Dining on a budget: Jojo’s Lechon

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By Lafayette Hight

My knowledge of Filipino culture isn’t
incredibly extensive, but as I drove by Jojo’s Lechon I instantly
recognized the word for roasted pork and decided to give it a try.

Jojo’s is a fast-food restaurant on Huntington Drive, with
about a dozen tables and a similar number of prepared dishes in a
display case.

The dishes weren’t labeled but the type of food was pretty
easy to identify. Unfortunately, the menu wasn’t too helpful. Jojo’s
has a lot of items available for catering but the menu doesn’t exactly
correspond to what’s available.

I decided upon a three-item combo meal for $6.25, and then
began to browse the food choices which included fried fish, stir-fried
squid, a few varieties of chicken and red meats.

I selected a chicken dish I later learned was Chicken
Adobo, a mix of stir-fried shrimp with vegetables and then began
looking for a pork dish. After all, going to a restaurant called
lechon, and not trying the lechon would have been like going to the
former Pup ‘N Taco restaurants and ordering a hamburger. Or dining at
Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for the first time, and eating a steak.

One of the largest trays in the display case had meat in a
dark colored sauce, so I asked my server what it was. He told me the
traditional Filipino name, but it flew past me so quickly that I asked
him to spell it for me.

Instead, he said, “Some people call it chocolate pork.”

Excellent, I thought, since I was looking for a pork dish to try.

I
tried the Chicken Adobe first and it was excellent. It appeared to have
been made from a whole chicken, chopped into pieces small enough to
handle as finger foods. The combination of spices in the gravy was
amazing. I enjoyed it so much that the first thing I did when I got in
front of a computer was do a Google search for a recipe.

It’s that good.

Second, I tried the chocolate pork, which I liked as well, but the spices weren’t as vibrant as those in the chicken dish.

As I was eating the pork I noticed that the consistency of the gravy was similar to a roux, the base of most French cuisine.

You
may know that a roux is simply cooking oil and flour which are stirred
in a pot or skillet over a low heat until the flower is a dark, rich
brown – similar to the color of mahogany. I usually make one for gumbo,
or other French stews, and when a freshly-made roux is added to the
final dish it tends to clump up at first, and needs to simmer for
several hours before it becomes a uniform consistency. Until then,
however, the roux is a thin layer on top of the dish.

This is how I interpreted it.

And I couldn’t have been more wrong.

But
first, the shrimp with vegetables dish. Like in many Asian cuisines,
the shrimp are whole. It was simple and good. The combination plates
come with steamed rice.

Now back to the pork. About an hour after my meal, I
learned that “chocolate pork” is actually called dinuguan, which means
pork blood stew. It is a dish made with pork blood, entrails and meat.

So now I’m on the fence. On one hand, if my server had told
me, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. On the other hand, who knew
that blood and entrails could taste so good?

Jojo’s Lechon is at 1112 Huntington Drive, Duarte.

lafayette.hight@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2764