At Rico’s lechon, the ingredients are simple. The most important one is the PIG, otherwise known as Filipino lechon. Cebu City, the “second city” of the Philippines, is home to the most delicious and succulent lechon in the Philippines.
For those that might not be familiar, lechon is whole roasted suckling pig and is very popular in Filipino cuisine. In our previous article Cebu lechon, the best pig ever according to Anthony Bourdain, we described our adventures and how they led us to Rico’s lechon, the best lechon in Cebu.
After tasting Cebu lechon at several restaurants in the city, we liked Rico’s lechon the best. In keeping with our mission at Authentic Food Quest, we sought to learn more about Rico’s lechon and the people behind it. In this article, we go deep to understand what makes Rico’s lechon so special.
The Best Lechon Starts With The People
Filipinos are some of the most welcoming and generous people we have met on our quest for authentic food. And, getting to meet the founder of Rico’s is an example of their generosity.
When we were in Cebu, we had had dinner at Rico’s lechon. While waiting for our meal, we went up and talked to the “tagud” or “person chopping up the pig”, who surprisingly was a female.
As we asked questions about the pigs and lechon, she told us about their commissary (where the pigs are prepared and cooked) and invited us to visit. Taking a chance and not knowing if they would accept, we contacted the commissary. Surprisingly, just after two days, we had an invitation to not only visit the commissary but also meet the founder of Rico’s Lechon.
The generosity and willingness to take us “behind the scenes” was unexpected and much appreciated.
A Day At Rico’s Lechon Brand New Commissary
“Pop’s” from Rico’s marketing department met us and drove us to the commissary. This trip happened to coincide with the opening of their new state-of-the-art facilities.
We took a tour of the facility and learned how the pigs are prepared and cooked.
We also had the opportunity to meet the rest of the team including his daughter Claire, who is responsible for the operations of the business.
Meeting “Sir” Rico – Founder of Rico’s Lechon
Referred to as “Sir Rico” by his staff, Enrico “Rico” Dionson graciously took time out of his schedule to share his background and well as what makes Rico’s lechon so special.
From humble beginning, Enrico started worked at 15 years of age, as a “Kristo” (taker of bets) in the cockfighting sport (sabong), the second most popular hobby in the Philippines.
In 1997, he decided to go into the Lechon business so that he could provide a better future for his family. He started experimenting on ways to develop the best lechon and would freely give out samples to clients and friends. After customer feedback found it too salty, he replaced it with the best quality products, giving birth to Rico’s Lechon – “Da Best Gyud.”
Spicy Lechon a variety of Filipino Lechon
Always an entrepreneur, Enrico was also the first to introduce the “Spicy Lechon” variety in the Philippines. This is the Rico’s lechon that we first tasted at the restaurant and fell in love with.
Without revealing the “secret recipe”, a mix of spices is infused into the meat, that bring out the extreme deliciousness of the pigs. The skin, however, remains crispy and tender.
The spicy flavors are not overwhelming. However, if you don’t like spicy food, the popular “classic” lechon is a great option.
What Makes Rico’s Lechon Special or “Da Best Gyud”
The raw product or the pigs are the first and most important ingredient in making the best lechon in Cebu. Rico’s Lechon uses only native pigs, which are local from the area. They have exclusive agreements with farmers who provide them with farm and organic raised pigs.
During the preparation period, the pigs are stuffed with the finest ingredients. This includes lemongrass, chili peppers, leeks, garlic and special seasonings.
The pigs are spit-roasted over charcoal, under the watchful eye of Enrico. In addition, the use of charcoal in the cooking process brings out the flavors, in a way that the oven cannot. The pigs are roasted anywhere from 2 – 4 hours depending on the size of the pig.
The secret sauce or “magic” that we observed was passion. Every single person we met shared their passion and commitment to making the best lechon in Cebu, and in the Philippines. From the staff at the restaurants to the teams in Operations and Marketing, the single focus is quality.
Perhaps, what really makes Rico’s so special is the people!
Where to Get Rico’s Lechon
The best place to get Rico’s Lechon is in Cebu. You will find it available at two locations. At the Mabolo branch located in Cebu city, at F. Cabahug St, which is the first Rico’s lechon restaurant.
And, you can find a second restaurant near the airport in Lapu-Lapu city on Mactan promenade near the airport.
Rico’s Lechon is growing and a third branch is said to open in Uptown Cebu City at Vibo Place, which will become the flagship restaurant! Find out more about the locations and opening dates of the new restaurant on their website.
Additionally, it is also possible to order a fully roasted pig directly from the commissary. Rico’s Lechon delivers locally and also ships to Manila, the capital. Prices for whole pigs range from 4000 PHP – 5500 PHP (approx $80 USD – $112 USD).
The current challenge that Rico’s Lechon is facing is how to distribute more widely, yet preserve the quality of the meat and unique crispness of the lechon skin. Until they find a solution, your best bet will be to go to Cebu and visit Rico’s Lechon.
We were thrilled at the opportunity to understand the famous Filipino lechon at Rico’s. Not only were we seduced by the delicious flavors and golden crispy skin of the lechon, we were also humbled by the graciousness of Enrico and his team.
So, if you are searching for the best lechon in the Philippines, look no further than Rico’s lechon in Cebu. The most delectable and succulent lechon, comes from the happy pigs and wonderful staff at Rico’s Lechon.
Have you had whole roasted pig on a spit before? Where? What was it called? How was it similar or different? Share your thoughts below.
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Rosemary is a writer and culinary explorer. Together with her partner, Claire, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Prior to creating Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary worked as a director of strategy in advertising for over 15 years. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.