MANILA -- Charlie and Dina Esguerra started Charlie’s Pritchon in 2001 out of curiosity.
“One fine morning, sabi ko kay Dina, if we fried a whole pig, what would happen? Magiging chicharon ba siya? Magiging kulubot ba?" Charlie recalled at a recent event pairing pritchon and craft beer in Makati.
"No one was doing it at the time. I heard that may gumagawa ng turkey sa States. So we started cooking one (pig), it was an experiment.”
Working on this idea, the couple concocted a recipe and invented a proprietary cooking process that deep-fried a whole piglet, and in doing so, served the first pritchon.
“She (Dina) woke me up at 2 o' clock in the morning... gawin nating Peking duck-style,” added Charlie.
Slowly but surely, they built a steady clientele through word of mouth, and in the process came up with different sauces, and ways that the pritchon can be enjoyed -- either in a wrap Peking duck-style; with veggies in a pita pocket (plain, tomato, malunggay, turmeric, or cayenne flavors); or on its own, unadorned (although truth be told, you will most likely reach for a cup of rice, a glass of beer, or both).
Worried that wrapping it would be too much work? Don’t sweat, as ordering a Pritchon de Leche can be a full-service affair with a server ready to carve and assemble your wraps for your guests, as what we experienced during the pairing hosted by Chairlie’s Pritchon and Pedro Brewcrafters.
Pritchon de Leche is not lechon. While similar, the skin of a pritchon takes the crispy factor a notch higher, with a crispiness that lasts longer than roast lechon.
And just like beautifully fried pork, the fat is nicely rendered in the pritchon. And contrary to what one might automatically assume, it’s not greasy or oily, as correctly deep-fried things cooked at the right temperature should be.
It’s also not stuffed with seasonings and spices, so if you’re a pork enthusiast, this is the most unadorned that you can get your pork.
As Charlie puts it, “None, we don’t put anything in the pig.”
PORK AND BEER
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a mound of cut up pritchon with a cup of rice and sauce, enjoying it in a wrap makes for a more interesting experience. For one thing, one gets to experiment with the sauces, so each bite can be a new experience.
Chili Tagalog (soy chili), liver (lechon sauce), hoisin, honey mustard, and white garlic (aioli) were mixed and matched to go well with different beers of San Pedro, Laguna-based Pedro Beercrafters.
Craft beer has been experiencing a boom in the Philippines (and in the world) with brewers opening up in different places from Palawan to Baguio.
Pedro was one of the first players to emerge in the scene, launching three initial offerings: the bright and light Endless Summer Wheat Ale; the Procrastination Pale Ale that comes with a bite of bitterness; and the Elementary English Ale, dark and chocolatey.
During the recent Madrid Fusion, the brewery also experimented and served a small batch of calamansi-flavored brew, showcasing our national citrus. Its most recent product, the Wandering Wonderer India Pale Ale, packs the most ABV% wallop at 6.2% -- strong, brash, and fruity.
Steadily growing from initially supplying restaurants to now having its beer available in major supermarkets and grocers, Pedro Beer is gearing up for more things to come, including experimenting with more Filipino flavors, and introducing more of its brews to the market.
Favorite combinations during the pairing event include everything with Charlie's "magic sauce" -- the white garlic, although some combinations fared better with specific beers. Take for example, pritchon with white garlic and honey mustard with the Endless Summer Wheat Ale, or the chili Tagalog and white garlic with the Wandering Wanderer India Pale Ale.
Unsurprisingly, the Procrastination Pale Ale fared the best with all the combinations that we tried — with the bitter note of the pale ale balancing and cutting some of the richness of the pork – although I personally found hoisin and chili Tagalog a winning combination for this Pale Ale.
In between bites and chugs, we were also treated to Charlie’s Pritchon’s other offerings.
“The other offerings started because our customers asked for it,” shared Diana.
Not into pork? Charlie’s Pritchon also deep-fries turkey, which one can enjoy with other sauces (the curry and the white garlic worked wonderfully), in a wrap as well.
Other favorites in the spread include the Spicy Tuyo Pasta which had capers and sun-dried tomatoes with spicy tuyo flavoring fusilli pasta. It’s the homemade spicy tuyo that made this dish standout – the tuyo wasn’t so saltish, but had the definite flavor of dried fish that didn’t linger in your mouth.
If a whole pritchon isn’t enough to wow your friends, Charlie’s Baked Norwegian Salmon will do the trick. A whole salmon is deboned, topped with pesto (generously peppered with white cheese and nuts), and baked. Quite spectacular when served whole with a squeeze of lemon, a bite was juicy, herbaceous and delicious.
Raise the party into a full fiesta with Charlie’s Fruit Salad. Loaded with fruits and a lot of white cheese with just the right amount of cream and sweetness, this is unapologetically glorious Filipino fiesta fare at its finest.
As the 'ber'-months approach, celebrate in style with Charlie’s Pritchon, take a platter or two of their other dishes, and don’t forget to grab a box of Pedro Beer.