Lechona Tolimense is a traditional dish, originally from the Tolima department of Colombia, is often served on special occasions. This popular dish consists of a whole pork stuffed with rice, peas and spices , cooked in a brick oven for about ten to twelve hours.
Lechona was Mamita’s favorite Colombian dish and it was the main course at our Noche Buena, New Year’s Eve celebrations and at her birthday parties. The most important thing for Mamita was that the skin was reallly crispy.
Noche Buena and New Year’s Eve dinners at my grandmother’s house were filled with tables groaning under the immense amount of food piled on top of it and people bustling to get to it. Two different kinds of pork roast, lechona, tamales, buñuelos, natilla, hojuelas, arroz con leche, brevas caladas, and two or three salads. Memories that I will always treasure. Mamita passed away about 10 years ago and even though the loss is over-whelming, I can’t help but remember her with a smile. She was the best Grandmother any girl could ask for.
Lechona Tolimense is a delicious meal. My mom has a recipe to make a small Lechona at home using pork skin and I want to share it with you. Sorry, but I could not afford a whole pig and besides, my vegetarian husband would have had a fit if I brought home a pig 😉
- 2 pounds pork fatback skins
- 1/4 cup pork fat or lard
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sazon with azafran or color
- 3/4 cup peas
- 1 1/4 cups cooked white rice
- Salt and pepper
- 2 pounds pound pork meat, cut into small pieces
- In a medium sauce pan melt the pork fat or lard. Add the scallions and garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes.
- In a large bowl mix the pork meat, cooked rice, ground cumin, sazon , peas, , salt and pepper.
- Add the pork fat and onion mixture to the bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
- o assemble: Rinse the pork fat skin under cold water and pat dry. Lay the pork fat skin on a baking sheet or baking pan lined with foil, top with rice mixture. Start rolling the pork skin to enclose the rice and pork mixture completely. Tie with kitchen string to hold it together.
- Preheat the oven to 475 F.
- Bake for about 40 minutes uncovered to allow the skin to brown.Cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes more.
- Remove from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Carve the lechona after it has rested for at least 15 minutes. Serve with arepa, salted potatoes and lime wedges on the side.
- Note: If you want to see pictures of a traditional lechona made with a whole pig you can visit Nika’s blog here. If you are a vegetarian, I don’t recommend the pictures.