My goodness! Another sinfully delicious thing to come by the queen city! And move aside Zubuchon, Celias, Ayers, CnT or anything else! Here comes a new player to titillate the taste buds! Yep, they call themselves, Cebu's Original Lechon Belly! Am not sure if there is already a copycat or a non-original this early hehe!
I was on some errands a few days ago over at the Park Mall when I chanced upon this little stall near the comfort rooms. Yep, that outside northeast corner near Coffee Dream and Japengo Yakiniku. It was rather busy a stall with folks lining up. So the curious in me went to check what the thing was. Oh, a take-out counter for lechon. Looking further on, it was not the usual lechon those folks were so crazy to line up for. Signage said lechon belly and boneless. Whoa!
Meaning no more ribs to make my order heavy to the scale with less of the meat? Whohohoa! That sounded interesting, so I asked some customers if the thing was really good. One of those ladies told me her children had very clear “instructions” that she was not to show up at home without a kilo of this lechon belly. Mighty demanding kids hehe, and I think that was proof enough that this lechon belly is worth a try. But I had no more time, much less to wait in line. Oh, dont be deceived by that picture. Most of the folks-in-waiting were scattered around like where I stood to snap this photo. They had numbers which the cashier calls out for anyway. So, I just told me myself and I, that soon, soonest I should taste this lechon belly. Guess what, as I left the mall, I saw at the northwest corner that there is another but bigger stall from the same company!
Things falling into place? Yeah. Today, I decided I have had enough of the home PC’s keyboard acting up more than often. Tapping on the letter “P” does not always work as expected, and getting to be annoying. The pesky thing needs to be whacked so it would work. Argh! So I set out for an afternoon visit to the nearest CD-R King. Well, nearest is that one at J Centre Mall, but I am not ready to be back there yet, and experience once again the slow neophyte katangahan of their sales ladies. That one at IT Park is near too. But something told me it should be the Park Mall. So I did! Yeah, yeah… somewhere back of my lowly brain was probably screaming lechon bellyyyyyy!
So, new keyboard and other gadgetary nonsenseseses in hand, I excitedly walked to Cebu's Original Lechon Belly kiosk at the northwestern corner of the mall. Yeah, this is the side with seats if you want to dine-in. Near/beside that online casino thing, whatever that is! OMG! Linyaaaaaa! AS IN, I think I was 17th in that line. But I tested my patience this time – if only to prove am not that old hehe!
This line goes east to west or right to left howsoever you may want to describe it. You pass by the manong who chops the lechon for you and set it aside as the line goes further more to the left where you tell the cashier how many kilos you ordered, whether it is for dine-in or take out, spicy or not, and what else do you ever need aside from the lechon belly like coke, water and/or puso! Yes Joana, just like many a Cebuano sidewalk eatery, this place does not serve rice in cups, plates or trays! You instead get and eat puso with your lechon belly as most Cebuanos like it! Puso is rice anyway, it just comes in its fancy meticulous diamond-like presentation made of coconut fronds!
14 minutes from the time I joined the line until the manong chopper got to ask me how many kilos I wanted to get! 17 minutes after that until I was face-to-face with the cashier! And exactly PHP150 for 1/4 kilo of lechon belly, 3 pieces of puso and an 8oz bottle bottle of coke! Not bad, if only to satisfy my curious taste buds! Well yeah, if this was at another place and time, I would have quickly bolted away. But the lechon belly, I must try. So I patiently waited! See?! Am not YET that old! I still have the patience! Its a virtue y'know! Whaaaahehehe!
Hey, when I said I wanted 4 pcs of the puso, cashier hollered to her girls to ask if they still in fact have any more puso. My eyeballs rolled and I said “you better still have or I will have to ask you to produce rice in whatever way you can”! Good that one girl exclaimed “daghan pa”. But then the cashier said they sell puso at three-for-ten-pesos, so I said give me three. Hmm, okay my customer service trainees, she was that time a vivid example of how a service provider gets pressured and stressed! She was already too busy in her mind that she did not realize I could probably afford an extra single piece of puso at 3.50 or 4 pesos or even the expensive 5 pesos each as posted. She probably thought I may have wanted her to divide PHP10 into 3 that would result in that nightmarish amount of 3.3333333333 that would be a crazy thing to handle when looking for change!
