Lechon Po’ Boy

published Mar 1, 2022
summer
Lechon Po' Boy recipe

This Filipino-Cajun po' boy consists of aromatic fork-tender lechon pork served on French rolls with lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad.

Serves6-10

Prep30 minutes

Cook3 hours

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hero shot of lechon po boy on counter
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

As a Filipina chef in New Orleans, it’s easy to combine Filipino and Cajun flavors considering the extensive history of Filipinos in Louisiana. Louisiana is the original settlement of Filipinos in America — they were here before it was the United States. The Manila Village fisherman, who lived and worked south and west of New Orleans, contributed dried shrimp to Louisiana’s unique food history and culture.

During Carnival or Mardi Gras is my favorite time to make Filipino-Cajun dishes. Family and friends get together to celebrate the end of the pre-Lenten season and food is an integral part of these gatherings. Lechon po’ boys are one of my favorite dishes to make because the sandwiches are great for groups and they’re easy to make at home.

Lechon — a whole suckling pig stuffed with aromatics and spit-roasted for hours — is an iconic celebration dish in the Philippines. The skin is constantly basted with soy sauce until it’s reddish-brown and very crisp. On the NOLA side of the equation is the po’ boy, the popular Louisiana sandwich that’s built on French bread and piled high with all sorts of things: oysters, eggplant, shrimp, french fries. Once the sandwich is loaded up, it’s often topped with mayonnaise, tomatoes, pickles, and shredded lettuce. The po’ boy gets its name from a time in the 1920s where the Martin Brothers, who owned a French market & coffee stand, decided to make “poor boy” sandwiches to feed the striking streetcar workers at Electric Street Railway in New Orleans. The first poor boy loaves were made by African Americans in a bakery owned by Italian immigrants.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How I Made My Lechon Po’ Boy

For the lechon, I swap out the whole pig for a five-pound, bone-in pork shoulder with skin. I make an aromatic rub of lemongrass, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper in the food processor; rub that on the pork shoulder; then roast the pork in a covered roasting pan with some water. While the meat roasts, I baste it with a generous amount of soy sauce to create that crispy, delicious skin. I shred the fork-tender meat with more soy sauce and chop up the skin.

It takes about three hours for the pork to cook, which gives you plenty of time to get your sandwich ingredients ready. Here, I make a bright, tangy tomato and cucumber salad, chop up some Romaine lettuce, and toast the French rolls. When it’s time to build the sandwiches, I spread a generous amount of mayonnaise (I prefer Blue Plate) on the roll bottoms, top with some shredded meat and a few pieces of crispy skin, then top with the lettuce and the tomato salad. Invite your favorite friends and family and it’s a party!

Lechon Po' Boy recipe

This Filipino-Cajun po' boy consists of aromatic fork-tender lechon pork served on French rolls with lettuce, cucumber, and tomato salad.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 3 hours

Serves 6-10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the pork:

  • 1

    (2-inch) piece ginger

  • 1

    stalk lemongrass

  • 1/4 cup

    garlic cloves (about 10)

  • 4

    bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    whole black peppercorns

  • 1

    (5-pound) bone-in pork shoulder with skin

  • 1 cup

    water, plus more as needed

  • 1 cup

    soy sauce

For the sandwiches:

  • 6 to 10

    (6-inch) French sandwich rolls

  • 1

    large head romaine lettuce

  • 1 pint

    cherry tomatoes

  • 1

    small red onion

  • 1

    medium cucumber

  • 1/4 cup

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 to 10 tablespoons

    mayonnaise, preferably Blue Plate, divided

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF.

  2. Prepare the following, adding each to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment as you complete it: Peel and coarsely chop 1 (2-inch) piece ginger (about 3 tablespoons). Trim and coarsely chop 1 lemongrass stalk. Peel 1/4 cup garlic cloves if needed.

  3. Add 4 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns. Pulse until finely chopped, about 20 (1-second) pulses.

  4. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Pat 5 pounds pork shoulder dry with paper towels and place in the pan. Rub all over with the garlic mixture. Place the pork shoulder skin-side up in a roasting pan and add 1 cup water. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.

  5. Bake for 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup soy sauce into a small bowl. Brush the pork shoulder all over with soy sauce. Cover again and bake for 30 minutes. Brush again with soy sauce, cover, and bake for 30 minutes more. Brush again with soy sauce one more time (for a total of 3 times).

  6. Bake uncovered, adding more water to the pan as needed, until the skin is crisp and meat is tender and pulls apart easily, about 1 1/2 hours more. If the skin is not crisp, continue baking as needed, checking every 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the sandwich ingredients.

  7. Split 6 to 10 French sandwich rolls in half with a serrated knife. Cut 1 large head romaine lettuce crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium bowl as you complete it: Halve 1 pint cherry tomatoes (or quarter if large), finely dice 1 small red onion, and seed and finely dice 1 medium cucumber.

  8. When the pork is ready, remove the skin and place on a clean cutting board. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces; discard the bones and any large chunks of fat. Drizzle any remaining soy sauce over the meat and toss to combine. Cut the skin into bite-sized pieces.

  9. Place the rolls cut-side up on a baking sheet (toast in batches if needed). Bake until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to the tomato mixture and toss to combine.

  10. Assemble the po-boys: Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on each bottom sandwich half. Top each with about 1/2 cup of the meat and a few pieces of skin, 1/2 cup romaine lettuce, and 1/4 cup of the tomato salad. Close the sandwiches with the top halves of the roll. Cut each sandwich in half with the serrated knife.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pork can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat in a low oven until warmed through.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover pork in an airtight or storage bag for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 1 month.