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Lechon is a pork dish that is particularly popular in the Spanish-speaking world, which consists of Spain and its former colonies. The word lechon is related to leche, which is Spanish for milk. It indicates the age range of the the suckling pig that is used to prepare this delicacy; the piglet is still young enough to feed on its mother’s milk when it is slaughtered at between two and six weeks old.
Making lechon begins with the slaughter, disembowelment and skewering of the animal with a spit, which could be either a stick or rod. The suckling pig is then roasted over a pit of charcoal or wood. The spit is slowly turned so that the entire animal is completely roasted, thus making this style of cooking resemble a rotisserie. This process takes several hours to complete, resulting in a meat that is rather tender, and skin that is crisp and crunchy. The meal is usually made and served on special occasions, particularly holidays and festivals.
Lechon is very popular in the Philippines, a republic in Southeast Asia that was a Spanish territory for about three centuries. There, the pork dish is called lechon boboy or litsong baboy, and the people use banana-leaf brushes to coat the pig with oil. The dish is particularly popular during an annual festival called Parada ng Lechon, or Parade of Lechon. During this event, held every June 24 to commemorate the country’s patron saint, St. John, inhabitants from all over the Philippines converge upon the municipality of Balayan in the province of Batangas, bringing with them distinctively decorated golden-red or golden-brown pigs that are paraded with their mouths stuffed with apples.
This dish is also popular in Cuba. In this Caribbean country, the roasted pig is usually eaten with black beans and rice. Here, lechon is frequently referred to as lechon asado. Other countries in which this dish enjoys considerable popularity include Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
Perhaps the main reason why the dish is so common in so many different places all over the world is because of its adaptability. Like turkey from a Thanksgiving dinner in the United States, leftover suckling pig can be transformed into other dishes. For instance, in the Philippines, people usually turn leftover pork into paksiw na litson, or paksiw na lechon, which is a stew made out of meat boiled in vinegar.