For the “Foodprints” TV series on Spain, we flew to the Iberian Peninsula to present dishes that evolved from Spanish recipes—ensaymada, empanada, caldereta, adobo, puchero or cocido, cochinillo, among others.
Though I noted similarities, it is the use of ingredients and creativity of Filipino cooks that have turned these Hispanic dishes into our very own.
I had been to Madrid, the Spanish capital, but don’t recall much of the experience. All I remember is roaming the streets looking for Torinal and dining in several restaurants.
I also remember eating at El Botin, the oldest restaurant in Madrid known for its cochinillo. This is a 21-day-old roasted suckling pig baked in 600-degree oven. For appetizer, I had the angulas or baby eel sauteed in garlic and olive oil.
On my last trip, I saw the process of cooking cochinillo— herbs, spices, seasoning and white wine were added to this roast.
When it was laid out before me, I was given a glass of superior Spanish red wine. The pig’s skin was very crisp. Between the skin and the meat was a thin layer of melt-in-your-mouth fat. And underneath was a very tender flavorful meat.
When I took that first bite, I thought I died. There was a crunch in the thin layer of skin, then the melting fat and tender meat, plus baked potatoes on the side—patay! Super, super sarap!
I try hard not to eat lechon often, not because I don’t like it, but just to stay healthy. Or sometimes it makes you feel good just to say that you’re not eating lechon.
Back in Manila, I had heard about Tinee de Guzman’s cochinillo but have never tried it.
The TV crew went to shoot Tinee making his version for our Christmas special. I told myself, taste it just for the camera.
But being the weak person that I am when it comes to food, I failed again.
I was led into a room of locally made, charcoal-fired ceramic brick ovens (Jerry Yu, 0920-5760256). This is Tinee’s laboratory where he does all his experiments on cochinillo.
It was also here where he created this winner.
I looked at his cochinillo and it so reminded me of El Botin. I knew my determination was going to fail again.
When it was time to taste it before the camera, Tinee took out a platito and started cutting the crunchy skin with it. It was my first time to see it done in front of me. He gave me the skin and I had to show my reaction on camera.
I didn’t have to play-act. It was so delicious. I was also glad my director, Cris Bilbao, loved to say, “Nice shot, but just for safety, another take.” I love her for that.
Even after the scene, I was still having a “one-on-one” with this new discovery.
Like El Botin’s, the skin of Tinee’s cochinillo has thin and crispy skin; fat underneath the skin is minimal, and the meat melts in your mouth.
Tinee’s seasonings are different from El Botin’s and I simply love it. I always zero in on the ribs, but the meat all throughout is so tender, any part is good.
I tried what Tinee said was his daughter’s favorite part, the leg. Sarap din. Eat it like a drumstick. Yum! I still dream about his cochinillo.
He uses a three-week-old piglet for its tender meat. He has beautiful packaging. The roast comes in a nipa basket with proper ventilation to retain the tenderness.
Timing is important. So you must tell Tinee when you plan to serve it. This “lechon artist” is very particular about the crispiness.
I don’t blame him. He wants to maintain quality.
There are two cochinillos that have made me break my “I won’t eat” vow—Margie de la Rama’s, and now Tinee’s. I love it!
Pinoy cuisine has indeed evolved, in many cases, even better than the original. I enjoy discovering new ones.
I’ll skip the lechon next time.
Tinee de Guzman’s cochinillo: 0917-5251025.
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