Photography & Story ~ Stephen Hamilton
Food Stylist - Vanessa Dubiel
Prop Stylist - Lorrie Jamiolkowski
Design - Judith Mara
Puerto Rico: ocean breezes, palm trees overhead, sand between your toes and a big, fat pig roasting over an open fire. Exactly what my travel dreams are made of.
South of San Juan is a tree-lined, two lane highway dubbed by locals as the La Ruta del Lechón (the pork highway). This road, made famous by the likes of James Beard and Anthony Bourdain, guides you to Guavate, an area renown for roasting whole pigs in mass.
This is true road food. Before I saw anything, I smelled it – like the best smoky bacon in the world. It felt as if Puerto Rico was welcoming me to a big backyard barbeque.
Lechón asado (roast pig), has skin as golden and crisp as an ocean sunset. Underneath is meat that is moist, tender and each morsel tastes of smoke and spice. Throw in a chilled Mojito and you have perfection.
“A great idea [lechón asado] that will never be anything less than great..." –Anthony Bourdain
When asked, the cooks claim the lechón are not roasted with complicated spice rubs, but are prepared simply with salt, pepper, oregano and culantro (cilantro’s cousin). And they say that some cooks add secret spices … but, of course, that’s a secret.
Side dishes like rice, cassava, breadfruit, sweet potato, blood sausage, and plantains are as traditional as the lechón asado.