Lechon Cebu roasted to perfection in New Jersey

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Dec 26 2011 10:05 AM | Updated as of Dec 27 2011 03:14 PM

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey – The Filipino Noche Buena became even more special with the Pinoy favorite charcoal-roasted authentic Cebu Lechon served on Christmas Eve dinner gatherings.

Cebu lechons are roasted to perfection at a Bar-b-q & Cafe place called Legal Beans in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Mimi Paloma-Escudero, owner of Legal Beans said, “It’s our Philippine tradition, if you really want to have a bongga party you better have a lechon, if you want the who’s who to come over.”

It took Paloma-Escudero – a Filipina chemist turned business-owner – a little bit of science and research to bring the traditional authentic Cebu Lechon to New Jersey.

First, she made a trip to her cousin in Cebu in the Philippines to learn how to make lechon from the master.

“I spent a very very hot summer there, squatting, measuring the pig, I tried to do it as scientific as possible,” Paloma-Escudero said, “I have to apply some science in addition to the art that we need, to get the Cebu Lechon going.”

After experimenting on about 20 lechons in her quest to roast the perfect Cebu Lechon, Paloma-Escudero found out that only freshly butchered pigs will do.

Using her chemistry background, Paloma-Escudero concocted a special mixture of vinegar, salt and spices that she generously rubs all over the pig’s insides to achieve the maximum desired flavor.

Paloma-Escudero said, “We wanted it to be vinegar-based so the flavor is able to enter the meat all throughout, when you bite, it doesn’t matter what part of the pig, it’s filled with flavor, malasa masyado because of the ability of the seasoning to get through not only inside, but all throughout.”

Then a mixture of lemongrass, bay leaves and scallions are stuffed inside the pig’s stomach to give the lechon its distinct Cebu flavor.

The sutured pig then gets a soy sauce bath before it is thrown into the fire pit to roast for about 3 hours.

Roasting the pig in charcoal gives the lechon a characteristic ashy aroma with flavors that permeates the roasted pig.

“The best lechon in the world!” exclaimed Vivian Cruz.

A 40 to 50-pound Cebu Lechon sells for $250.

Paloma-Escudero has only been in the pig-roasting business for about a year, yet her Litsunan is already making a name as home of the best authentic Cebu Lechon in the Tri-State area.

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