Discovering Lechon in Puerto Rico
The holidays are coming and for those in Puerto Rico, it means indulging in the traditional meal of Lechon Asado or roasted pig. However, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion. When visiting the island, you can make a culinary road trip to a town dedicating itself to all things pork, by discovering lechon in Puerto Rico.
The barrio of Guavate, in the east-central hills of Puerto Rico, revolves around pork – all year round. Crispy skin, well-seasoned and brown. Smoky meat, moist and juicy. Is your mouth watering yet? Did I forget to mention the whole seasoned pig is roasted on a spit, over an open fire?
Getting to Guavate is part of the adventure. Route 184 winds through the verdant Sierra De Cayey Mountains. The journey? Snake-like roads, barely wide enough for two cars, sharp bends, steep-sided valleys, and densely blanketed jungle foliage. Better known as the Pork Highway, or La Routa de Cerdo, the smokiness of roasting pigs, pounding salsa music, and couples dancing in the street let you know you have arrived.
Lechon in Puerto Rico
Golden lechon, proudly on display in the front windows of the lechoneras, beckon long lines of hungry customers waiting their turn to be served. Lechonera Los Pinos – one of the many open-air eateries – with its tin roof and cafeteria-style service – is my favorite.
The carver swings down his machete, cutting the lechon with strong, swift movements. You wait your turn, you watch, hypnotized by the sound, chop, chop, chop. There’s no menu. The assortment of delectable side dishes, on display behind the glass counter: yucca in garlic sauce, arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), tostones de platanos (fried green plantains), morcilla (blood sausage) and longaniza (pork sausage) – served picnic style, on paper plates and with plastic utensils – all very reasonably priced at $8-$10 a plate.
I munch on a crispy piece of skin, the best part. Several couples jumped up to dance salsa. This place does not disappoint. I ate and ate some more. So good. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait for Christmas. Go on a Saturday or Sunday to get the full experience. Tradition, culture, family, and food. It’s what Puerto Rico is all about.
Lechonera Los Pinos
Carrer 184, Puerto Rico
If you can’t make it to Puerto Rico, try
Lechonera La Isla
256 E 125th St
New York, NY 10035