Suckling pig Asian style

By Patrick Stuart[email protected]

This week finds me away from the Algarve in Manila on a business trip. I fell in love with this country some seven or eight years ago when, on a family holiday, the gastronomic highlight was suckling pig eaten further south on the island of Bohol (where the earthquake struck this week).

The neighbouring island of Cebu enjoys similar fame here in the Philippines as does the Bairrada region of Portugal for the quality of its suckling pig.

I picked up a recipe whilst there and sometimes use it when roasting a whole (small) pig at home in my wood burning oven, rubbing and basting the meat with a mixture of star anise, garlic and soy sauce to give it an Asian twist.

In the Algarve, there are a few good suckling pig restaurants and we can often find it ready cooked for sale at the deli counter of supermarkets. But I’ve never tasted it as good as on that first trip to the Philippines. Something I have tried to find here in Manila so far without success.

Even without an oven big enough to cook a whole baby pig, it is quite easy to cook at home adding the Asian flavours – pork and star anise are a marriage made in heaven.

Using a domestic oven, the trick is to cook the legs and shoulders separately, longer and slower like a normal roast. Then the body, where most of the choice skin is to be found, and then the tender loin chops, can be cooked fast and at blisteringly high heat. Alternatively, just buy some ready-cooked suckling pig and baste it with a mix of garlic, sesame oil, ground star anise, soy sauce and perhaps a touch of chilli.