Lechon! If you’ve seen Anthony Bourdain’s visit to the Philippines in his show Part’s Unknown, you’ll know that he loved Filipino roast pork or Lechon. I have to agree, having spent time in the Philippines, that roast pork is seriously amazing.
Now, being in Canada, not everyone’s got a backyard where you can just dig a pit to roast a whole hog over coals. And even if you did, I’m not quite sure if the neighbours would be fine with it. So here’s an oven friendly version for all to enjoy!
Score the flesh side of the pork. Make about 1cm cuts on the meat to work the spices in. Pour the black maple evenly and work it in. Then, rub the star anise, garlic powder, chili powder and salt into the meat. Now place the lemongrass stalks in the middle of the pork belly, lengthwise. This is what the pork will wrap around.
Using the butcher’s twine, tie the belly into a log. Keep it tight so that it cooks evenly. For this much pork, I would tie about 5-7 loops. Once tied, sprinkle more salt on the skin. This will extract moisture from the skin and help it dry. Now leave it in the fridge for at least 2 days, uncovered. The hard part is done!
The cooking is quite straightforward. Cook at 350f or 175c for at 3 hours. If you have a convection oven, it may be done in a little less time. If the skin doesn’t turn crispy, turn the oven to 450f or 230c and keep the lechon in for another 30 minutes.
Once done, let the pork rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy the sounds of shattering cracklings and laughter!
Tip: The key to crispy skin is making sure it is dry. It’s arguably necessary to prepare the porchetta a few days in advance and just letting it sit in the fridge before it even sees the oven! Crispy cracklings are half the joy of Porchetta.
Photo credit: Louise Yu