When talking about Cebu, one would also think about the food. Cebuanos are proud of their cuisine. In fact, Cebu’s hotels and other establishments related to the food industry often conduct expositions and culinary events that feature the different cuisine of Cebuanos—from larang (a seafood favorite) to lechon in Cebu (the “best pig ever” according to Anthony Bourdain).
Lechon is originally from Spain and has been adopted by different countries that they have colonized. The term is derived from the Spanish word that means “suckling pig.” The process of roasting is not easy. The suckling pig skewered in a bamboo pole will be rotated over charcoal for hours until cooked. However, the backbreaking task did not become a problem but only more so defined the Cebuano culture.
Lechon has been part of the lives of Cebuanos. Birthdays, feasts, weddings, graduations—basically in any event that deserves a celebration, there is a lechon on the table. People who have the resources needed to cook lechon can do the process in their own homes. But to those who do not and are craving for the dish, they rely on places that serve lechon in Cebu:
Many have not known that Talisay City started its lechon industry in 1940 through the hard work of Susana Enjambre, also known as Nanay Sana. Her humble beginnings made history and became the pride of Talisay City. Her legacy lives on in her children, grandchildren, and even in-laws.
The famous Leslie’s Lechon is owned and managed by Nanay Sana’s daughter-in-law, Leslie Enjambre. The establishment’s history and reputation of having the best lechon gained widespread popularity that it was featured in Netflix’s Street Food: Asia.
Inspired by Nanay Sana, more lechon shops have opened in Talisay, which have also helped a lot in the city’s tourism. Although the popularity of the city’s lechon is roaring, its goal to be named Lechon Capital of Cebu is still in the works. Every year in October, a festival called Halad Inasal is held to celebrate the origins of lechon in Cebu.
Cebu’s favorite lechon restaurant has been making waves in the food industry. Although the founder, Enrico “Rico” Dionson, began selling lechon in 1997, he started gaining popularity when former president Joseph Estrada chose him to cater for a party in Malacañang.
Rico’s accomplishments in the lechon business lead to greater success not only in Cebu but also in Metro Manila. He was able to build three branches in Cebu and five in Manila.
The accolades are not exclusive in the Philippines. In 2019’s Stevie Awards, Rico’s Lechon bagged Company of the Year, PR Campaign of the Year, and Entrepreneur of the Year for Food and Beverage (medium-size category).
The restaurant offers meals of spicy and original flavors of lechon, perfectly paired with Rico’s homemade sauce, Sukalami. For groups and big events, Rico’s Lechon also sells whole lechon with a price range of US$89 to US$254.
Established in 1988, CnT Lechon also has humble beginnings and is proudly Cebuano. Catherine and Norman started the business by selling lechon to their neighbors. Word got out, and after a decade, different branches of CnT Lechon have been built.
Despite the long queue in every branch, especially on weekends, the people still crowd the place. The taste and the crispiness of the lechon skin is worth the wait. This is why in every list of best places to eat lechon in Cebu, CnT Lechon is always one of them.
Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly
The best part of lechon is the belly because that is where the spices are stuffed. In restaurants in Cebu that serve lechon, this portion is the first to run out because this is what people ask for as long as it is available. Good thing there’s a place where you will always have a chance to eat the belly part of lechon.
In Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly, as the name suggests, you will be able to enjoy only pork belly, and it is even better because it will be served without the bones. With the deboning process of the establishment, you can be assured that what you will be eating is pure meat.
The history of the establishment is actually a breakthrough in Cebu’s food industry. In 2011, Marlon Gochan conceptualized this technique of cooking pork and was approved by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2012.
Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly has restaurants and food stalls in Cebu and Manila. It can also be found in some hotels, like Maxwell Hotel, a budget-friendly hotel in Cebu. The establishment indeed continues to spread the goodness of Cebu lechon belly and Cebuanos’ innovativeness.
Carcar takes pride in being one of the producers of not only the best chicharon (fried pork rinds, which is also a famous street food in Cebu) but also the best lechon in Cebu. The dish is somewhat associated with the city because when one thinks of going to Carcar, he would also think of having a lechon meal.
Lechon places are rampant in Carcar, but there is actually no need to find a specific place. Just drop by the city’s public market. If other markets greet you with vegetables and raw meat, in Carcar, you will be welcomed by rows of lechon.
The calls of the vendors can be overwhelming, but you will enjoy roaming around looking for a place to eat as you get a free taste at every stall. When you dine in or order takeaway, you will notice a saucy lechon served to you because they pour lechon drippings on it, which makes Carcar lechon tastier and more famous.
The best lechon restaurant in Cebu is determined depending on your preference. But wherever you go on the island for your next food trip, lechon in Cebu is a meal that you should never miss.