Chef King's Filipino-Style Spit-Roasted Pig (Lechon)
Lechon (Spanish for "spit-roasted pig") is a fiesta item, celebratory but not limited to the holidays, according to Amy Besa, owner of the Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn and author of Memories of Philippine Kitchens. During the holidays, though, you're likely to find it on most every table. "It's the centerpiece at family gatherings, equivalent to turkey on Thanksgiving in the United States," says King Phojanakong, chef of Kuma Inn in Manhattan, whose earliest culinary influences came from his Filipino mother. Besa notes that each region in the Philippines has its own way of stuffing and roasting the pig: "People brush it with all kinds of seasonings; a friend brushes his with anise-flavored vodka." Besa's favorite parts to eat? "The crunchy skin, ears, and tail."
Makes 1 whole pig
One 35-pound whole pig, eviscerated and thoroughly cleaned
3 bunches lemongrass, bruised
1 quart tamarind leaves
1 quart garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
3 bunches scallions, trimmed
Salt and ground black pepper
1 quart rice vinegar
6 cups soy sauce
2 cups canola oil
Atchara (pickled jicama, radishes, carrots, papaya, and bell pepper), for serving.
1. Build a fire in a fire pit or large caja china roasting box. Let the coals or wood burn down until covered with white ash.
2. Dry the pig inside and out. Stuff the cavity with the lemongrass, tamarind leaves, garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper. Combine 2 cups of the vinegar and 2 cups of the soy sauce and sprinkle over the stuffing. Sew the cavity shut with cooking twine.
3. Combine 2 cups of the remaining soy sauce and the 2 cups of oil for basting. Combine the remaining vinegar and soy sauce for a dipping sauce.
4. Attach the pig to the roasting spit and truss the feet. Fix the pig firmly so it stays in place.
5. Suspend the spit approximately 2 feet above the coals. Roast the pig for 5 to 6 hours, rotating frequently and basting with the soy sauce – oil mixture. Add hot coals as necessary. Cook until the skin is very crisp and golden and the internal temperature reaches 160°F. (If any parts start to burn before the pig is fully cooked, wrap them firmly in several layers of aluminum foil.)
6. Carefully transfer the pig to a large platter. Guests may help themselves, or you can carve pieces for them. Serve the pig with the dipping sauce and pickled vegetables.