Food & Travel

The Travelling Table: What Pork Fat Can Do (1 of 2)

By Stitch on 18 November, 2008

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
Lechon on a Stick

I could not help but do a double-take when my wife, a normally sensible, practical, soul, announced a few weeks ago that we were going to Cebu for a short trip – to eat lechon.

I, of course, expressed no objections whatsoever. I get it. It’s lechon.

To clarify, this was the “Lechon Eyeball” (a morbidly appetizing term) organized by MarketMan of Market Manila fame. It was a chance for avid readers to meet him and fellow readers over several of the famed pigs, cooked in his very own lechon oven. For those not familiar, Market Man is one of the country’s top bloggers, and he is obsessed with perfecting lechon. He has been praised by Anthony Bourdain, no less, for his pork. It would take more than just ordinary Cebu lechon to get my wife that determined.

We arrived at the secret meeting location, marked by the huge “MARKET MANILA” sign right at the gate. We got out of the cab and saw…nothing. The nicely set tables were empty. Waiters hovered nervously around us. Were we too early?

Apparently not. We were directed to the famous lechon oven, where three pigs were being turned, but not in the usual way. They were turned back and forth, never all the way around, but enough to ensure that all sides were being heated. Apparently, this makes a difference in the final result. Corn was also being grilled in the husk in the same oven (with butter inside!). Two pots of paksiw were also boiling happily away. Around this were a gaggle of fellow readers, excitedly chatting and, every once in a while, gazing longingly at the pigs. Others were puttering about, taking pictures for their own blogs. I was a little surprised. This was an event.

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
from top left, clockwise
A Mix of Limes, Paksiw na Lechon, Chicharon, Sisig na Baboy

On a nearby table, a basin was full of absolutely fresh shrimps were waiting beside a bilao full of calamansi and something that looked slightly like kaffir limes (they are called biasong). While waiting, waiters were walking about, offering peanuts, dried mangoes, and, my personal favorite, carcar chicharon, apparently made from dinosaurs. Discussions about food were everywhere, covering almost any topic. Margherita Fores was a pleasant, and energetic, surprise. She was a cheerful dervish, whirling happily around the cooking area, hands itching to touch the items being prepared. Eventually, she would help out in the cooking, unable to resist the urge to touch the food.

Market Man himself was a surprise. He was charming and engaging…and tall. More importantly, he knew food. He prepared some unique kilawin, from a fish that was alive just nine hours prior. He knew every ingredient, and how it would come together to complete the dish. Here was a guy who loved food, who got in there with his hands and knew not to overwork the fish while making the dish.

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
Kinilaw in Ice Bowl

When it was done, it was served in ice-bowls, to keep the fish fresh. The dish was a revelation. We already expect kilawin to be tart, it is a kind of ceviche, after all. But this one uses vinegar pressed coconut milk, which turns the tart dish into something remarkably creamy, which worked extremely well with the natural sweetness of the ridiculously fresh fish. Tomatoes, onions, ginger, and chillis provided an excellent finish. I could have gorged on this alone.

He also made, of all things, sisig. With lechon meat. Do I really have to say anything more? Soon enough, the dishes were ready, and we all took our places at the table.

See you next post.

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  • NOVEMBER 19, 2008 2:02 PM

    mtan said...

    Stitch! You were there?! Gosh if we hadn't been so busy eating we'd have made your acquaintance. Pity that Franco couldn't have gone too.

  • NOVEMBER 19, 2008 11:55 PM

    Stitch said...

    Hi! Yes I was there. Don't worry, there's always next time. And I'm bugging Franco to go next time too.

  • NOVEMBER 20, 2008 1:42 AM

    wysgal said...

    Sisig? That's awesome ...

  • NOVEMBER 20, 2008 3:21 AM

    ChichaJo said...

    Oh my! How could we have missed you?? Criminy...my mind's not normal when there's lechon around! Next time ok? :) Swat my arm! :)

  • NOVEMBER 20, 2008 3:06 PM

    Stitch said...

    Hi ChichaJo!

    Ah, I'm easy to miss. Just ask my wife (drum roll!). I'll be happy to!

  • NOVEMBER 21, 2008 7:56 AM

    Katrina said...

    OMG, you were there and we didn't meet?! That's really too bad! But, as Mila and Joey said, we were just too obsessed with the food to do much socializing. I do sort of regret, that, though, since a big part of the enjoyment of these events is meeting fellow food lovers. Sayang, it would've been really nice to meet you and your wife.

  • NOVEMBER 22, 2008 9:28 AM

    Stitch said...

    Hi Katrina!

    Actually we did meet, I just didn't identify myself as Stitch. Dyahe ako. :P

  • NOVEMBER 26, 2008 1:13 PM

    Katrina said...

    Oh! So...I wonder which one you were? You shouldn't have been dyahe! We all would've loved to (knowingly) meet you! :-)

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