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#1
Posted March 3rd 2005, 9:42pm
At an early-evening dinner meeting yesterday, I was introduced to lechon asado, Puerto Rican-style, which I understand is roasted suckling pig.

I am originally from the South/TX, and I've had pork throughout the pork region, in N.C., S.C., VA., GA., Mexico, and Central America, but this was an epiphany, some of the most succulent pork that I have ever tasted. I must've dreamed about it last night, because, when I awoke this morning, my pillow was moist from drool.

Any suggestions on where to find good examples in Chicago? Logan Square is preferred, since it's on my way home, but I'll go to Humbolt Park, hell, anywhere, in search of good and authentic lechon asado.

I have recipes on the way. When the spring thaw arrives, I think it's time to dig a pit in the backyard.

Cheers,
Wade
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#2
Posted March 4th 2005, 9:46am
Wade, you've been missing out. Lechon asado (sometimes pernil or pierna) is the feast meal of most of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, particularly Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

Lechon does refer generally to roast suckling pig, though it's rare that a restaurant would use a whole hog except maybe around the holidays. The cut used is us. a fresh or "green" ham. The defining characteristics are a crispy skin, the chicharon, and the use of mojo criollo, which varies but at its best is made with bitter orange juice, tons of garlic, some cumin, olive oil and/or lard, salt and pepper and possibly oregano and anato.


The best lechon around here, on a consistent basis, is at la Unica, the Cuban grocery and cafeteria up on Devon. Nearer Logan Sq. you could do much worse than Papa's Pollo Chon/Cache Sabroso, a "lechon-style" chicken specialist on Division in the PR neighborhood of Humboldt Park, where pork appears on weekends. Otherwise, I'm always pleased with the lechon from Ibis,North Near Western.

Logan Sq. was once the center of the Cuban community here, and still maintains some Cuban jewelry stores and bodegas, though not many and the Cuban dinner/dance club that was once the anchor of the square in many ways, Tania's, is long gone. Rinconcito Cubano is another option near or in Logan Sq.

Or you can buy a caja china and make your own.
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#3
Posted March 4th 2005, 10:45am
Lechon is also popular in Filipino cuisine. DH, who is half Filipino, buys lechon --plain, roast pig, usually with the chicharron still on -- in markets in Chinatown (Ask for roast pork; the Chinese don't call it lechon). You can buy whole roasted pigs or you can buy lechon by the pound, and they'll cut it up for you. (He couldn't remember the name of the market, altho there are several in Chinatown that sell it; I'll try to get an address when he gets home from work.)
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#4
Posted March 4th 2005, 11:19am
The butcher on my corner does Lechon every weekend - I smell it every saturday morning. I can't remember the name of the place, but you can't miss it, with its sign touting lechon and a picture of a whole pig roasting happily. It's inbetween Mozart and California on North Avenue.
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#5
Posted March 4th 2005, 12:12pm
Wade,

In addition to the other suggestions, I'd add La Palma on Homan. Not whole pig, but very good Puerto Rican style roasted pork. They also have other meats available, plus veggies, I particularly enjoy the malanga, and rice, beans etc.

Borinquen on California has Puerto Rican style pork for eat-in or to go. Though I've found their meat a wee bit salty for my taste and stick to jibaritos.

I was at La Unica for cafe con leche on Wednesday and the butcher area did not have roasted pork in the warming case. I think, and Jeff can correct me if I'm mistaken, La Unica only has roasted pork in quantity on the weekends.

Enjoy,
Gary

La Palma
1340 N. Homan Ave.
Chicago, IL
773-862-0886

Borinquen Restaurant
1720 N. California Ave
Chicago, IL
773-227-6038

La Unica Food Mart
1515 W Devon Ave
Chicago, IL 60660
773-274-7788
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#6
Posted March 4th 2005, 12:19pm
Carol wrote:Lechon is also popular in Filipino cuisine. DH, who is half Filipino, buys lechon --plain, roast pig, usually with the chicharron still on -- in markets in Chinatown (Ask for roast pork; the Chinese don't call it lechon). You can buy whole roasted pigs or you can buy lechon by the pound, and they'll cut it up for you. (He couldn't remember the name of the market, altho there are several in Chinatown that sell it; I'll try to get an address when he gets home from work.)


Sun Wah on Argyle has long offered the Filipino style lechon, include the de rigeur liver sauce. I've had it several times at my Filipino friend's mah jong events, and it's always good. (although you have to order in advance to get the whole side o' pig).

