It’s true that many people travel for gustatory treats. In fact, there are destinations that are known for one particular dish, so much so that crowds gather there to sample the delicacy.
Of course, a dish has to have what it takes to be famous in the first place. It has to have its own unique set of mouth-watering qualities that create a craving in those who have tasted it, and a curiosity in those who haven’t. One such case is Cebu lechon.
Arguably nothing symbolizes Cebu better than lechon. Also known as inasal, which loosely translates to cooked over fire, it is prepared for special occasions. The pig is seasoned, skewered on a large bamboo pole, and cooked over hot charcoal. It’s roasted for several hours, rotated regularly to make sure that all sides are cooked—after all, it’s the lechon’s crispy skin that truly makes it an indulgence.
It’s popularity has made it undoubtedly one of the tourism come-ons of the province, and not just in the city alone. Different municipalities in Cebu have their own version of the roasted pig, but one that has consistently earned the mantle of being among the best is the Carcar lechon.
While every Cebuano may have their own version of the favorite, the Carcar lechon is one thing most agree high up on the list. Some locals take the hour-long road trip to sample the dish, or make sure to stop at the market for a serving anytime they’re in the south.
Adding to the Carcar lechon’s appeal is the sauce. While cooking, the drippings from the pork is gathered, and served alongside the meat for dipping. The vinegar and garlic combination is a great condiment, sure—but there’s something so delicious about enjoying the meat with its own seasoned juices.
A lechon marker and vendor for the past 20 years, Mercy Floreta says that the abundant spices used in cooking is what gives Carcar lechon its distinct flavor. “Ang nakalami gyud sa lechon sa Carcar kay ang timpla gyud niya. (What makes Carcar lechon taste so good is the way it’s seasoned),” she says.
Some also brush coconut water on the pig while cooking to make the skin crunchy. Depending on the season, Floreta shares that she sells around 15 whole lechons in a week.
Preparing the pork takes time, and a dedicated daily routine. Lizel Tagsip has been selling lechon for three years, and she admits it requires some commitment. “Sayo pa sa buntag, ready na ang mga lechon para ibaligya and para orders. (Early in the morning, we make sure the lechons are ready for sale, and for orders),” she says.
No matter how sophisticated and progressive Cebu gets, locals will still crave the familiar and comforting taste of lechon. And with Carcar just an hour’s drive away and offering such a delectable version of the dish, who can really blame us?