Jump to content

Suckling pig

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Lechon)

A suckling pig prepared at St. John Restaurant, London
Suckling pig being grilled at La Paloma fair in Madrid, among ribs and other pork produce

A suckling pig is a piglet fed on its mother's milk (i.e., a piglet which is still a "suckling"). In culinary contexts, a suckling pig is slaughtered between the ages of two and six weeks. It is traditionally cooked whole, often roasted, in various cuisines. It is usually prepared for special occasions and gatherings. The most popular preparation can be found in Spain and Portugal under the name lechón (Spanish) or leitão (Portuguese).

The meat from suckling pig is pale and tender and the cooked skin is crisp and can be used for pork rinds. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous due to the amount of collagen in a young pig.


There are many ancient recipes for suckling pig from Roman and Chinese cuisine. Since the pig is one of the first animals domesticated by human beings for slaughter, many references to pigs are found in human culture. The suckling pig, specifically, appears in early texts such as the sixth-century Salic law. As an example of a law governing the punishment for theft, Title 2, article 1, is, in Latin, Si quis porcellum lactantem furaverit, et ei fuerit adprobatum (malb. chrane calcium hoc est) CXX dinarios qui faciunt solidos III culpabilis iudicetur. "If someone has stolen a suckling pig and this is proven against him, the guilty party will be sentenced to 120 denarii which adds up to three solidi (Latin coins)." The words chrane calcium are written in Frankish; calcium (or galza in other manuscripts) is the gloss for "suckling pig"; porcellum lactantem.[1] These glosses in Frankish, the so-called Malbergse Glossen, are considered the earliest attested words in Old Dutch.[2]

Regional dishes[edit]

There are various preparations for suckling pig in Western and Asian cuisines.

Latin countries[edit]

Spanish cochinillo asado
Su porcheddu, Sardinian cuisine

Lechón (Spanish, Spanish pronunciation: [leˈtʃon]; from leche "milk" + -ón), cochinillo asado (Spanish, literally "roasted suckling pig"), or leitão (Portuguese; from leite "milk" + -ão) is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically in Spain (in particular Segovia), Portugal (in particular Bairrada) and regions worldwide previously colonized by the Portuguese Empire or Spanish Empire. Lechón/Leitão is a word referring to a roasted baby pig (piglet) which was still fed by suckling its mother's milk (a suckling pig). Lechón/Leitão is a popular item in the cuisine in Los Angeles (in the United States), Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, as well as in Portugal, Cape Verde, Angola, Mozambique and other Portuguese-speaking nations.[3] It is also present as cochon de lait in the French-Swiss and French cuisines (in particular in Metz), in Italy (in particular in Sardinian cuisine as su porcheddu) and Romania.[4] The dish features a whole roasted suckling pig cooked over charcoal. It has been described as a national dish of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, Portugal, as well as the Philippines. However, the pig-roasting traditions of the Philippines (similar to other Austronesian regions) have native pre-colonial origins. The meaning of "lechon" in Filipino has diverted from the original Spanish term[5] to become a general term for "roasted pig", and is used in reference to adult roasted pigs rather than to suckling pigs, with Cebu being asserted by American chef Anthony Bourdain as having the best pigs.[6][7]

In most of these regions, lechón/leitão is prepared throughout the year for special occasions, during festivals. It is the centerpiece of the tradition Cuban Christmas feast La Noche Buena.[8] After seasoning, the piglet is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The piglet is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action.


Lechona, also known as lechón asado, is a popular Colombian dish.[9] It is similar in style to many preparations made in other South American countries, consisting of a roasted pig stuffed with yellow peas, green onion, and spices, cooked in an outdoor brick oven for several hours. Yellow rice is sometimes added, especially in Bogotá. It is mostly traditional to the Tolima Department in central Colombia and is usually accompanied by arepas, a corn-based dough.

Puerto Rico[edit]

The dish has been described as a national dish of Puerto Rico.[10][a] The name of the dish in Puerto Rico is lechón asado.[13] It is a traditional dish served at festivals and holidays.[14]

Southeast Asia[edit]


Balinese babi guling

In Indonesia, roast pig (using both adult or suckling pig) is called babi guling, babi putar, babi panggang or babi bakar; it is predominantly found in non-Muslim majority regions, such as Hindu Bali and Christian Batak lands in North Sumatra, the Minahasa people of North Sulawesi, Toraja in South Sulawesi, Papua, and also among Chinese Indonesians. In Bali, babi guling is usually served with lawar and steamed rice; it is a popular dish in Balinese restaurants and warungs.[15] In the Batak people's tradition, babi guling is a prerequisite in wedding offerings by the bride's family. In Papua, pigs and yams are roasted in heated stones placed in a hole dug in the ground and covered with leaves; this cooking method is called bakar batu (burning the stone), and it is an important cultural and social event among Papuan people.


