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Of pigs and pygmalions.

NO party in a Filipino household or a celebration with friends and colleagues, and no town fiesta is complete without the ubiquitous lechon (roasted pig on a spit).

The pig, stuffed with lemongrass, with drizzled salt in its stomach cavity, or its skin bathed in the ever-present Filipino condiment patis (fish sauce) or soy sauce-there are different ways of preparing lechon in every region of the country-is then roasted on a bamboo spit over hot, fiery charcoals until the skin is a crispy red, and the meat juicy and delicious from whatever seasonings have been used.

For 55 years, Lydia's Lechon has been a household name, having sprung from a small stall in Baclaran, with Nanay Lydia de Roca, now a spry 72, at its helm. (Our comrade-in-stomach Spanky Enriquez tells us that despite Nanay Lydia's advanced years, she can still wield a butcher knife and swing it with great force to chop a lechon almost in half, which he watched her do recently. Wow.)

Today, Lydia's Lechon has gone beyond just serving its succulent roasted pig, becoming a trusted restaurant dishing up Filipino favorites. I recently visited its branch along Roces Avenue in Quezon City, and I was surprised it was packed with diners at lunchtime. With our media colleagues, I had a taste of its pinakbet, pork barbecue, a really thick and malinamnam dinuguan, sinigang na salmon head sa miso, and fresh lumpia ubod, among others.

Of course, lechon is also used in the restaurant's other dishes like the kare-kare, which I found to be more flavorful, with chunks of skin still remaining crispy despite having been blended in the sauce. 'We want our patrons to enjoy Lydia's Lechon in different ways,' says Nanay Lydia. She also has creative desserts like ube banana turon, and good old favorites like suman at mangga, and halo-halo.

Now, Nanay Lydia has 25 stores, ready and able to reach out to an even growing list of picky diners via delivery partners GrabFood and FoodPanda. And starting September 1, diners can also order a Lechon-in-a-Box from them.

How many times have you ordered a lechon for a party, only to realize you don't have a butcher's knife on hand to chop up the roasted pig, so you and your guests end up first picking off the crispy skin, thereafter leaving a lot of the meat on the carcass?

Lechon-in-a-Box takes away this hassle and for P2,500 you get 2.2 kilos of luscious roasted pork chunks topped by slices of crispy skin, which can feed 10 to 12 persons. No more tadtad blues! And everyone gets a fair shake of eating both the meat and the skin, unless you're the type to hog (pun intended) all the crispy balat to yourself. 'Wag naman.

Meanwhile, Lydia's Lechon has also launched its online customer rewards apps in partnership with Globe Rush along with Lydia's Lechon HAPPYCard for free, where the bearer is entitled to a 5-percent discount on a whole lechon, and a 10-percent discount for dine-in orders.

Lydia's Lechon promises more thrilling offers as it gears up for its 55th anniversary celebration. 'We are excited to bring you more surprises, especially now that we are on our 55th year of bringing everyday lechon happiness to everyone,' Nanay Lydia enthuses.

For a 55-year-old, this lechon restaurant is certainly as agile as its founder, reinventing itself and its dishes to remain ahead of the competition. We lechon fans look forward to more of its delightful and delectable Filipino fare.

NOW, every time we have leftover lechon, the go-to dish to make is paksiw na lechon, using leftover lechon sauce, as well. Having taken home some of Lydia's Lechon, I whipped up other dishes using the yummy leftovers.

For one, I marinated the meat and skin in fish sauce for 30 minutes to an hour, then deep fried the pieces to a crisp. Some people use vinegar and crushed garlic as dipping sauce for this, but I personally stick to the usual lechon liver sauce as a dip.

Another way to use the leftover lechon is to make it as a stuffing for cuapao. Your favorite supermarket will likely have some cuapao buns in its frozen breads section. I got mine for P50 for six buns.

I roughly chopped the pork into little chunks, then warmed them in the microwave. (You can fry them lightly over the stove, of course.) After steaming the cuapao buns, just assemble everything. Stuff the lechon chunks in the buns, squeeze some hoisin sauce over it, then top with ground peanuts. (Aha, I finally used my coffee grinder for something else other than coffee beans!)

Most cuapao recipes call for brown sugar, but I avoid cane sugar as much as possible, so I used coconut sugar instead, and sprinkled some on the stuffing. Chop up some kinchay or cilantro and toss that in as well, but if it's not your thing, feel free to omit.

There are probably other ways to deal with leftover lechon-sinigang na lechon also sounds terrific-just use these in your traditional pork dishes and elevate their taste.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 23, 2019
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