Lechon: You’ll have to be a stronger vegetarian than me…

For us, one of the biggest parts of travelling is always the food.

It seems that most major destinations have at least one local dish they are known for. In Puerto Rico that may very well be the whole pig roasted on a spit called lechon.

As the title suggests, I am a vegetarian. Without going into too many details, I have decided that we eat way too much stuff that is unhealthy, unsustainable, unethical, environmentally irresponsible, and just plain gross when you find out the facts about industrial farming. I also do my best not to be one of those vegetarians. I won’t force my beliefs on you, and I will do my best not to bring up the topic at all unless you ask.  However, like many vegetarians, my habits come with a long list of qualifiers and exceptions, travel being the most obvious. Puerto Rico is rather friendly to the casual vegetarian, especially if you’re okay with being a bit more laid back. The staples of the island are beans and plantains, and the tropical environment leaves no shortage of fruits and veggies. It is easy to avoid meat in its more obvious forms. (Don’t get too upset when you discover a little pork fat in your beans. It’s not worth it.)

This is besides the point. When in Puerto Rico, eat the meat!

At least make a point to visit the Pork Highway in Guavate. We chose Lechonera Bruni, but as soon as you pull off the main highway, you’ll be confronted with many many options. From what we could tell, they were all offering pretty much the same fare, whole roasted pig, some sides, and cold beer. We had been warned that there are times when the food is gone by midday, but we arrived in the afternoon and there seemed to be plenty left. Just find a parking spot (you may need to be creative) and walk up to the closest restaurant. The lechoneras are open air and fairly informal, almost to a point that makes it a bit confusing. While we were waiting in line to choose our meal, someone pulled us out of the line and processed our order completely separate from the other guests. We couldn’t tell if this was some way of speeding up the line, or preventing confused tourists from tying things up at the cashier. Either way, we got our food, and it was great.

Even if you have had a whole roasted hog, this will probably be a bit different. There is nothing BBQ about the preparation, simply a long slow roast on the spit after which pieces are hacked off and served without further dressing. I think we could have specified which parts of the pig we wanted, but our plate came with what seemed like a pretty good variety of bits and pieces. Obviously is was good, why else would I dedicate a whole post to it? Just how good it was is hard to convey. Take your pick of any great descriptors in the culinary thesaurus. It was moist, it was smokey. It was also crispy and sweet. Wonderfully seasoned, yet unadulteratedly pure. Just damn good.

The obvious attraction to the Pork Highway is the lechon, but there is another fairly unique offering as well, morcilla. Also known as blood sausage, morcilla is pretty much what the name implies, a mixture of the pig’s blood along with rice and seasoning. I know that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, but trust me, it is really good. Think of cajun style boudin but with a Caribbean twist. Also worth a little room on your plate.

Here’s my list of blog entries for Puerto Rico.

  1. Vieques: The Island We Couldn’t Leave
  2. El Yunque: Spanish for “The Yunque”
  3. Cabo Rojo: Southwestern Puerto Rico
  4. Lechon: You’ll have to be a stronger vegetarian than me…
  5. The Western Coast: Boqueron & Bacalaito, Mayagüez & Maize, and Rincón
  6. Bosque Estatal De Guajataca, y la cueva del viento: Guajataca State Forest, and the Cave of the Wind
  7. So, this guy has a waterfall in his backyard…
  8. Arecibo Observatory
  9. Old San Juan

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