Lechon (pronounced LETCH-onn), or crackling pig, is a roasted pig with succulent, crackling skin, usually served as the centerpiece of Filipino fiestas and parties. Hogs prepared as lechon range from 4-5 kg suckling pigs (lechon de leche) to 20-30 kg boars. Most Westerners find it too greasy for their taste, and even locally, it is considered really, really bad for your heart, due to the high cholesterol content.

The practice of roasting pig probably originated with the Polynesians (as Guam and Hawaii have their own versions). A popular myth tells the story of a farmer who kept his pigs underneath his hut. One night his house burned down and in the morning he found all his pigs had been roasted - instead of bemoaning his loss, he hit upon the idea of selling roasted pig to the rest of the village. Of course, he soon had to find a better method, as burning down houses was getting expensive...

The pig used is freshly butchered; the carcass is cleaned and the entrails removed (and set aside for dinuguan). The pig is stuffed with spices (malunggay and banana leaves), and the whole thing is mounted on a long bamboo spit.

The pig is then slow-roasted over a low charcoal fire, for three hours or more. The skin is basted with brine, to flavor it and render it crisp (while keeping the juices inside).

Local prices range from PHP1,000 (US$20) for a lechon de leche (good for 20 or so people) to over PHP5000 (US$100) for a 30-kg hog (can feed about 100-150). Price includes the animal, preparation and roasting; it often includes delivery to your door.

Variants include lechong baka (roasted cow, prepared much in the same way), lechong kawali (small chopped pork bits fried in oil), and others.

Prices checked at www.milaslechon.com.ph.

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