Sun Wah Bar-B-Q Restaurant
1134 W. Argyle St.
773-769-1254

PS
Do not forget the delicious roast pork sammy's at San Juan Bakery
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#7
Posted March 4th 2005, 1:10pm
Vital Information wrote:PS
Do not forget the delicious roast pork sammy's at San Juan Bakery

Rob,

San Juan Bakery, which was at 3417 W North Ave, is no more, gone but not forgotten. San Jose Bakery, similar name, similar address, 3413, is a poor imitation of San Juan.

3-4 months ago I had a hankering for one of San Juan Bakeries garlicky beauts of a Puerto Rican roast pork sandwich. When I walked into, what I thought was San Juan, I noticed right away that everything was different, but thought they had simply remodeled and expanded.

When I got the my sandwich it was simply horrid. Dry, old pork, bread saturated with odd tasting oil, not-good tomato, lettuce and mayo that was, to put it very gently, past it's prime. I took one small bite and tossed the sandwich.

I can't speak for San Jose's baked good, but if the sandwich is any indication.............

Enjoy,
Gary

RIP
San Juan Bakery
3417 W North Ave
Chicago, IL

San Jose Bakery
3413 W North Ave
Chicago, IL
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Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

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#8
Posted March 4th 2005, 2:30pm
IME, "lechon" can have a somewhat different and more specific meaning at Filipino markets and restaurants, at least here in Chicago.

While the word has the same general meaning, what one might see called "lechon" is more precisely "lechon kawali," basically deep fried pork belly taht is often mostly fat. A whole "lechon" suckling pig is festival food for Filipinos, certainly. However, the recipes I've seen/tasted do not involve mojo criollo, with the kicker coming instead from the liver sauce. As was said, it is sold as plain roasted pork in Chinese BBQs. Probably not going to sub fothe PR style lechon the OP liked so much.

[I have read articles tracing the common origins of the various colonial lechons to the cochinillo asado of northern Spain, which of course is almost the same as Italian porchetta. Maybe raosting a pig is just a little too basic to be attributed to one culture, but there does seem to be a direct lineage between the Mediterranean and lechon.

The cochinita pibil, of eastern Mexico, is quite similar. Not surprising given the more "creole" cooking of the Carribean coast.]

Anyway, I've mentioned previously that bakeries often have the best lechon, both in South Florida and here in Chicago, using their ovens for double duty especially on the weekends. In addition to those already mentioned, Las Villas and Latin American (both in Humboldt park) sell lechon on the weekends. I have seen lechon under the lights at La Unica during the week, but mostly on the weekend. They will very happily make it to order if you call. Indeed, the owner usually tries to get me to order for the holidays when I'm there. The Argentine butcher at El Mercado makes it too, but it never looked good enough to try.

The market on North near Mozart mentioned previously is no doubt T&C, related and attached to the late, lamented and way-too-short-lived Brazilian La Parilla. I would bet they have very good lechon.

I also once posted a reco from a Cuban guy I met travelling, which I never followed up on and now can't find. There apparently is a Cuban owned butcher shop somewhere in HP or Logan Sq. that supposedly does great to-order whole pig lechon stffed with moros (black beans/rice) and will deliver it to your door. I've spent a little time looking at old posts and e-mail, but the info is lost for now.

It might be Los Portales, further west on North from the above, but I don't know.
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#9
Posted March 4th 2005, 3:15pm
Panaderia Cuenca at the corner of Elston and Irving Park serves a wonderful garlicky lechon on the weekends with boiled hominy and a mild salsa for $5 (to go only).
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#10
Posted March 4th 2005, 3:45pm
PS, in trying to find that Cuban butcher, I ran into a couple of interesting meat packers in the Fulton Market area, Siam Meats and El Cubano.

And Gary, your San Jose/San Jaun note explains the confusion between some Chicagoan's glowing posts about the former spot and ExtraMSG's pan of the replacement.
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#11
Posted March 4th 2005, 7:39pm
Thank you all kindly. I feel a binge coming on.

JeffB: Lord, have I been missing out. It was yet another reminder of how many new dishes are still out there to be tasted and appreciated.

Before seeing all of the posts, I remembered that Rancho Luna, the Cuban restaurant on Peterson, offered lechon asada, so I stopped in there for carryout on a detour on the way home (you'll see garlic yucca and rice and black beans). I also couldn't resist the Ropa Vieja sandwich.

Cheers,
Wade

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#12
Posted March 14th 2005, 10:30am
JeffB wrote: In addition to those already mentioned, Las Villas and Latin American (both in Humboldt park) sell lechon on the weekends.
<snip>
The market on North near Mozart mentioned previously is no doubt T&C.

Jeff,

I was talking to a Puerto Rican friend, who lives in Humbodlt Park, last week and the subject of roast pork came up, imagine that. Actually, I was complimenting her roast pork, which I've had in the past, and at the same angling for the recipe. :) She also makes a killer peas and rice (arroz con gandules).

