If you’re a tourist “in-the-know”, you have probably heard of Lechon (Lechón). If you’re not in the know, however, you might be asking yourself, “what’s this lechon everyone talks about?”
Simply put, Lechon is a roasted pig but there is so much more to it than that. In Puerto Rico Lechon proudly holds the title of the national dish. It is a seasoned, whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal open fire. Even Food Network celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have come to Puerto Rico to sample this time-honored traditional dish.
What exactly is it?
Although varying from place to place, the seasonings used in perpetration of the pig are traditionally include garlic, oregano, black pepper, salt, and oil. The pork is rubbed down generously with the mix and, after seasoning, it is cooked by skewering the entire animal (entrails removed) on a large stick\pole and roasting it over an open fire pit.
Once the pig is placed over the charcoal, the pole is turned in a rotisserie action. The pig is roasted on all sides and basted over several hours until done.
The process of cooking and basting results in making the pork skin crisp and is a distinctive feature of this traditional recipe. Lechon is usually paired with a variety of tasty side-dishes, such as like rice with pigeon peas, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, blood sausage, and yellow or green plantains.
Where to find Lechon?
You will find this delicious roasted pork at many festivals and around the holiday celebrations. In most areas, Lechon is prepared throughout the year for any special occasion, like birthday celebrations, family events, and local occasions. In fact Lechón Asado is not just a dish but a traditional all day event of pig roasting.
It can be found throughout Puerto Rico in local Lechoneras (rustic road-side eateries specializing in this fare) but Guavate is, by far, the favorite of the locals. It is nestled in the central mountains of the island on a road that snakes its way up the slopes. Lenchoneras are scattered all the way up the road and collectively make up the famous La Ruta del Lechón (or the Pork Highway) – a pork lovers paradise.
Weekends are a family affair in Puerto Rico and you will find that locals make the trip to Guavate in droves. It is as much a cultural affair as it is a culinary adventure.
From Luquillo, you can get to Guavate, which is a barrio of Cayey, in about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Most of the way is an easy highway drive – makes for a perfect way to spend a Saturday and soak in local food and culture.