Using every part of the pig for home cooking

Here in the Philippines every part of the animal is being used for cooking. Seriously. Every. Part. In Europe only the meat is used and all the others like bones, intestines, blood, head, tail, feet, etc. are thrown away. What a wasteful practice. It’s a very different case here .

Let’s take lechon as an example. For the uninitiated, lechon is a whole roasted pig. It is a staple for celebrations, family gatherings, and special occasions here in the Philippines. A lechon’s end product is its meat and skin. So the question comes, what about the inner parts? What happens to them? Here’s the part where I’m blown away by Filipino resourcefulness. The carcass isn’t the only thing used when making lechon, but using every part of the pig can produce different kinds of dishes also.

Lechon on a spit over burning coal

To start with, when the pig is butchered, they collect the blood that drains from the pig’s neck. It forms the base ingredient for Dinuguan (or Dugo-dugo). A soup made from pig’s blood.

Then, after shaving the hair away with a scalding water, they then cut open the belly and out comes the intestines. After thorough washing inside and out, the small intestines are marinated and deep fried to become Chicharon Bulaklak (Chicharon flowers). The big intestines can be used as the wrapper for the chorizo (a kind of sausage).

Next comes the liver. It is generally grilled and dipped in soy sauce and vinegar when eaten. But of course, there are many more dishes that can be made from the liver as well (e.g., afritada, pancit bihon, etc.). The heart, too, is grilled and eaten like the grilled liver.

Now that the pig has been properly dressed, it will then be skewered by a bamboo pole from the mouth out its hind. It will then be slowly roasted over burning charcoal for 4 hours or so ‘til its meat is cooked tender and its skin roasted to a crispy goodness. When the lechon is served (whole, by the way), someone inevitably would want to eat the tail or the ears.

A lot of times, there will be leftovers from the lechon, especially if the pig is huge. This leftover will then serve as the basis for the family’s viand for the next week or so. The feet, knuckles, and head of the leftover lechon will be made into Paksiw, a very delicious stew of some kind. Paksiw has this special property where the more times it gets reheated (spanning days or a week), the more it taste better and better. This is because the meat gets even more tender, the bones gets softer releasing its flavor, etc. By this time, the eyes, brain, tongue, and face become very tender too. They claim that their texture becomes similar to the tender meat.

Speaking of leftovers, a cousin here in the Philippines once asked me if people in Finland feed leftovers and bones to their dogs because it is such a common practice here in the Philippines. I replied that it is not practiced there at all. Dogs there are fed proper (processed) dog food, not leftover scraps. In fact, supermarkets, even the small ones sell dog food. But it doesn’t seem to be so here in the Philippines. Dog food are sold only at the large supermarkets, in major cities to boot.

Now the reason why I mentioned dog food and leftovers is because the lechon does provide leftovers in the form of bones and cartilage. So, even the bones of the lechon can still be used for consumption—albeit by dogs.

I’m just impressed by how much utilization there is for one complete animal; and that’s not even only for the pigs. The same multiple utilization is true for goats, chickens, and pretty much any other animal. In Europe we only use the meat, that’s it. We throw away the head, the tail, etc. But nothing here in the Philippines is thrown away.

Literally every part of the animal is being used for making different dishes. I’ve tried a lot of them. Some I like, but for quite a big number of dishes, I wouldn’t want to eat again. A lot of times, it’s only because of the knowledge that I’m eating intestines, for example, is what puts me off. So I guess it’s more of a psychological thing than anything else. But as I said before, I promised myself to at least try every food there is. Whether I’d like them or not is irrelevant.