Dear Mr. Gold:
I’m looking to purchase a whole suckling pig, and although I found some online vendors, I can’t seem to find a local source in Los Angeles. Considering how many Chinese and Filipinos there are in this city, I am baffled at how hard it’s been to find an appropriate butcher. While you’re at it, I would be grateful if you could also suggest a few restaurants where I might be able to order suckling pig without having to order a whole animal.
—Kathy, Santa Monica
I share your affection for suckling pig, which when done right is one of the most glorious substances on Earth. I have fond memories of the tiny pigs in Segovia so tender that the waiter ostentatiously cuts them with a dinner plate; of the suckling pig that Christian Delouvrier used to cook at Lespinasse in New York, and of a suckling pig Mark Peel once cooked in the first bread oven at La Brea Bakery. Most of the better dim sum places serve suckling pig, some of it quite good: I like the pig at Elite in Monterey Park; the pig at Mission 261 in San Gabriel isn’t quite as soft and sweet as it was a few chefs ago, but it is still formidable. Lucques often has suckling pig on the menu, especially this time of year — call.
If you’re planning to drag your piggies all the way home, I’ve had good luck with the roast suckling pigs from the Cantonese restaurant Triumphal Palace in Alhambra, which still may be the standard in the San Gabriel Valley. The Filipino shop Eva’s Lechon, on Third near Western in Koreatown, is a dependable source for delicious Filipino pig, either whole or parted out. And as for a raw pig for cooking, I’d call whatever butcher you have a relationship with and have him or her special-order one a couple of days in advance. I’ve used Alexander’s Prime Meats in the Howie’s market in San Marino, but Huntington Meats & Sausage in the Farmers Market, any of the 99 Ranch Markets, Harvey Guss Meat Co. and probably even Gelson’s can get it for you with a couple of days’ notice.