Food & Travel

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

By Stitch on 20 November, 2008

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
Hearts of Rice

As I was saying…

If anything, this whole event was about passion.

The spread was much, much more than the dishes I’ve previously mentioned. Aside from the lechon, the grilled corn, and the kilawin, there were the shrimps, which were quickly marinated in salt, pepper, and lemons, then grilled in the same oven. This was where resident energizer bunny Ms. Fores finally cried out, “I can’t stand it, I need to touch the food!” At which point she fell on the shrimps, helping to lay them out on the blisteringly hot oven.

Shortly after, the pigs were done, the puso (rice steamed in little packets) were being taken down from the tree, and we were herded to the dining area. The all white tablecloths and tents were accented with various native fruits and some really odd, but pretty, flowers. Hard as it was to drag people away from the kilawin, even the stragglers had to leave the ice bowls alone when the pigs were brought to their place on the spread.

At the buffet spread, there were even more dishes. There were crabs, green mango salad with excellent bagoong, dinuguan (which I didn’t even see), langka salad, eggplant salad, tomato salad, kinilaw na guso (seaweed) salad, and something called lukot. A short note on lukot. It’s a secretion by a sea creature called a sea hare. It’s not the same thing as kopi luak, I am assured. It’s actually perfectly edible, it just sounds disturbing.

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
From top left, clockwise
Cracked Lechon, The Eyeball Buffet,
Shrimps on the Grill, Cheesecake

It’s perhaps almost laughably obvious to say that the food was wonderful. The lechon, the star of the show, did not disappoint. Market Man’s particular blend of spices for the pork includes kaffir lime leaves, which gives it a more robust, spicy, aroma. The Cebu-style lechon did not need any sauce at all; the pork was already wonderfully seasoned and moist. The skin was perfectly crisp, not too hard or soggy. Anthony Bourdain praised it as the best ever; who am I to disagree?

Aside from these, other dishes stood out, such as the lechon meat sisig (like I said in the first part, what more can I really say?) and the corn, pre-buttered inside the husk as it grilled, which received oohs and aahs from the diners. Dessert was just as impressive, with things like durian cheesecake, tocino del cielo, and traditional Cebuano torta, cooked with pork fat (what else?) and tuba, which was the leavener. It was a struggle to stop eating.

Scenes from a Lechon Eyeball
The Cebuano Torta

I said that this was about passion. It was.

It was in every dish in that spread, made with the best possible ingredients, prepared with utmost care. It was in the enthusiastic reception of the diners, some of whom crossed oceans just to attend. It was in hands itching to touch the food, in smiles and cameras and stories shared over the table. Every dish in that spread was a product of passion, from the lechon to the torta. Every bite made by the participants was done with matching enthusiasm. What I took away from this experience was not just memories of excellent food and company, but also a lesson in just what wonders passion can achieve when properly, and judiciously, applied.

The experience was inspiring, and not a lot of “eyeballs” do that.

Stich’s Note: Many thanks to MarketMan and our new friends for an experience I will treasure. Oh, and for the food.


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