Lechon is the star or center of any holiday, festival or party in the Philippines. It is a whole pig roasted over a charcoal pit. It is usually skewered in bamboo and is turned slowly to cook for several hours until the skin is golden brown and crisp.
It is hard to find decent tasting lechon here in our area. If you are lucky to find one it is very expensive. In recent years, I have seen a smaller version of lechon in the form of a roll. I believe it came about as another way of cooking lechon kawali.
I decided to make this for Father’s day because I wanted to serve an extra special dish for my husband to celebrate the occasion. I scoured the web for recipes and this is what I came up with.
Take a 3.5 lb slab of pork belly, wash it thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Then lay your pork belly skin side down and season the meat facing you liberally with salt and pepper. Spread a generous amount of finely minced garlic (I used 5-6 cloves) and lemon grass cut into 4-5 inch pieces smashed or halved to release it’s essential oil. Take both ends of the meat and pull it up towards the center to create a roll. Tie your pork belly roll securely with kitchen twine. Liberally rub salt and pepper on the outside and prick the skin all over with a sharp pointy knife. This will ensure a nice and crisp skin when done.
Then refrigerate your pork belly roll overnight uncovered, to dry the skin. They say that this helps the lechon form a crackling.
The next day take your meat out of the fridge and pre-heat your oven to 320F. Place your lechon pork belly in a wire rack set over a pan. Make sure to line your pan first with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. Rub the pork belly roll with olive oil then bake it for 4-5 hours, depending on the thickness of your meat. I just used an instant read meat thermometer to make sure my meat is done (It should read 170-180 F). Then increase your oven temperature to 425F and bake for another 20-30 minutes to crisp up the skin.
Take it out of the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes before cutting. Serve with lechon sauce or in our case a bottled Mang Tomas all purpose sauce. This the most popular brand lechon sauce back home. Lechon is best eaten with steamed white rice.