by Gene Gonzalez
One of our eating episodes which many of the chefs in the restaurant and in the faculty look forward to is my trip from Davao bringing a Visayan style Lechon Biik.
Preparations are on hand for this “kamayan” event where we partake of our favorite Beko’s Biik or a roast piglet that we serve with a complete set of condiments and side dishes on the banana leaf- covered table. The banana leaf which is of course scalded on an open fire to flatten and to reveal its shiny surface is rubbed with sea salt to bring out its leafy aroma, providing an authentic “fiesta” touch as it comes in contact with the special food being prepared. It also brings excitement for the diners as they prepare to take on this meal with the hands.
Since this style of lechon is super spicy where almost half a kilo of chilies with leeks, onions, lemon grass and pepper is stuffed in the small pig’s cavity, this aromatic stuffing is softened by the internal steam being produced and mixes well with the roasting of oils and juices rendered from the roast. This is crushed and made into a fiery sambal reminiscent but different from the sambal served with roast pig in Bali.
Other sawsawan or dips are created for a spectrum of flavors. A simple Pinakurat or herb and spiced vinegar from coconut sap that is very Visayan is served democratically with a Capampangan lechon sauce which is also made for this grand meal. Pork livers are grilled on charcoal then made into a paksiw with sugar, pepper, vinegar, ginger, turmeric and garlic and strained into a sweetish thick, tasty sauce which is another side condiment for bites that tire from the spicy sambal or the tart vinegar dip.
The dips are of course created for the thin delicate skin of the roast piglet and the tender, smoky, young flesh that falls off the bone. Of course, everyone wants a sampling of the limited lip-smacking ribs that border on the salty side but nevertheless becomes an umami experience as this part embraces closest to the aromatic stuffing and is developed with the numerous turns on charcoal roasting.
To refresh one’s palate and give a higher ante on flavors is a side of ensaladang paborito or finely diced green mango, onions and tomato highlighted by bagoong guisado that is probably a must in any Kamayan or Filipino banana leaf eating experience.
Of course, how can we ignore the rice which rounds out and embraces all the flavors of this meal? The chefs have prepared two types of rice: one is lechon rice or rice cooked in the broth from the legs of our past lechon, a sort of Hainanese type of rice but given a lechon profile to further appreciate and captivate the roasting flavors; and the other rice which can be more neutral yet creamy and very aromatic in character because it is cooked with coconut cream pandan and lemon grass. This highlights the richness and smokiness of the pork yet tones the fatty dimension with the lemony and leafy aromas and flavors emanating from pandanus and citronella or lemon grass leaves.
Dessert of course, is a sequence of light fruits from watermelon, cantaloupe to rambutan, lanzones or other sweet but not heavy or custardy fleshed fruits.
Capping the meal is a scoop of homemade carabao ice cream subtly flavored with a whiff of lime peel delicately taken in slivers from a small teaspoon to appreciate the elusive flavors and richness of buffalo milk. Now, that’s a great meal!
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