Rotisserie-stalls selling lechon manok (roast chicken flavored with either screwpine [pandan] or lemongrass [tanglad] and inihaw na liempo (roast pork belly, simply salted and peppered) have been a common sight along city roads since the mid-1980s here in the Philippines. These were, essentially, a spin off of the classic litsunan (lechon stands where spit-roasted pigs are sold either whole or chopped up in more manageable portions and sold by weight) and gave people of modest means a taste of that classic celebratory roast without spending too much.
Like the siu mei (meat roasters) shops of Hong Kong and Taiwan, they provide ready roasts for either the harried materfamilias who hasn’t the time to cook or for people who need to bring something tasty for potlucks, picnics, and other gatherings.
In the early years, one could only choose between the Baliwag Litson Manok and the Andok’s chain. Today, however, diners are spoiled for choice. The old-school brands of the ’80’s have been joined by supermarket rotisseries and the Chooks to Go chain touted by the folks behind Bounty Fresh poultry. There are even imports from the provinces: Manok ni Senor Pedro hails from Cebu and Botoy’s from Cagayan de Oro. And there’s another new player on the market which also hails from the Queen City of the South: Mr. Liempo.
As it name suggests, Mr. Liempo’s primary stock in trade is roast pork belly, though it does sell roast chicken, too. Trust me on this one: Mr. Liempo’s pork belly is a definite must-try. Why? Believe it or not, it tastes like really good bacon! That’s right: think of a proper, smoke-cured slab of belly-bacon, just mildly salted – just enough to bring out the innate sweetness of the meat. The meat is perfectly succulent and will do well without the usual sweet-spicy liver sauce or even sinamak (spiced vinegar). My only issue would be the skin: it’s not as crackling-crisp as those on other belly roasts. But, what the hey: with rich flavors and the right texture, the crackling issue is almost negligible. And, at only P 150.00 (US$ 3.56) for a slab that handily serves six (and then some), it’s an excellent buy.
(As for the chicken, it’s good, too. But really: it’s the pork you’ll come back for.)