Lechon de leche being cooked traditionally in Camiguin, Philippines

The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, also has a dish that acquired the Spanish name "lechón" (usually spelled lechon without diacritics, but also litson or lichon); but it differs from the Spanish lechón in that it uses adult pigs, uses different native ingredients (distinctively lemongrass, binucao fruits, tamarind, and citrus leaves), is cooked differently, and is pre-colonial in origin (natively known as inasal or inihaw [na baboy]).[5][16][17] It is most similar to neighboring native dishes like the Balinese babi guling (though differing in the stuffing and spices used).[18][19]

Variants of lechón that use suckling pigs are differentiated as lechon de leche (which in Spanish would be a linguistic redundancy), but otherwise are cooked in the native way as in regular lechon.[20] The dish that is explicitly derived from the Spanish lechón style of cooking is known as cochinillo. Unlike native Filipino lechons which are stuffed and cooked slowly over charcoals on a bamboo spit, cochinillo uses a suckling pig that is splayed and roasted in an oven.[21]

The term lechon has also become generalized as a loanword for anything spit-roasted over coals. It is also used for other Filipino dishes like lechon manok (native roasted chicken) and lechon baka (a whole cow spit-roasted Filipino-style), thus lechon made from whole pig is differentiated as "lechon baboy" (literally "pig lechon").[22][23][24]

East Asia[edit]


In various Chinese communities (especially in Southern China), a roast suckling pig is purchased for special family occasions, business launches, or as a ritualistic spiritual offering. For example, one tradition is to offer one or several whole roast suckling pigs to the Jade Emperor to celebrate a Chinese film's opening. The pig is sacrificed to ward off evils and in prayer for the film's success. One garnish used to make the dish look more appealing is a circular slice of pineapple and cherry, and is often placed in a red box for luck.

Suckling pig dishes in parts of Southeast Asia, like Singapore and Vietnam, are also influenced by ethnic Chinese cuisine. Roast suckling pig is eaten in Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants for important parties.[25] It is also a popular dish at wedding dinners or a party for a baby's completion of its first month of life.[26][27]

Northern Europe[edit]

The European cuisines of Austria, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Sweden[4][28] favor the dish highly as well. It accompanies goose as the traditional Christmas feast of families in Russia and Serbia, while the Russian Navy maintains a tradition of presenting a roast piglet (or several) to the crew of a ship returning from deployment.

Suckling pig is known in German, Austrian and German-Swiss cuisines as Spanferkel and in the Dutch cuisine as speenvarken. It can be roasted in the oven[29] or grilled, and is often served at festive occasions such as Oktoberfest.[30]

In Sweden suckling pig is called spädgris, it is usually cooked in the oven, or sometimes roasted directly over the fire. It is often stuffed with various fruits such as apples and plums, together with butter and breadcrumbs.[31]

United States[edit]

The suckling pig is used in Cajun cuisine in the southern U.S., where the Cochon de Lait Festival[32] is held annually in the small town of Mansura, Louisiana. During this festival, as its name implies, suckling pigs are roasted. Other uses for the suckling pig in the U.S. include slow roasting in an oven or (as in a Hawaiian-style pig roast) in a pit. The latter remains popular in the cuisine of the Southern United States.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other dishes, have also been described as a national dish of Puerto Rico, such as the following dishes: asopao,[11] arroz con gandules.[12]


