A suckling pig is a piglet fed on its mother's milk (i.e., a piglet which is still a "suckling"). The meat from suckling pig is pale and tender and the cooked skin is crisp and can be used for pork rinds. The texture of the meat can be somewhat gelatinous due to the amount of collagen in a young pig.
The suckling pig is one of the most popular dishes for fundraising dinners at clubs and churches. This is partly because it can be roasted with an excellent result using cheap equipment, such as a lawn-mower-sized barbecue pit or even just an ordinary cooking pot on a stove. It is also tasty and will feed a large number of people. There is no waste from the pig except for any cracked or broken bones.
In the traditional British Pork Pie, the filling is made from ground-up bits of roast pork leftover from making stock and a high proportion of gelatinous boned shoulder meat.
The suckling pig is popular in the United States and is also eaten throughout Latin America, and parts of Europe (e.g., France), Africa, China, Vietnam, Greece, and Portugal. In Asian countries, a whole roast piglet is sometimes served at special occasions such as weddings or New Year's Eve parties. In Italy, suckling pig is often roasted with aromatic herbs under a coating of onion, pancetta, and garlic.
It is also popular in the Philippines where lechon (derived from Spanish) means roast pig. The most common way this dish is prepared in the Philippines is spit-roasted over charcoal or roasted in an oven with marinated sauce poured on top. Roast piglet can also be served with soy sauce, vinegar, and chili pepper to give lechon manok. It is also popular in Latin American countries such as Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, and Cuba.
In Vietnamese cuisine suckling pigs are cooked in many ways; roasted (Vietnamese: "thịt heo nướng"), braised (Vietnamese: "thịt heo luộc"), boiled or used in soup, stir fried ("đùi gà"), etc. In the last case one can add sauce from fermented shrimp to give it a unique flavor.
In Okinawa, a piglet (shirokuma) is stuffed with rice and cooked in lard inside of a hollowed-out coconut or pineapple husk, then barbecued. This dish is called "ichan", and is served in various tapas bars throughout the Ryukyu Islands.
Global suckling pig production
Suckling pigs are a popular delicacy in many parts of the world. Production of suckling pigs is concentrated in a few key countries, including China, Spain, and the United States.
In China, suckling pigs are traditionally served on special occasions such as weddings and festivals. The dish is considered to be a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Spain is the largest producer of suckling pigs in the European Union, and the dish is popular in many regions of the country. In the United States, suckling pigs are most commonly served at Hawaiian luaus.
Suckling pigs are typically roasted whole, and they can be cooked in a variety of ways. The most popular method is to stuff the pig with herbs and spices, then roast it over an open fire. This cooking method allows the skin to become crispy, while the meat remains juicy and flavorful.