“Lechón asado” is Puerto Rico’s unofficial national dish. It’s served year-round but is particularly prevalent during the holidays – especially Christmas and Three Kings Day, marked on Jan. 6. But it’s not just roasted pig, because “Lechón asado” is a craft, a ritual, a celebration. The result, is a whole animal, its skin brown and crisp, the meat beneath moist and juicy. Each morsel tastes of smoke and spice. The pork is customarily accompanied by “arroz con gandules” (rice with pigeon peas), “guineos” (green bananas) and “morcilla”.
Lechones (pigs) were originally brought to the island from Spain during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage in 1493, and they have been a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine ever since. Add to that a change in rule from native Taíno to Spanish to the American commonwealth it is today, and Puerto Rico’s eclectic menu reflects its historic roots with Caribbean flare. In addition to pork, a “lechonera” serve mile-high platters of traditional dishes, from “amarillos” (sweet plantains) to “morcilla” (blood sausage). So what is a “lechonera”? Well, essentially a restaurant that specializes in roasted pork from a spit, or as Cindy Price wrote in the New York Times, “A party with a pig.”
Guavate: Home of the Lechón
Guavate, located south of San Juan, is not the only place on the island for find great “lechón”, but it’s probably the most well known. The road up is just lined with “lechoneras”, or in simple words, a mini pork highway. Everyone you ask will have their favorite place. Some people like the first ones you come to on the road – delicious and easy in / easy out, but you can keep going up and up. The road eventually tees at Road 763. Turn right and then you will start getting into the serious “lechoneras”. Here is where the street party is – tons of people, bands and food (usually Saturday, Sunday and holidays).