Episode 100: Zubuchon comes to Manila!

sam_1274Dreams do come true! Zubuchon, Cebu’s famous lechon, is coming to Manila!

Social media went abuzz when Joel Binamira (@therealmarketman) posted on Instagram about the preparations for a Manila branch. Binamira (also known as Marketman) is behind the Market Manila blog, and the same person who launched Zubuchon.

zubu2Netizens immediately inquired where this new branch will open. Binamira revealed that the branch will be located “about 100 meters behind the Makati Fire Station”, which is just around the San Antonio area. The target date, he added, is around February.

zubu1Another well-anticipated news is the menu. Zubuchon’s Manila fans are hoping they could try out here the same dishes and drinks as the ones in the main Cebu branch. (Some items they’re clamoring for are the lechon belly sandwich and the kamias shake.) Binamira also hinted that he’ll do taste-testing with selected Instagram followers this February.

Zubuchon was established in 2009. The name comes from a combination of “Zubu”, (the name of Cebu in old Spanish and Portugese maps) and “Chon” (lechon).

Binamira’s lechon gained fame earlier when celebrity chef and “No Reservations” host Anthony Bourdain came to Cebu in 2008 to shoot his unique way of cooking lechon. Bourdain called this lechon “the best pig ever”.

Zubuchon takes pride of using organic pigs, fresh fruits and vegetables, homegrown spices, and good olive oil in cooking their lechon. The best part is that it doesn’t have MSG, and the best meaty parts are kept intact while roasting. The result is a unique lechon with crunchy skin and juicy, tender meat.

It’s been six years since I first tried out Zubuchon in Cebu as part of a writing project on lechon. Finding Zubuchon was quite an adventure, but it was worth the trip because the lechon was just that good.  (It’s Anthony Bourdain’s fault why I became a fan of lechon in the first place.)

Now that Zubuchon is coming to Manila, our cravings for great Cebu lechon should be tempered a bit. The biggest question now is: how do we get invited to the opening?

Zubuchon on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/zubuchonph/
Zubuchon Website http://zubuchon.com/



Ano’ng Ulam Mo? Week 10

Before we observe Holy Week, “Ano’ng Ulam Mo?” featured some interestingly rich and sumptuous Filipino dishes. Let’s just say I was in a sort of celebratory mood, especially that Monday…

Featured dish: Lechon
Lechon is a roasted pork dish served in feasts and other special gatherings. It is recognized as the Filipino national dish, and the world’s best roasted pig (as per Anthony Bourdain).

Featured dish: Bulalo
Bulalo is a specialty soup dish that consists of slowly-cooked beef shanks.  The secret of a great-tasting bulalo is in the meat, bones, and marrow, which enhance the flavor of this dish.
Batangas is known to serve the best bulalo, mainly because the best beef known in the market can be found here.

Featured dish: Grilled Pusit
There are many different ways all over the world to cook squid.
For example, the Portuguese cook what they call “Lulas Recheadas” or stuffed squid. Spain has what they call “calamares en su tinta” or squid stewed in ink. Koreans, on the other hand, serve squid live and raw as an apppetizer (“san ojingeo”), though it is also served dried or steamed. Indians have “kanava” or squid cooked in different spices, while the Chinese serve them stir-fried.

Featured dish: Laing
Laing is a signature Bicolano dish made with gabi leaves cooked in coconut milk and chili peppers.It is also known as one of the hottest local dishes in the region.

Featured dish: Steamed fish fillet
Legendary Filipino musician Heber Bartolome came to our program to try out our feature dish. Fish is one of many dishes one can eat during Holy Week.


Tune in to “Andar ng mga Balita” every Monday to Friday, 6:30 to 7:30pm on Aksyon TV Channel 41, for your daily dose of news, information, and FOOD! XD

Side Story: Lechon Cebu, Lutong Sapul Style!

Just this morning, “Sapul sa Singko”, our morning show at TV5, featured lechon Cebu in its “Lutong Sapul” (a cooking portion) segment. It was such a waste that I wasn’t able to watch the whole segment, but I found out that it’s possible to enjoy the taste of lechon Cebu right at your home!

Lourd De Veyra (of “Word of the Lourd” and “This Is A Crazy Planets” fame) and Chef Raymar of Modern Culinaire shared to us a simple lechon recipe that anyone can follow at home. In this case, they performed the recipe, not on a whole pig, but just on a smaller chunk.


