attended.
My one big culinary regret this trip was failing to indulge in lechon. Peak season, the resort was offering a themed show & buffet event every night – e.g., Brazilian Salsa Night, Arabic Belly Dancing Night (yes, I know, Arabs don’t eat pork). However, the deal was a buffet: 1,600 pesos per adult, 800 pesos per child (between 2-10), so we would’ve had to shell out a total of 4,000 pesos (about 100 USD) for the privilege; we declined. But not without a sigh.
And so our holiday came to an end. All too soon, not soon enough. Utterly spent, we squeezed every ounce of fun from the opportunity.
The best part was seeing the bewildered look of happiness on IZ’s face the entire time, incapable at an early age of comprehending how such sustained delight were possible. He’d wake up in the morning, look around, see the hotel room, blink, then giggle in glee that, yes, oh yeah, baby, we’re doing it again.
DJ, on the other hand, took a more fatalistic view, knowing how sad he’d be when it was time to leave, counting down the days, growing more glum every morning.
In any case, we all had mindless fun during the actual playing.
Zubuchon is a Filipino restaurant chain. Founded in June 2011. Currently 5 locations around Cebu. Their signature item is lechon, which celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain famously referred to as “Best pig … ever.”* In the international departure lounge at the airport, the lechon may be ordered to consume on the spot, wrapped to go (e.g., for the plane), or purchased frozen in bulk. On TripAdvisor, Zubuchon is currently ranked #17 of 338 restaurants in Cebu City.
Arriving at the airport around dinnertime, Zubuchon immediately became a no-brainer. I vaguely remembered seeing the “best pig” episode, though no recollection of Zubuchon specifically. The stall was the only one in the food court that had customers, crowds of customers.
The lechon was awesome. Texturally, the meat was meltingly tender, with crispy skin to provide a nice counterpoint. In flavor, it was perfectly sweet and salty, intensely porky in the best sense, not at all porky in the worst sense. With all due respect to Mr Bourdain’s expertise, I didn’t find it to be the best pig ever, but I could appreciate its universal appeal. Indeed, whether as a Filipino rice topping, or as a Korean anju, or an American sandwich stuffer, or whatever, the Zubuchon lechon is a dish that anyone can enjoy (except Muslims, or Jews, or vegetarians).
We got on the plane, dressed in shorts and t-shirt. Air-condition blasting, the kids began to shudder. Unfortunately, the plane didn’t have any blankets or pillows (one hour flight, no need, they said). Fortunately, a flight attendant took pity and lent us his suit jacket.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN PHILIPPINES)