One more thing… jolly and friendly as she is, this girl was not concentrating on her job that was to be cashier before anything else like being manager, coordinator etc. As she talked to me, she glanced at the manong chopper's counter and exclaimed loudly to herself “nganong kadaghan na ana”. So I told her “honey, manong is fast getting our orders ready, you are slow kay daghan ka aktibidades like manubag og cellphone, manawag sa pikas counter, mangutana og naa pa sila lechon, manubag og inquiries and so on”. I was looking at an overly red-lipped beautiful but loud girl who was from a group 5 persons behind me but went to the cashier to request if more of their wanted spicy lechon belly can be ordered from the other stall over at the other end of the mall. I was still looking at the overly red-lipped beautiful but loud girl when cashier said “mao gyud sir, sorry ha”! I think overly red-lipped beautiful but loud girl got what I meant so she backed out and returned to her place in the line. Intelligent after all!
Okay, eating time! But how do you get what you just ordered?! The anxious girls that I don't know if I should call them waitresses or service crews (is there a difference?) call out your number based on the receipt copy they get from the cashier who was being slowed by so many other aktibidades. So it is more on once you get your receipt, head over to the right side of the stall and the girls would be waiting with your order! One of them would even have time to show you which are vacant tables or which have available space for you to dine-in!
Verdict? Sinfully sumptuous!
But I need to tell you how this thing is eaten dine-in! Not an easy to fathom thing if you are not Cebuano. But good for you my dear folks, I already know how these things work! And its funny FUN!
First, if you notice there is some extra piece of transparent plastic that comes with your puso, don't throw it away thinking the crews just inadvertently placed something there. THAT is what you use to protect your bare hand from getting messy with oil and food as you must eat with at least a bare hand! There are no utensils and there is no running water nor basin to wash your hands after eating – unless you do it with your sodas or bottled water, or probably walk all the way to the comfort rooms – which is some distance and you'll have to pass by so many things including the mall entrance guards! In this Cebu's Original Lechon Belly kiosk, theirs are glove-like transparent plastic. They usually give just one – for the hand that you will expertly use to eat – but you can request for more if you want to use both hands touching all the mess hehe!
Second, there are condiments – for the Filipinos like me who cant seem to eat without those liquid additions like soy sauce, fish sauce or vinegar. These are placed at some tables (not all). So if your table does not have them, look at other tables and it is perfectly alright to borrow those bottles! The more proper way is to just pour what you need to your own sauce-dish and leave the bottle at which table it might be. Wherefore do those sauce-dishes come from? The “releasing counter”, where while the girls give out your orders, you see those little plastic saucers about 2 inches in diameter! Note: the suka (vinegar) best goes with this lechon belly thingy!
Third, and heed this… a 1/4 kilogram serving, cheap and herby delicious as it might be, is too much for just one person to eat, even if you are a glutton at times, like I am! For Filipinos, I mean – since we know many westerners consider half a pound as just fine! The girls there told me I should have ordered just the budget meal which is just a hundred grams of the lechon belly. I thought that was way too meager – for the takaw-tikim first-timer!
Fourth. Don't do this everyday! I say that not only to caution you, but also to remind my royal self! They are conveniently located alright, but the lechon belly is, like every other lechon, a sinfully delicious indulgence that teems with salty animal fats camouflaged in glorious herbs and spices! Fact is… am now just buying time, drinking a lot of beer and probably tea later just to make sure I still wake up tomorrow hehe! C'mon, I eagerly excitedly happily swooped down on that 1/4 kilogram as if there was no tomorrow! Hehe, after I felt a bit dizzy earlier in the evening… I better get something to burn dissolve or expel most of them! Awrhhh!
So there you are folks! Something new to bother your taste buds with. Its good! Something that tastes better than your usual lechon cebu, but definitely less than your herby Zubuchon or Balamban Liempo that already tastes like they were concocted by European chefs out of seemingly half the vegetable garden and half pork hehe. This one still tastes like lechon as we all know it. And there are no bones to be concerned about. And there is no “abaga” or “thigh part” that you commonly hear those girls at CnT asking if that was fine with you! And the “panit” (skin) is surprisingly crispy too. So what more can you crave for?!
Hey, most folks buy theirs “to go”. But I don't think this store is anywhere near ready to cater to those of us who keep hauling lechon cebu to Metro Manila and elsewhere. So don't expect them to have those ready boxes like CnT does. I saw that all they do for your take-out is place them in styro packs then shoot those into white plastic bags for you to handily take away. As of the moment, it looks like they'll be real busy trying to address the curious local buzz of locals wanting to sample what they have. In short, what I am trying to say is… wag nyo muna akong bulabugin magdala o magpadala ng mga yan to the metropolis. Hassle mag-balot ’no?! Just come down here and taste it… he hehe heee… heh!
Ayan… bisdak folks, go and taste it! All the rest, note and crave for it! My final take… better to buy it “to go” and binge in the car or at home! The kinamot thing is messy as you are in a mall.
They do have a hand-sanitizer if its any consolation hahaha!