Liempo (pork belly, probably a kilo will do)
Onion leaves
Soy sauce

Tanglad (lemongrass)
Saging na saba (Saba banana)
Gabi (taro)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Rub salt and pepper on the liempo. (Three words: season to taste.)
3. Brush soy sauce on the liempo skin. (Brushing soy sauce on skin gives the skin its reddish look.)
4. Lay the liempo over a bed of tanglad, gabi and saging na saba arranged in a baking pan. (The better thing to do is stuff the herbs in the meat for it to better absorb the flavors.)
5. Place the liempo in the pre-heated oven. Dance the macarena (kidding).
6. Wait for the skin to become crispy. (How long is this – 30 minutes? Probably as soon as steam comes out and the skin gets toasted? Your call, actually.)
7. Serve with a vinegar or lechon sauce dip. (Chef Raymar recommends vinegar with peppercorns and onions as the best dip for lechon Cebu.)

This recipe looks easy to follow, and maybe one can make a few changes on the recipe along the way. Come to think of it, I guess this is how lechoneros start and develop their business: work on the default recipe, and improve on it. In any case, enjoying lechon Cebu at home is easier now. (Having an oven for this is another story though.)

Anyway, right after “Sapul sa Singko,” the crispy, tasty, juicy lechon was distributed to everyone in the studio. Not everyone was able to have a piece of it though, since the pig disappeared like it was devoured by typhoon Ondoy. As for me, I got a big, fatty chunk of the stuff. To hell with what people will say about my lechon consumption habits. Nothing beats a dose of heaven early in the morning.

On the other hand, normally I’d ask for a larger portion for sharing. Not this time, though. I can’t demand for one anyway. No lechon for you, sorry.

EDIT: I talked to Chef Raymar this morning, and he said you can throw the pork into a pot of hot cooking oil in case you don’t have an oven.

Episode 26: Lechon, The World’s Best Roasted Pig (Part 2)

Lechon is cooked in different ways all over the Philippines. One of the most popular types of lechon, aside from La Loma, is the Cebu-style lechon or simply lechon Cebu.
Nowadays, mention “lechon” and Cebu quickly comes to mind. Lechon Cebu is so sought after, some even have it delivered directly from Cebu, never mind the shipping fees. Eating lechon is also a must-do in Cebu. Which begs the question: How good is lechon Cebu?

The difference between lechon Cebu and other types is that the pig is seasoned with fresh herbs, spices, and flavorings throughout the cooking process. The pig is also roasted over charcoal made from a local wood, giving it the impression of smoked meat. The result is a pig that no longer needs the sauce to give it taste.

And why not? The meat is tender, and bursting with fat and flavor with an herby aftertaste. The skin is sweet and as crispy as chicharon. The whole pig is perfumed with an overload of scents. This is the lechon that made Anthony Bourdain say “I got the best pig ever.”
Lechon Cebu’s claim to culinary fame started a long time ago. According to the records of Antonio Pigafetta (the historian who chronicled Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage to Cebu in 1521), the locals dined on roasted “black pigs” with rice wrapped in leaves (locally called “puso”), roast fish, vinegar dip and rice wine. So lechon has been enjoyed by foreigners over 400 years ago!
Some lechon enthusiasts would refer you to Talisay City to get your lechon fix. Talisay is best known as the home of the “inasal baboy”, and most residents say this is where everything about the lechon industry in Cebu started.
Teresa Mancia Olo or “Nana Ising” owns the credit for starting the first lechon business in 1945. Legend has it that she single-handedly prepares her lechon and supervises the whole process. Mostly Americans and rich locals were fans of her pork. By the time Nang Ising retired in 1975, others in Talisay have opened similar lechon businesses.
Things changed for lechon Cebu’s reputation when Anthony Bourdain visited Cebu as part of an episode of “No Reservations” in the Philippines. Here Tony praised the lechon he tasted in the province, thus proving the claim (in extension) that “the Filipino lechon, a whole roasted piggy, is the best in the world.”
Cebu has no particular brand that stands out among the lechon businesses in the province. In fact, there are so many lechon brands in Cebu, one won’t be able to pinpoint which is the best.
One example is CNT Lechon House, probably the most popular among Manilenos. Then there’s Rico’s Lechon with their spicy roast pig (a favorite of former president Joseph Estrada and other celebrities), Alejo’s, Ayer’s Lechon Restaurant, and others more that are not well-known but whose pigs are just as good.

And then there’s Zubuchon. Now why the special mention? The lechon sold here is the same that Tony ate during his stay in the Philippines!
Zubuchon is the brainchild of food blogger Marketman, who joined Tony in the Cebu segment of the “No Reservations” episode in the Philippines. Marketman demonstrated to Tony the traditional way of cooking lechon, along with his own improvements to the process.
The Zubuchon pig is cooked naturally without any MSG, artificial mixes, and artificial painting of the skin. The lechon skin is also “acupunctured,” meaning, it is punctured during the cooking process to make it crisp.
“We use only the freshest and often home grown organic lemongrass, green onions, siling labuyo or peppers, local sea salt, and other herbs and spices. We use good olive oil,” Marketman said in his blog.

