Taste Test

Pepper’s Ultimate Lechon Manok Taste Test

October 21, 2015

Lechon manok is a true Pinoy staple, a failsafe dish that is perfect for both everyday lunch, pasalubong, or last-minute potluck fare. It’s almost always tasty—cooking it on a spit over a fire guarantees even cooking and juiciness, and a Pinoy marinade which will be a bit sweet, a bit salty, a bit sour, earning top marks for well-roundedness. Testing out the best lechon manok in the city is no easy feat; here’s the lowdown on what you should be getting for your next take out.

The Rules:

  • Each chicken should come from a mostly take-away chain with several branches
  • Chicken should be bought whole, freshly-cooked, and with its sarsa
  • Chicken and sarsa should be judged separately, then together

1. Andok’s

LechonManok01

Andok’s, PHP 249 for whole chicken.

The Marinade

The flavors of calamansi were the prominent features of Andok’s marinade, rather than sweetness.

The Meat

The cooking was relatively uneven, with the top parts of the chicken slightly juicy, but other parts underneath were much drier, and the wing meat clung to the bone as a result.

The Look

This chicken was in a tie for smallest chicken along with Mang Bok’s, but it had the best color from all 5 tasted. The skin around the bird had an even color that was charred perfectly, without being too burnt. It resulted in thin, slightly crackly skin.

The Sarsa

This sauce tasted the most like normal sarsa, with an appropriately sweet but peppery profile. The color was good, too, and went well with the chicken’s slightly more sour and peppery marinade. However, it was a little too thin, and needed a little more body; it was more akin to a jus-style sauce than thick, gloopy sarsa.

2. Baliwag

LechonManok02

Baliwag, PHP 249 for whole chicken.

The Marinade

Baliwag had the most ordinary tasting marinade, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good. It had no specific note standing out; instead it was a cross between inasal and barbeque, making it taste more like your typical roast chicken.

The Meat

Surprisingly (and unfortunately), this was the driest of the lot, which was disappointing as this is one of the most-loved places on the list. The wings had shrivelled up, and the thighs were barely juicy.

The Look

There were feathers all over the butt of the chicken, which made it unappetizing. The chicken was an appropriate size, but the skin was a little too dark, and had disintegrated in some parts.

The Sarsa

This sarsa was sugary-sweet, extremely thin, and tasted like blended Mang Tomas, sugar, and mayo. It tasted fake, as if it has tons of extenders to make a huge batch of it. It overpowered the chicken’s almost-satisfying marinade.

3. Chooks To Go

LechonManok03

Chooks To Go, PHP 209 for whole chicken.

The Marinade

This has become the perennial favorite go-to chicken of many, but when tasted in a line-up of other lechon manoks, it actually didn’t taste as good, and failed expectations. It was way too sweet, and tasted as if someone had slapped on a tocino marinade. It tasted like chicken ham.

The Meat

Marinade aside, a winning point was the doneness of this bird; it was the most evenly cooked, and had the most consistently juicy parts. Breast, wings, thighs, skin—there must be some magic involved to get it to this level of cookery.

The Look

The chicken was mammoth, and at PHP 209 is the most value for money. The color of the skin might be uneven, and the skin still flabby in parts, which was surprising as the meat underneath was perfectly cooked.

The Sarsa

Chooks To Go boasts that you don’t need sarsa, and if you’re a fan of sweet barbecue, then this is definitely the chicken for you. If not, toyo and calamansi will do the trick.

4. Mang Bok’s

LechonManok04

Mang Bok’s, PHP 199 for whole chicken.

The Marinade

Mang Bok’s had the same problem as Baliwag, in that the flavor was good and well-rounded but indistinguishable. It does its purpose well however, and is quite tasty.

The Meat

It was evenly cooked across the board, but a delight was that near the bones and cartilage, the meat was particularly tender, and silky.

The Look

The skin was way too dark, and completely burnt. Putting a piece in your mouth would force one to spit it out immediately, as it might leave a carcinogenic taste.