She made mention of both T & C and Las Villas as places where one can bring pork to be cooked in commercial ovens. She also mentioned T & C as being a meat market that had quite good roast pork for sale. Basically you and she are on the same Puerto Rican Pork Page, you happen to know a very nice woman named Florita?

Both T & C and Las Villas are high on my must pay a visit list.

Enjoy,
Gary
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Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

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#13
Posted March 14th 2005, 10:52am
Last year, I had a tour of T & C when I filed this report.

Cathy2 of March 20, 2004 wrote:Hi,

RST, ErikM and I went to Cassava's this evening hoping for a Brazilian dinner. We found the place closed for reconstruction until mid April. On a lark, I phoned the number on the building and located the co-owner Peter.

Peter came out to the street to greet us, then brought us in to check the interior remodeling. Already a lot has been roughed out to give a solid impression of what is planned. In their limited experience, they have observed more large parties than couples coming for dinner. So the booths will go to allow for tables and chairs for greater flexibility. They will also have live Brazilian music Thursday-Saturday nights. The new menu will be half Brazilian and half American with steaks, shrimp and such.

IN our initial visit, we learned Peter also owns the neighboring butcher shop. He had advised they processed a VERY large quantity of pork lechon for Christmas. Given the size of the shop and quantity of pork prepared, it was staggering. I inquired if we could see where these lechons were cooked. He took us to the backroom where there were four large pizza ovens. We also saw two pigs smelling heavenly of garlic and pepper, waiting to start cooking at 11 PM for an early morning pick up.

They will also roast Mojo de Ajo Cuban pigs. I learned the bitter orange marinade prevents the pig's skin from obtaining a crisp crackling. Instead, it is a leathery texture when cooked. They also prepare Greek-style lambs available by order.

Peter made an interesting observation related to lamb: he prefers lamb from New Zealand first because it has a more gamely flavor from being free range, 2nd place is Australia for nearly the same reasons but not quite as gamey and a distant 3rd was domestic American lamb because it didn't taste gamey enough.

Though we were somewhat disappointed not to dine there. We thoroughly appreciated the education and graciousness Peter extended to us. I'll be posting once they finalize their re-opening.*

Regards,
CAthy2

T&C Meat and Liquor
2810-12 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647


*An event which never happened unfortunately.
_______________________________________

Cathy2

"You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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#14
Posted March 14th 2005, 1:40pm
JeffB wrote:PS, in trying to find that Cuban butcher, I ran into a couple of interesting meat packers in the Fulton Market area,...


JeffB,

Have you tried Mueller Meats on Peterson? The owner is the Cubano FIL of Dirk from Dirk's Fish. A couple of months ago, Dirk told me about him (because the place is somewhat in my neighborhood) and said that he is a good Cuban butcher. I have not been, but it might be worth checking out, since you are on a quest. I would imagine that the German sounding name of the place if a holdover from the previous owner.

Mueler Meats
2439 W. Peterson
Chicago, IL 60659
773-561-7580
_______________________________________

Steve Z.

"Why should I eat a carrot when I can eat pizza?" - Dan Janssen
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#15
Posted March 14th 2005, 2:40pm
Steve and Gary, it's a small world.

Regarding Florita, I don't know her, but I admire her taste. Seriously, though, it's nice to hear that a Chicago Borinquena has come to the same conclusions as me regarding this important topic. It is true; Cuban and PR bakeries make great use of their ovens in cooking lechon.

About Dirk's father in law, I have spoken with Dirk myself regarding the joys of marrying into a Cuban family. Some of the prepared foods, such as flan and some stuff in the freezer led me to ask. I really feel at home at Dirks: it's in a strip mall, it has lots of Gulf seafood, and there's Cuban stuff. It's like Tampa. Now that you mention the address, this very well could be the place that my source (a Dominican cab driver) described. I might have just misremembered the neighborhood, maybe assuming that a Cuban butcher must be in a historically Cuban area (though there are Cubans on Peterson also). Thanks for the tip.

I wonder if the Dirk family would consider adding crab enchilado to their lineup of prepared foods?
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#16
Posted March 20th 2005, 1:10pm
Had the opportunity yesterday afternoon to stop by T&C Meat Market and sample the lechon asado. This is some seriously good stuff !!! Big chunks of succulent, garlickly roast pork in a nice crunchy golden brown skin.

Picked up a pound (4.95) to take home and make some sandwiches for lunch but this was not to be. One taste set the meat monkey that resides permanently on back into a feeding frenzy. By the time I hit Western and Addison it was all over.

Next time the bag goes in the trunk!

T&C Meat Market
2812 W North Av.
Chicago
773 276 2220
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