By CALVIN CORDOVA
CEBU CITY – Cebu’s spice stuffed lechon has since taken on a meatier, yummier twist with the boneless lechon belly.
The Manila Bulletin sat down with a Cebuano businessman who claimed to be the creator of Cebu Lechon belly here.
“It all started in August 2011 and it was just accidental,” said Marlon Gochan, a civil engineer who owns a chain of Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly stores.
Gochan said the discovery of lechon belly came when a friend from abroad sent him a rotisserie which was about 14 to 15 inches long.
“I tried the rotisserie with a headless pig but it wouldn’t fit. So we chopped the lower part of the pig and then deboned it,” said Gochan.
“It was during my birthday celebration when one of my friends asked me if I could make more lechon belies that he can sell in the market. But I thought if we are going to make this a business, why not do it myself?” Gochan recalled.
So in February 2012, Gochan opened three stores, one in front of a university, one at the South Bus Terminal and another one at the North Bus Terminal.
Luckily, the product clicked and the Cebu’s Original Lechon Belly now has at least 30 outlets in Cebu City, Manila and one in Vancouver, Canada. A branch in Australia is in the offing.
Tastes and flavors
“Our lechon belly really tastes like lechon and it is me who prepare the seasonings. It took me years to master our distinct taste. What I realized is that Cebuanos really love salty food and when you say Cebu lechon, it is really salty,” he said.
When asked what his secret ingredients are, Gochan’s curtly replied: “Just salt.”
“But even if I reveal all our ingredients, it will still boil down to the amount of seasoning that you are going to put. Unlike the whole lechon, it is very complicated to get the taste of a lechon belly. It’s really how you process the meat,” said the 50-year-old Gochan, adding that roasting a belly takes two to three hours to finish.
“We have our own style of packaging. When the lechon is cooked, you have to wait for several minutes before packing it so that the skin remains crunchy even after a few hours,” Gochan said.