My mom (an extremely meticulous eater, and a great cook) and I took on an exciting journey of blind taste testing and ranking the most notable lechon manok in the Philippines based on these categories:
As a rule, we didn't eat them with it's accompanying sauce to make sure we're really tasting it with #NoFilter because we like to #LiveAuthentic. With that, we've combined our scores to achieve this definitive ranking.
5. Sr. Pedro
We honestly had high hopes for this one because the brand is named after a FREAKING SAINT. The chicken straight up smelled like it bathed in soy sauce right before hitting the grill, which was not good. And it sure tasted like that, too. The meat was bland and the skin, which was suppose to be the holy grail (!!!) was just salty. My mom took a moment of silence after her first bite and said, "I don't like this." End of discussion.
I grew up hearing people raving about Andok's, that's why I was so surprised when I found out it got such a low rating. WTF happened, Andok's? Like many things in life, their lechon manok was simply disappointing and didn't live up to expectations. I'm sorry, Andok's lovers, but it smelled like a bullion cube and "tastes like artificial chicken," according to my mom. Whatever that means.
Reyal definitely didn't look like your regular lechon manok. It didn't have that familiar glaze that says "Hey, come get me, I'm yummy AF," but the hints of lemon actually make it quite tasty. It's not the best out there, but it'll do. It smells kinda funky, which is unsettling for a chicken lechon, but it's not necessarily a deal breaker for me.
2. Uling Roasters
We literally can't say anything bad about Uling Roasters. It was juicy inside, nicely cooked, and quite spicy—which we like. The only thing though, is that I don't think I'll be looking ~specifically~ for this particular brand when I crave lechon manok. I mean, if it's there, then I'd definitely have some and enjoy it. Uling roasters is like your reserved bae in case you hit 40 and you're still single.
1. Chooks-To-Go and Baliwag Lechon Manok
YESSSSSS IT'S A TIE! And we can explain.
First of all, Chooks' aesthetic is the epitome of the 100% emoji. We literally said "WOOOOOW" the moment we laid our eyes on it. Chooks is the bae you'd be proud to introduce to your parents because it's THAT. DAMN. BEAUTIFUL. The smell, though, isn't quite as good as how it looks. It smelled like instant noodles, something you'd eat when you're sick. But just like the best things in life, the good qualities of outweigh the bad ones. The flavor was the saving grace. It's sweet, even resembling the taste of ham—which I personally am not really into?? But I figured it would be great to serve during holidays??? And Filipinos love anything sweet??? And my mom loved it??? So, yeah, nice one, Chooks-To-Go.
Baliwag Lechon Manok
The blind taste test shenanigan became kinda pointless when we were served Baliwag. I grew up eating this lechon manok, which may or may not make me a little biased, but when I smelled and tasted it, I felt like home. I literally could live inside of this chicken and eat my way out. The flavor is just right, and the aroma? Oh my God. But of course, just like your significant other, something this good can't be too perfect and it might be hiding something. Indeed, when we inspected the meat near its bones, we found out it wasn't cooked well. So definitely, unlike Chooks, don't serve this on special occasions. But that won't stop me. I won't regret getting salmonella for this lechon. I've been known to take risks for the things I love anyway.
I honestly thought that no matter what the brand, lechon manok would still be good. But I couldn't be any more wrong. If anything, this taste test only confirmed my love for my bae (Baliwag Lechon Manok), and let me discover a different brand I've now come to love (Chooks-To-Go). Good thing these chickens aren't the jealous type because I'm totally okay with two-timing them.
As for the others... well, I guess there's a reason why some people like them. You know, different fowls for different folks? Lol yeah, so anyway, like all the things we want in life, it's important to know what you deserve and you go get it. You know what they say, when life gives you a soy sauce-slathered chicken, don't settle demand for a glistening and best tasting one. Or something like that.