  1. ^ Gorlé, Frits; John Gilissen (1989). Historische inleiding tot het recht, Volume 1. Kluwer. p. 166. ISBN 978-90-6321-654-2.
  2. ^ Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand, "Die Malbergischen Glossen, eine frühe Überlieferung germanischer Rechtsprache," in Beck, Heinrich (1989). Germanische Rest- und Trümmersprachen; Volume 3 of Ergänzungsbände zum Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-011948-0.
  3. ^ Jonathan Deutsch; Megan J. Elias (15 April 2014). Barbecue: A Global History. Reaktion Books. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-78023-298-0.
  4. ^ a b Langenfeld, Annemarie (20 September 2009). "Spanferkel und Pizzen heiß begehrt". Der Westen. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  5. ^ a b Palanca, Clinton. "This is the Philippines' love story with pork". Smile Magazine. Cebu Pacific. Retrieved 1 October 2019.
  6. ^ Lara Day (23 April 2009). "Pork Art". Time. Archived from the original on 29 April 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2013. Anthony Bourdain — whose love of all things porcine is famous — visited the Philippine island of Cebu with his show No Reservations and declared that he had found the best pig ever
  7. ^ Maclay, Elise (1 October 2014). "Restaurant Review: Zafra Cuban Restaurant & Rum Bar". Connecticut Magazine. New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Retrieved 26 December 2019. When it comes to "authentic" dishes like lechón asado (which Spain, Puerto Rico, The Philippines and Cuba all claim as their "national dish"), ingredients, recipes and methodology differ contentiously enough to start a war.
  8. ^ Raichlen, Steven (22 December 1999). "In Miami, Christmas Eve Means Roast Pig". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Lechona". Colombia.com. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  10. ^ Squires, Kathleen (5 December 2014). "Where to Find the Best Roast Pork in Puerto Rico". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 December 2019.
    Ritschel, Chelsea (11 December 2019). "What Christmas Dinner Looks Like Around The World". Independent. United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  11. ^ Himilce Novas (2007). Everything You Need to Know about Latino History. Plume. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-452-28889-8.
  12. ^ Papadopoulos, Lena (16 March 2019). "From Mofongos to Maltas, Here's Everything You Should Eat and Drink in Puerto Rico". Fodors. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  13. ^ Gillan, Audrey (4 October 2018). "Around the Caribbean in 11 dishes". National Geographic. United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
    "The 21 Best Trips For Foodies Around The World". Business Insider. India. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
    "A 'Casual' Dinner in Puerto Rico". The New York Times. 5 July 1978. Retrieved 26 December 2019.
  14. ^ Don Philpott (28 February 2003). Landmark Puerto Rico. Landmark Publishing Limited. p. 28. ISBN 978-1-901522-34-1.
  15. ^ "Babi guling Bali". Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  16. ^ Faicol, Bea. "What's the Difference Between Luzon Lechon and Visayas Lechon?". Eat + Drink. Spot.ph. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  17. ^ sparksph (2 October 2021). "Cebu Lechon: The best in the country". Suroy.ph. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  18. ^ Paredes, Radel (5 August 2012). "Lechon in Bali". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  19. ^ Patawaran, AA (18 August 2022). "Babi guling for a spit-roast pig snob like me". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  20. ^ "Lechon de Leche (Roasted Piglet)". Panlasang Pinoy Meaty Recipes. 30 October 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2022.
  21. ^ Avelis, Maribel (19 April 2022). "The Original Cochinillo restaurants, Yes it's where we got the plates technique, too". Cook Magazine. Retrieved 25 April 2024.
  22. ^ Santos, Rachelle (17 September 2014). "Lechon Manok". Yummy.ph. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  23. ^ Reyes, Lai S. (1 July 2021). "Now roasting: Rico's Lechon Baka". PhilStar Global. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  24. ^ Merano, Vanjo (7 March 2010). "Lechon Dinner". Panlasang Pinoy. Retrieved 26 April 2024.
  25. ^ "飲宴6招 色食肥 (Chinese)". eastweek. 6 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  26. ^ "久享盛名的四更烤乳豬 (Chinese)". travel.sina.com.hk. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  27. ^ "Siu Mei Kung Fu". rthk.hk. 6 October 2012. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  28. ^ Dadiani, Niko. "Gochi (Roast Suckling Pig)". About Georgia. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  29. ^ Scheibler, Sophie Wilhelmine (1866). Allgemeines deutsches kochbuch für alle stände, oder gründliche anweisung alle arten speisen und backwerke auf die wohlfeilste und schmackhafteste art zuzubereiten: Ein unentbehrliches handbuch für angehende hausmütter, haushälterinnen und köchinnen. C.F. Amelang. pp. 157–58.
  30. ^ Dittrich, Michael (7 October 2009). "Oktoberfest mit Spanferkel". Stimberg Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
  31. ^ Östman, Elisabeth (1911). Iduns kokbok. Isaac Marcus Boktryckeriaktiebolag. pp. 286–287.
  32. ^ "Cochon De Lait Festival in Mansura, Louisiana".

External links[edit]