Lechon de leche.
Think of a suckling pig this way: golden brown skin on the outside, moist and tender meat inside.
Who doesn’t want lechon?
And it’s de leche.
That young, tender suckling pig.
That alone can whet your appetite.
But there’s more.
At Tingting’s Native Food, that lechon de leche is like a Christmas surprise by itself.
Open the belly and you would find inside that already delectable pig seafood or lechon native chicken.
Lechon inside a lechon?
Yes, Virginia, there is Santa Claus, or there is that kind of lechon.
Some might call it fusion or avant garde but to entrepreneur Vicente “Bebot” Papasin who had been running the reputable native food restaurant, it is just melding flavors.
For Filipino cooking is exactly that, a blend of Eastern and Western cuisine (think siopao and burgers) Oriental and Occidental flavors (tacos and sashimi, anyone?) or that delightful mishmash of dishes in many all-you-can-eat restos here in the metro.
Pork is an affordable protein source in the Philippines and lechon is, well, its most revered form.
Especially during the fiesta season.
Like how a banquet table, even if already groaning with food, would look incomplete without a whole pig previously skewered by a bamboo pole or steel rod and spun on glowing charcoal.
Wood charcoal. Nothing else.
The spinning of the stuffed pig is done for hours (alangay or on not so high heat) to achieve that crispy exterior (in practical eating terms, crackling skin when chewed) and inside, that tender, moist meat (read: even your lola with false teeth would slap your hand away from the plate if you grab that quivering piece of meat first. It’s hers, kiddo).
Lechon, of course, is not a Filipino original. We got it from the Chinese before they decided to play hopscotch on those group of floating stones and sand inside our territory.
But this is no political commentary.
So hail to that Chinese guy who accidentally discovered the gustatory delight of what is now known as lechon when his hut burned down along with his pig.
From out of the ashes of his house, and after the tortured squeals of the burning animal emerged the most glorified form of pig.
The story goes that’s when arson spread throughout the village until the villagers thought roasting the pigs on a spit over glowing embers was the more economical, and wise, thing to do.
So thank the Chinese for lechon.
Growing and playing with his friends in a seaside village has made Bebot appreciate seafood.
He knows those almost-forgotten names of fishes and can even tell you how they feed, bottom or surface, and discuss the nuanced textures of a tabogok (baby octopi) against a bagulan (that squid with a surfboard on its back).
Most of all, he knows what kind of cooking is best for what kind of animal.
The flavors of the seafood, he says, will blend with the pork protein and yield an interesting flavor.
Nanam in Hiligaynon.
That’s umami for you, you Ilonggo unfamiliar with our tongue.
It’s like a surf and turf blend.
Which is a first again here.
The lechon de leche is priced at P5,000 when stuffed – either with seafood like crabs and green shells, and shrimps, or native lechon manok.
The regular lechon de leche, with only aromatics for stuffing, sells for only P4,500.
All have average cooked weights of around five kilos.
Order at least a day for the lechon de leche.
Regular-sized lechon, around eight kilos when cooked, can be ordered at least six hours before pick up.
It’s introductory price is only P6,500, Bebot says.
No matter what we write here, the proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating.
Or the crackling in the case of lechon.
So head off now to Tingting’s and get your paws, and fangs, on their special lechon.
You can find them at BS Aquino Drive at the former City Health compound, in front of China Bank and the Medical Plaza building.
Or call them at 433-0594.
Go get your suckling pig now.