Filipinos show their affection and celebration through food. We would literally give people the food on our plate just to make them feel at home. And what’s the ultimate symbol of filipino culinary bliss? LECHON, or roasted pig. So imagine my delight, mixed with trepidation, when I was invited to a dinner with not one or two, but FOUR lechon piggies on the menu.
I was one of the lucky few who got invited to a very exclusive dining fete hosted by the gracious Dedet Dela Fuente, who conceptualized Pepita’s Kitchen in the comforts of her own home. Pepita is a moniker she calls her cute daughters, who doubled as revolving masseuses to the diners.It was a motley crew of personalities, from writers, to food enthusiasts, to finance guys. Two of the more notable figures are Ms. Michaela Fenix, a well-respected food critic and editor in chief of Food Magazine as well as the culinary bible known as the Kulinarya book; the other being Teddy Montelibano, literary savant and writer for Rogue magazine. I was with the bigwigs.
Of course, the degustation’s main stars would be the succulent roast pork, or Lechon de Leche, patiently browning in the custom-made hot coal oven. After seeing the spread, and tasting the outcome, I am now ready to accept a custom made oven as part of my Christmas wishlist.
We had a guessing game on the contents of this pate, and I guessed it right: Balut Yolk, or the fertilized duck egg yolk. It had a nice garlicky aroma to it, and the texture was just like a nice medium grained pate. I enjoyed this with the ever-so-Pinoy cracker: Sky Flakes.
The Pinoy Caviar was another guessing game, and my friend Cay guessed it correctly. It was made out of Bihod or fish roe sac. It had a grainy texture and a bit or a brininess to it. It had similar flavors to the Pinoy Pate, but I’m not a big fan of bihod itself so I did not spread this as much.
I LOVE Balut, or fertilized duck eggs, and I especially love it when cooked in a lot of garlic, much like my grandmother’s Adobong Balut. This salpicao version was very similar, cooked in olive and garlic. I would’ve liked the eggs to still stay whole and not fall apart, but the flavors of the dish was quite enjoyable. Much more refined than the butter/garlic/star margarine concoction my grandma uses, but I am a sucker for the Capampangan version.
These cute poppers are squash flowers stuffed with anchovies and kesong puti (white cheese) and deep fried. These little bites packed a nice salty punch and kept me going for more. A little greasy because it was deep-fried, but anything deep fried tastes good anyways.
After the small bites, we were ushered into the lanai of Dedet’s home, where the first of four roasted lechons was sitting pretty waiting for us to devour it. The skin was remarkably crispy, and the fat layer actually separated from the skin, making the skin less greasy than normal.
I didn’t really get why it’s called German lechon aside from the fact that it was stuffed with baby potatoes and whole bulbs of garlic. Nonetheless, the garlic bulbs rendered a fragrant aroma which roasted the potatoes with its flavor. Yaya Ruth, Dedet’s cook, did the honors of cutting the lechon, and she started vertically through the middle to showcase the contents of the pork’s belly.
Since the garlic was tender and lost its bite, the perfect way to enjoy it is to mash some garlic with the baby potatoes for an instant garlic mash. It was delicious with the rendered pork fat..
This was refreshing and tasted like frozen calamansi (native lemon) juice. I had to have seconds.
A sampler size of a creamy pasta dish topped with, of all things, chicharon (pork cracklings). It tasted more like Stroganoff because of the mushrooms in the sauce, and it was a tasty carb dish to the mostly pork menu. Good thing the portions were small.
Then the second lechon came out, and I had to come out to greet it before we devoured it. Good thing that the succeeding lechons were smaller in size compared to its predecessors, because we were beginning to feel full at this point.
Can you guess what’s inside a “Pinoy Lechon”? Why, more pork, of course. And not just any type of pork, SISIG. Sisig is the typical filipino bar chow composed of all the parts of the pig that usually gets thrown out. Mixed with some garlic and chili, and stuffed into the lechon, the rice was brimming with flavors reminiscent of every Filipino’s culinary wet dream.
As another palate cleanser, a salad with mangoes and mangosteen vinaigrette was served. And to mimic croutons? Another Chicharon topper, but this time it’s intestine. Leave no pork part uneaten.
At this point I was really in no capacity to have any more food… but the thought of more pork kept us going… literally until midnight.
What’s Christmas without chestnuts? Mixed with peanuts, herbs and mushrooms, the flavor was quite festive but would’ve fared better if the rice was sticky rice, and can be considered a machang (chinese sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves). This was ho-hum for me. But the lechon was tender. This is why I like smaller sized lechon, the meat is still very young and not so heavily laden with layers of old porky fat.
What a treat of a palate cleanser! A combination of Saba (banana) and atchara (pickled vegetable) and you get Sabachara. The tartness balanced with the sweet and starchiness of the banana, and it cleansed our palates of the
It was called french lechon and had to guess the contents of the stuffing. One whiff of the little porker as it was being deboned and I already knew what it was made of…
A combination of mushrooms, truffle oil, garlic and rice made this my second favorite lechon of the four. Of course, it would have been mountains more impressive it actual truffle paste or even fresh tartufo was used. But since oil is readily available from the truffle variations, it will hit the spot once the aroma hits your noses.
Once the lechon dishes were tried and tested, it was definitely fitting to have something called a ‘Cholesterol Sweeper’.
Cholesterol Sweeper is traditional Filipino dessert Champorado, but instead of the usual sticky rice, it’s made with oats, which is supposed to soak up the cholesterol in your system. I dunno about you, but that little shot of oats is not going to make a dent with the amount of cholesterol I ingested for the evening.
A take on an alcoholic rootbeer float with liquor and creme. It tasted like a butterscotch shot. I am guessing Frangelico as the alcoholic component.
A native sticky dessert that is available during Christmas time. Mascovado sugar on the side gives it an earthy balance. I like the little attempt at patriotism with the Philippine Flag.
I am not a big fan of Guava or its grainy texture, and that’s what this tasted like. A lot of diners actually enjoyed it, so I’m blaming my preferences for my nonchalance.
It was touted as “THE best.” but I prefer Dulcelin’s version better.
The degustation was special treat that took about 4.5 hours and a lot of belt-loosening. You can actually schedule your own degustation, much like the one I tried, or you can just order the stuffed-lechons for parties or get togethers. I highly suggest you do because each lechon was succulent, flavor-laden, and worth the coal-oven wait. And the SKIN is TDF. Well, I survived the degustation, so I need to scrape off the cholesterol by killing myself at the gym.
Which lechon do you think you would enjoy more?
Pepita’s Kitchen by Dedet Santos
+63 917 866.0662