The Sarsa

The sauce managed to turn an okay bird into a disaster. It was so disturbingly sweet that you could put it over a kakanin, and you’d be none the wiser, especially since there was that distinguishable grind of undissolved sugar crystals. After the rush of sweetness, a weirdly strong acidic taste of vinegar coated the palate. This could be the worst version of sarsa ever.

5. Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro

LechonManok05

Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro, PHP 199 for whole chicken.

The Marinade

This was the best marinade yet, tasting like lechon manok, but also with a characteristic that set it apart. It was tart and salty, and had a lovely lemongrass accent.

The Meat

This chicken had the best breast hands down, but things got weird as you got deeper into the bird. The bottom half had a wet chalk-y interior, giving it a weird mushy, disgusting texture. The chickens might have been injected with water to make it appear plumper, so most of the meat was ruined and inedible.

The Look

It was visually appealing, and perfect in both color and size, which makes its funky wet texture even weirder. What happened?!?!?

The Sarsa

This is definitely not sarsa, but as a dipping sauce, it lent to the chicken’s flavor well.

The Verdict

Unlike previous taste tests, there was no clear winner. If you combined certain elements, then you’d have our perfect idea of a lechon manok: the marinade of Sr. Pedro, the juiciness and doneness of Chooks To Go, the skin and coloration of Andok’s.

What’s your favorite lechon manok? Do you agree with us or think our tastebuds are totally off? Let us know your feelings.

Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez Pamela Cortez writes about food full-time, and has honed her craft while writing for publications such as Rogue, Town and Country, and The Philippine Star. She once rode on a mule for a mile just to eat mint tea and lamb in Morocco, and has eaten a block of Quickmelt in one sitting. Her attempt at food photography can be viewed online @meyarrr. FOLLOW
12 comments in this post SHOW

12 responses to “Pepper’s Ultimate Lechon Manok Taste Test”

  1. Deus Manila says:

    I love Rustan’s roasted chicken, they have the same tenderness of Chooks To Go (probably because they’re both done on a electric rotisserie oven). And they have the most well-seasoned marinade/rub I’ve seen on a chicken, it’s like a combination of herbs and several different peppers.

    The sarsa is so-so nga lang, tho repackage kasi na hindi kilalang sarsa brand. I saw an ate funneling the sarsa from a gallon bottle eh.

  2. boogeradornado says:

    The Baliwag outlet in our area is consistently good, their chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. This should be a concern for Baliwag itself since based on your review, the quality control of their outlets is inconsistent.

  3. Japie says:

    Can you do a food hack on Sr. Pedro’s Lechon Manok please???

  4. Volts Sanchez says:

    If I remember correctly, Chooks-to-Go supplies S&R. Not sure if it’s raw or they perform the cooking aspect as well…

  5. Noe says:

    Sweet Roast po ang Chooks-to-Go kaya lasang ham 🙂 May Pepper Roast variant rin sila.

  6. Hazel Faye Juridico says:

    In our place, there is no competition between Ang Lechong manok ni sr.pedro and Bounty Fresh’s chooks-to-go as people are falling in line to Sr.pedro’s. The taste of the lemongrass in the chicken is really complimenting the savory taste unlike the sweetness of chooks is not delightful. I can taste the preservatives added and yes I agree that it hadbeen slapped on a tocino marinade. Most of us do not like sweet meat right? Still, I choose Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro since I already love this since I was a kid and yes, I really love their sawsawan <3

  7. Boots Mendoza says:

    Oftentimes what gets to be patronized is the one with the most branches or most accessible. The lechon manok is “convenience” food when you don’t have time to cook. In my case, I have to settle for Chooks-To-Go which is found just outside my place.

  8. Vanessa Macapagal says:

    S&R is the best for me. I love that it’s very juicy but you know it’s well-cooked. Chooks-to-go’s pepper roast is also the bomb.

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