There’s nothing more bizarre than a suckling pig roasting on a spit with its cold, blackened eyes staring impassively toward nothing in particular. That is, unless you’re from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Hawaii, Indonesia, Philippines, or even parts of the American South. Sure, it’s not the prettiest sight, but lechón asado is a cherished centerpiece of many of our celebratory dishes, and it’s making its way to mainstream America’s collective living room as part of the Travel Channel program Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.
For his show, Zimmern has trekked the globe trying everything from rectal sausage in Kazakhstan to Jewish kishke on the streets of Philadelphia, and one episode the program’s upcoming season will be dedicated to a modest foodtruck parked on an unassuming — some might even say rough-around-the-edges — Mott Haven block in the South Bronx. Lechonera La Piraña is run by Aguadilla, Puerto Rico-native Angel “Papi Chulo” Jiménez, who sets up shop on the weekends when he’s off from his day job as a heating and air-conditioning tech.
Papi Chulo believes in his neighborhood and views his food truck as a way to strengthen community bonds in the beleaguered, crime-ridden South Bronx. He also happens to make a mean lechón, attracting pork fanatics from across the five boroughs each weekend and selling upwards of 500 pounds of meat before closing up shop for the week. Of course Papi Chulo’s menu doesn’t stop at lechón, and Zimmern was particularly smitten with his arroz con gandules, hailing their perfection in a recent interview with the Daily News. Then there are plenty of the pastelillos and ensalada de camarones to round things out and keep customer’s plates overflowing.
Zimmern’s Lechonera La Piraña episode will air on the Travel Channel in June. Keep an eye out for your local listings.