Lechón at Johnny Air Mart – NYC
A few weeks ago, Eating in Translation tweeted that Johnny Air Mart would start having roast pig on Fridays. The following Friday I was there, immediately after work. Unfortunately, they had grilled pork skewers but roast pig was nowhere to be found. It turns out Johnny Air Mart has lechón (roast suckling pig) every other Saturday (starting at 11:10am) and I just missed it the previous Saturday. I would have to wait another week.
The next weekend, as soon as I woke up, I put on my clothes and told Alvin (David’s cousin who was visiting from out-of-town) that I was going out for roast pig. Having stayed with us before, he didn’t seem surprised.
Shortly after, I returned with half a pound of lechón ($13.99/lb.) and we dug in. The meat was insanely tender, slightly sticky, and moist. People who complain that pork is tough never had lechón. Flavor-wise, it was subtle, but far from bland. The man carving up the little piggy made a point of telling me the pigs are always cooked over charcoal, never in the oven. According to him, if a pig is roasted in the oven, only the outside ends up tasting good. Not sure if this was the reason why, but the meat was indeed porkalicious throughout. Served on the side was a tangy lechón sauce for dipping. Although made of liver, it wasn’t very heavy and cut the richness of the pork. I was told the sauce is good with anything greasy and/or fried. However, the best part about the lechón was the sweet crackly pieces of amber skin. It was like pork candy. Next time I’ll be buying a full pound just for the extra skin.
I also bought a few other goodies to try out. Puto, a squishy steamed rice cake, looked similar to my favorite Korean rice cake made with alcohol (jeung pyun, 증편), but was more bready without the sour alcoholic taste.
I wanted the chicken empanadas ($1 each) to be good, but unfortunately, the one I got was dry and crumbly, inside and out.
In contrast, the turrón ($2.50 for 3), far from disappointed. It’s a spring roll stuffed with a halved plantain (referred to as a banana at the store, but is actually made with a plantain), coated with sugar, and fried. Caramelized sugar on anything fried never hurts, especially crunchy plantain spring rolls. I’m currently quite obsessed with these little guys. So far I’ve gotten them two weeks in a row, and each time they were so good I tried feeding them to the people around me. I like to share the deliciousness. So far no success. David doesn’t like anything remotely banana-like, and Alvin seemed genuinely scared by my freakish turrón excitement.
Lechón will be available again next week. Get there early. They sell out in a few hours. But if you like to sleep in, don’t fret my fellow lazy bastards. On a recent turrón run, I found out you can reserve a pound of lechón if you let them know in advance. Sometimes it pays to be a freak.
Johnny Air Mart
214 Avenue A (b/n 13th & 14th St; map)
NY, NY 10009