Needless to say, lechon remains the best dish to top a Filipino feast. Whether it’s Cebu-style, La Loma-style, a whole roasted pig (or even a few kilos of it) is the kind of stuff one will always love to dine on. Everything from the skin to the meat gives a taste of heaven. Nothing can be more exquisite than the lechon.

Episode 26: Lechon, The World’s Best Roasted Pig (Part 1)

Ah, lechon. One of the national dishes of the Philippines. A big, fat, red pork dish filled with mouth-watering, tender, juicy, crispy goodness. The star of Philippine fiestas and every other special occasion. Definitely one you can’t miss.

Lechon is not just your average pig on a bamboo stick. One can only marvel at this delicacy that is golden brown and crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It’s expensive, but it can attract the crowds to your side whenever you have a feast. One bite and you can never ask for anything better.
To prepare lechon, all you need to do is get a suckling pig, remove its innards (and cook something else with them), bathe the pig in sauces, stuff it with herbs and spices, and then roast the pig slowly over a fire. The sauces you may want to use can vary, much more with the spices (stuffing can include any combination of lemongrass, tamarind, star anise, garlic, green onions and/or chili leaves). It’s not as simple as it looks like.
Barangay La Loma in Quezon City claims the title of “Lechon Capital of the Philippines”. When we say “La Loma,” we’re talking about a barangay where the best lechoneros (lechon roasters) can be found.
La Loma has a rich history long before lechon was born. A long time ago, the district was synonymous with the La Loma Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Manila, and the La Loma Cockpit, believed to be cockfighting’s oldest home in the country.
It’s said that one of the hottest places in town in the ‘50s was the house of Mang Tomas Delos Reyes, a meat vendor, which was located in front of the cockpit. After a day’s worth of cockfights, the winners would buy pork meat from Mang Tomas to be roasted and served for their merry-making.

Mang Tomas decided he’d rather roast the meat himself and sell the cooked pork. Eventually, he set up shop in 1954, and the first lechon business in the Philippines was born.

As a side note, Mang Tomas created a special liver sauce to complement his lechon. This sweet sauce is what we know today as “Mang Tomas All Purpose Sauce,” “Sarsa ni Mang Tomas,” or simply “Mang Tomas.” Cue the MacGyver theme.
Today, Mang Tomas is not the only lechonero in La Loma. The district gave birth to popular lechon brands such as Lydia’s, Ping-Pings’, Mila’s, and other less-known brands like Monchie’s, Nelia’s and others.
There seems to be a difference with each lechon. Lydia’s, for example, has a thick, crispy, fatty skin to go along with its tender meat. The lechon skin in Mila’s is thinner, and the meat goes best with its creamy, semi-sweet sauce. The lechon meat and sauce combination from Ping-Ping’s gives out a lemony aftertaste. It must be the preparation or the spices stuffed in the pig, I dunno.

The truth is that the lechon’s taste can vary with each person. What seems lemony for me may taste rich and tasty to another. Whether one loves the fat, the skin, or the flesh itself is another matter as well. Still, the praise for lechon is endless, “delicious” would be an understatement.

Of course, lechon is good and all, but one must be reminded that this dish, when taken in excess just like everything else, is unhealthy. 

Eating lechon on a regular basis makes for clogged arteries and cholesterol build-up in the body. And like any fatty food, lechon contributes to some of the leading causes of death in the Philippines, like stroke, heart problems, and the occasional stabbing by the drunkard who wanted that pig cheek on your plate… wait.

Time Magazine declared lechon as “The Best Pig” in the 2009 edition of its Best of Asia series. Time writer Lara Day described lechon in her write-up as a discovery waiting to happen, a recipe with the most desirable results imaginable, and a beloved dish of Filipinos. Old news, but worth reflecting on.
“You could call it the Platonic ideal of a pig, but it’s doubtful if Plato, or even an entire faculty of philosophers, could have imagined anything so exquisite,” she said.
Lechon represents a lot of things about Filipinos: the importance of bonds (family or otherwise), respect for culture, the pursuit of good things in life, and celebrating everything that is rich, delightful, and exquisite. So come over to La Loma sometime and try their lechon. It’s worth the food trip. Really.

It would be nice to note that lechon owes this distinction to celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, incidentally knnow for his voracious appetite for everything pork. Again, old news, but worth reflecting on too. 

During the episode of his show “No Reservations” shot in the Philippines, Tony ate his way around Manila, Pampanga and Cebu Among the dishes he tried was lechon.

The episode showed Tony sampling the skin of a steaming newly-roasted pig and jokingly asking his show’s guest/tour-guide, Filipino-American Augusto Elefano, not to let anyone touch the pig’s cheeks (or at least one side), intending to have it all to himself.

In his blog, he placed the Philippines at the top of his so-called “Hierarchy of Pork”, followed by Bali, Indonesia and Puerto Rico.

Let me quote his entry: “It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.”

Wait a minute, Cebu?!