Restaurants / Bars

Try This: Zubuchon’s Lechon and Other Filipino Specialties Pack Flavor the Real and Natural Way

October 18, 2017

Manila-dwellers in need of a good pork fix, rejoice: Cebuano favorite Zubuchon can now be had within the city, open seven days a week and ready to serve up their signature lechon and other specialties. The relatively new Makati branch welcomes solo diners and big groups alike with its roomy space of bright walls, wooden tables, and glass windows that allow the natural light into its premises—plus its very own room for roasting the lechon, right outside the restaurant.

The Makati branch also features its own roasting room, where backyard-raised pigs are roasted daily.

It was in 2011 that Joel Binamira (known to the online food community as Marketman of the Market Manila blog) first opened Zubuchon along One Mango Mall in Cebu, giving the public a taste of the famed roasted suckling pig—the culmination of multiple experiments that had been chronicled on the blog and which had famously earned the praise of no less than Anthony Bourdain.

L: In true Filipino fashion, Zubuchon plays host to numerous gatherings and reunions. | R: Cleanse your palate with sips of their decidedly tart Kamias Shake in between bites of their hearty mains.

“What triggered the desire to experiment with cooking our own lechon was the incredible rise in [the] use of MSG as the PRIMARY ingredient [in most commercial iterations of lechon], which was most definitely NOT the case some 2-3 decades ago,” shares Binamira. While he clarifies that there is nothing inherently wrong with the use of the controversial ingredient, he laments its overuse for the purpose of “[masking] poor ingredients, shortcut methods, [and] time”. Zubuchon’s lechon pays homage to the old-fashioned way of things, taking the time to cook pigs low and slow, and focusing on quality ingredients: backyard-raised pigs, almost all of which are sourced from Cebu; fresh and dried herbs and spices that go into the pig’s bellies; natural sea salt; and coconut water, with which the pigs are basted for its medium-brown hue on the exterior.

We live in a world of increasing instant gratification.  But the honesty, integrity, joy,  flavor, and substance that comes from using good ingredients, treating them with respect, using technique and attention to extract natural flavor and yield a delicious, natural dish, is the reward in and of itself.”

The resulting roasted pig boasts of succulent meat that tastes clean but nonetheless flavorful, redolent with herbs and with just the right amount of saltiness that it’s plenty tasty, even on its own. The best part however is the skin, which comes out thin and crisp with an audible, cracker-like crunch—the result of an ingenious “hand-pricking” method which allows air to get in between the skin and its underlying fat.

Bring home Zubuchon goodness with a bottle or two from their own line of pantry items (we love their Mango Preserves!). The pasalubong corner also features products from other Cebuano brands.

Though you should definitely come over for the lechon, Zubuchon also offers a slew of other dishes that are great in their own respect. Some of these dishes feature their lechon as incorporated in other Filipino classics (Sinigang, Monggo, and Sisig, just to name a few) or in other contemporary creations (one of our favorites of which is their lechon-topped Mustasa salad). Other Filipino dishes and Cebuano favorites are available, following the same philosophy of “real, natural, slow-cooked, [and] old-fashioned methods and flavor extraction”.

It’s hard to choose, but here are two we’d make sure to always add to our list of orders:

Fish Skin Tacos

Should you wish to start your feast on a lighter note, this fun appetizer is the way to go. You get twice the fishy goodness with fish skin chicharon that play the role of tortilla chips, and a small platter of kinilaw (made with tanigue fish or tuna) that packs on the piquancy and a welcome heat. Create your own mini-”tacos” by piling on the kinilaw mixture onto the fish skins, and enjoy the multiple contrasts of flavors and textures in each bite: an airy crispness and natural umami from the skins, plus the tart-spicy profile and crisp-chewy textures of the kinilaw.

Dinuguan

The classic Filipino pork blood stew already carries so rich and heavy a reputation in itself that the addition of lechon might sound a tad over-the-top, but Zubuchon does a surprisingly balanced take on the dish while staying true to traditional flavors. Thick but still on the soupy side, this version replaces the more conventional pig innards with chunks of their lechon, simmered until they melt into the stew’s hearty base. Picky diners need not fret; the blood does not overpower, with its mineral undernote beautifully evened out by the creaminess of gata, a hint of a vinegar-y tang, and a mild spiciness that warrants extra helpings of rice. Finishing off the dish are crumbles of their own chicharon for a crisp, salty contrast that enlivens the stick-to-your-ribs dish.


Zubuchon

A Cebu-hailing Filipino restaurant best known for their all-natural take on lechon.

ADDRESS: Talisay st., Brgy. San Antonio, Makati
Contact: (02) 809-0149 / 0956-4771999
VISIT: 10AM-10PM Mondays to Sundays
SPEND: PHP 200-400 for shareable appetizers; PHP 200-800 for shareable main dishes; PHP 150-200 for solo fast meals or merienda
FOLLOW: Instagram / Facebook / Website

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She is a cheapskate in other aspects of her life, preferring to use her savings on specialty vinegars and degustation menus. While she admits to eating out too much, cooking and baking remain her first love, and she's always looking for quirky new ways to use up seasonal produce. Thanks to her obsession with (unnecessarily) making everything from scratch, she is now desperate to clear her fridge full of homemade condiments. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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