A fellow Foodie friend of mine, Yarom Limor asked me a few months ago if I could organize a Filipino dinner event for him. As usual, he didn’t give me as much info or described the details, but he did pester me for an hour or so that he wanted the Filipino-style whole roasted pig a.k.a. Lechon Baboy. I said to myself, “What the heck is this crazy-ass Jewish guy asking me? Like he wants a Lechon Baboy? Am I reading this email correctly? Is this Dude nuts?” After a several email exchanges, I finally decided to take him seriously, which I hardly ever do. He really was hell-bent on getting one for his dinner party as was I for finding him best Lechon Baboy in town and showing how truly festive it is to dine on the Philippine’s most loved delicacy. The search for the best Lechon Baboy in the Los Angeles area turned out to be my eye-opening research on the Philippine cuisine that I grew up to love. I love Lechon even more now that I have a better understanding of its origins.
My research started with reading about the Philippine cuisine from my own cookbooks, which is all but two in my collection. I think Reynaldo G. Alejandro (2005), from his cookbook, Authentic recipes from the Philippines, best describes the multicultural influence on the Philippine cuisine as, “Indigenous food from land and sea, field and forest. With added dishes and culinary procedures from China, Spain, Mexico, and the United States, and more recently from further abroad.” Drawing from my own Foodie knowledge; specifically, it is Spit Roasting that was popularized throughout Central and South American countries where the Spanish colonized and it is the only cooking technique found exclusively in the Philippines, which is the only Asian country that was cultured by Spain. The photo above from The Philippine Island Times, best depicts the typical Spit Roasting cooking technique inherited from Spain; where a whole pig is rotating from a spit surrounded by hot embers of wood or charcoal or perhaps even a mix. During the cooking process, the pig is basted with a mix of water and it’s own fatty collagen juices, which makes the meat ultra tender and moist. The basting also creates the amber-colored, iridescent, crispy skin, which I proclaim as “A better Pig Candy than bacon.”
Following my email exchange with Yarom, I started canvassing the internet for the best place in town to order the Lechon Baboy. I encountered a few Food Bloggers describing their “Lechon eating” experience at the local Filipino restaurants. They seemed confused as they didn’t know that there are several types of Lechon made in Philippine cuisine. Lechon Baboy is what is the whole roasted pig typically. Lechon de Leche is a whole roasted suckling pig that is known for its milky tenderness of the meat and sometimes stuffed with lemongrass, which is how the Cebu province of the Philippines roasts the pig that way that way. Lechon Paksiw is an adobo stew made with the leftovers of a roasted pig. Depending on how this dish is made, it could be sour or a tad bit on the sweet side, but it’s always stewed with soy sauce and vinegar. And then there is the Lechon Kawali, which is basically a slab of a pork belly that is deep fried. I consider Lechon Kawali as the shortcut version of the Lechon Baboy.
Eventually, I found websites for Tito’s Lechon and Eva’s Lechon; both located in the Los Angeles area. But my question was which one of these two places makes the best Lechon Baboy? I read lots of stuff on the internet from Food Bloggers, to customer reviews, and a promising recommendation by the Pulitzer Prized Food Critic, Jonathan Gold from LA Weekly citing Eva’s Lechon in his 99 Things to Eat in L.A. Before You Die. Feeling frustrated (or could it be my A-type personality kicking in); I reverted to calling a few local restaurants that I dine at to find out where they purchase their Lechon Baboy. I found that they order from Tito’s Lechon. Tito’s Lechon has good tasting Filipino food, but their main specialty is their roasted chicken a.k.a. Lechon Manok.
On day three, I reverted to asking my own Filipino friends, including my handful of Filipino staff at work as to where they get their Lechon Baboy in the Los Angeles area. Of course, they recommended that I go to a few local Filipino restaurants like D’New Aristocrat or even a few Filipino grocery stores in Panorama City to try their Lechon family meal combination. You know? I really wasn’t in tuned with ordering fast food style food for an epic Filipino dinner. It just wasn’t my style. I want the best! As it turned out, it was the very last person who I talked to that recommended that I try Eva’s Lechon. She had been going to Eva’s Lechon for over 10 years to order a Lechon Baboy and their other catered dishes for her own family gatherings and holiday events. In fact, she had ordered from Eva’s Lechon a few weeks earlier for her own daughter’s graduation. Finally, a legitimate referral! The plus side was that it was from someone who I know.
On the day of the dinner, the whole roasted pig arrived late to its destination in Beverly Hills. It wasn’t so much the traffic that delayed the delivery, but I would consider it “Filipino fashion” to be habitually late. The order turned out to be a jumbo sized whole roasted pig, which was a USDA pig that is little over 50 pounds before it was roasted. The cost was around $250 plus extra delivery cost. I ordered other typical Filipino dishes that a novice to Filipino cuisine might enjoy such as the Lumpia Shanghai, Chicken Adobo, and Pancit Bihon to name a few. One of the desserts was the Filipino-style Leche Flan. The gal who does the cooking for Eva’s Lechon is the best at cooking Filipino food. The balance of the soy sauce and vinegar in the Chicken Adobo was perfectly balanced yet tangy. The Pancit Bihon, a noodle dish, was incredibly tasty. It had to have been a broth that flavored the noodles so well. Why, even the rice noodles were still moist after a long delivery drive.
As for the Lechon Baboy, it was the very best that I have ever sunk my teeth into. I’ve been to many Filipino parties throughout my life and I’ve had experiences with my own relatives to watch them roast a Lechon Baboy in their back yard. Eva’s Lechon is the best in Los Angeles, because of the amount of care that is put into roasting a pig to perfection. Also, the product is fresh. In other words, it hasn’t been sitting underneath a heat lamp for hours. During the prep before serving, I remember pulling the meat apart with my bare hands and finding it incredibly juicy. It was perfectly roasted, because I had noticed that the collagen had melted away from the skin. It’s the collagen that is the fat which is closest to the skin. When roasted correctly, the lechon is self-based inside with the melted fat, collagen, and juices from the meat. Also, as the collagen melts, the skin becomes a shell around the body of the pig; thus it crisps itself dry during the roasting process and seals in all the juices. My ultimate dining pleasure when I dine on Lechon Baboy is tearing a piece of the crispy skin to eat it. The texture is like bacon, but unlike bacon, lechon skin is neither cured nor fried.
I was very satisfied with the catering from Eva’s Lechon and especially with their own Lechon Baboy. Finding the best of the best was an eye opening experience me, because not much is written on the internet about Filipino restaurants or catering in the Los Angeles area. There isn’t much cookbooks about Filipino Cuisine either. As for my choice of caterers for Yarom’s dinner, Eva’s Lechon is the best in town. Besides the Lechon Baboy, they have other delicacies that they also roast like a whole slab of cow a.k.a Lechon Baka; a delicacy that I don’t recall ever dining on. It’s unfortunate that this, the Lechon Baboy, and their other mouth-watering Filipino dishes are strictly for catering only. This means that my desires to go back to get a single serving of Lechon Baboy will never happen. But, if I had to choose caterers for friend’s or relative’s Filipino banquet or perhaps my own special occasions, I am heading straight to Eva’s Lechon for they really DO make the best Lechon Baboy in Los Angeles!Eva’s Lechon http://www.evaslechon.com/