After visiting Lechonera Los Pinos, we drove back along Route 184 toward Hwy 52, the main road back to San Juan. I'd been looking for El Rancho Original, another lechonera that had good reviews, but saw that Lechonera Bruny's was the last chance to quickly sample another lechonera before getting back on the equivalent of a freeway.
So I pulled over for a quick stop. There were things I liked about this lechonera better than Los Pinos. The roasting pig was out front and easy to see. The "lechon master" was standing in front of it and I was able to ask for specific parts of the pig and have him cut it right there in front of me.
I asked for two pig cheeks and a half-pound of rib meat. When he went to the pig with his large carving knife, juices splattered on the fire below and created lots of steam and heat. The lechon master recoiled because of the heat when he was trying to carve off the cheek.
|Carving off cheek meat. Steam sprays up from the dripping juices.|
|The pig now missing a cheek.|
|With help, the lechon master goes for the cheek on the other side.|
|Here the lechon master carves a chunk out of the ribs.|
The cheek meat was incredible. Very soft and fatty. Unlike the skin from the pig at Los Pinos, this skin was much softer and edible. This pig was also more seasoned. The pigs at the lechoneras are marinaded with some combination of salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, cilantro (and other secret ingredients) that are rubbed into the carcass and incisions made in the skin. The spices were particularly prevalent in the rib meat and in some cases were too much.
|The cheek meat.|
|Carving up the rib meat.|
I'm glad we stopped at this second lechonera for a comparison. The differences were striking and there were aspects of each that I liked. I would love to go back to this area of the world again and do some more sampling. Food just doesn't get much better than this.