Sisig has been so well-loved that it has been transformed into sandwiches, tacos and burritos. But nothing beats good ol’ Pampanga Sisig served hot on a sizzling plate.
MarQuee Mall in Angeles City, Pampanga, recently featured this classic dish in Big Bite! The Northern Food Festival, a three-day food fair that celebrates the food of the north. During the opening ceremony on Oct. 16, a cook-off was held at MarQuee Park where three homegrown chefs showed off their best sisig recipes.
Chef Sau del Rosario served Angeles Sisig Babi, the traditional Kapampangan pork sisig using chopped maskara or pig’s face that had been boiled till tender and grilled till crisp. It was flavored with soy sauce, margarine, calamansi, lots of onions and some fresh labuyo for a kick of heat.
The secret to good sisig, he said, is boiling the meat half-way and finishing it in the oven or grill. Overcooking makes the meat soggy, and the dish loses texture. Chopped chicken liver or liver spread may be added for flavor.
The sisig he served is what’s usually called the “wet” sisig, served warm and savory. Del Rosario said the original sisig used to be served cold, like kilawin, and was “never crunchy.”
“Sisig was eaten by expectant mothers, because the cartilage from the tenga was believed to help the fetus develop strong bones,” he said. “Then sisig evolved and became a lot of things—people cracked egg on it, then put chicharon to make it crunchy.”
He recalled being a student in Angeles, having beer and eating sisig at the original railroad sisig shop of Aling Lucing—the former Lucita Cunanan who came up with the sumptuous recipe that eventually earned her the title “Sisig Queen.”
Del Rosario recalled: “I know her personally; we used to dine in her shop by the railroad. She sold barbecued pig’s ears, and one day chopped them up, seasoned them with Knorr and came up with the best sisig.
“People from all over started eating by the riles; there would be Mercedez-Benz cars around. But it wasn’t sustained because, suddenly, there were 10 sisig shops serving the same thing, and the place became rowdy.”
He added that the original sisig was creamed not with mayonnaise but with mashed pig’s brain, which made it delectable but easily perishable.
Sounds icky? Not till you try chef Jackie dela Cruz’s dinakdakan, made extra special with seasoned pig’s brain. Dela Cruz is from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, and, for Big Bite, he served the Ilocano version of the sisig.
“For dinakdakan, I also used the tongue with the pig’s face. These are boiled and flavored with ginger, red onions, chili and salt,” he explained. He added sukang Iloko for acidity and extra flavor.
After mixing everything, he tossed the sisig in coddled pig’s brain to make the flavors come together. Dela Cruz said mayonnaise can be used but “brain is still the best.”
Chef Danilo Maramba of Dagupan City, meanwhile, served his version of bangus sisig using deboned bangus flavored with chopped onions, ginger and garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce and mayo.
His tip: Fry the bangus cubes first for a chunkier sisig dish. Then mix with the spices.
MarQuee Mall has been holding the Big Bite festival since 2012, said general manager Mark Sablan, and people always look forward to the food bazaar with about a hundred stalls selling homegrown products.
He works with the Department of Trade in Industry to curate the list of exhibitors, each selling delicacies from the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Central Luzon regions.
Going around, we saw freshly fried Ilocos empanada, bagnet and Vigan longganisa. We also spotted all kinds of chicharon— chicharon bulaklak, chicken-skin chicharon, pork skin, and the hardcore and super tasty chicharon with laman.
Want seafood instead? There were steamed crabs sold by the piece, halabos na hipon and crispy talangka in cups, plus rows and rows of dried fish, which is perfect with garlic-loaded sinangag.
And for daing meals, condiments such as bottled burong hipon from Navarro’s, Susie’s Cuisine Atsara and the bestseller Aslam Atbu spiced cane vinegar were available.
Desserts and snacks were aplenty, too. There were peanut brittle and chocolate crinkles from Baguio, and bags full of those tiny, white Calasiao puto from Pangasinan.
We also spotted Apung Diung Araro
Cookies and Nancy Balls from Guagua, plus kakanin, suman, bibingka and puto bumbong.
After a day of sisig and sweets, we checked out the booths serving Benguet
arabica coffee, lemongrass herbal tea and ginger-turmeric tea—a relaxing ending to a comforting Pinoy meal.
Angeles Sisig Babi
by chef Sau del Rosario
1 kilogram pig’s ears, snout and face
1 kg pork belly
4 large onion, minced
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
5 tbsp fresh chili
10 tbsp vinegar
10 piece calamansi
1 cup margarine
250 grams chicken liver
12 c water
2 tsp salt
2 large onions
Simmer pig’s head in a pot of water with onions, bay leaf, peppercorn for 1 hour or until tender.
Remove the boiled ingredients from the pot, then drain excess water.
Grill the boiled pig’s ears and pork belly until done. Chop the pig’s ears and pork belly into fine pieces
In a wide pan, melt the butter or margarine. Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the chicken liver and crush while cooking it in the pan.
Add the chopped pig parts and pork belly. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi and chili. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Makes 6-8 plates.
Dagupan Bangus Sisig
by chef Danilo Maramba
1 boneless bangus
1 large white onion
½ tin liver spread
30 g butter
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ginger powder
Fry boneless bangus in hot oil till brown and crisp. Cool and flake into small pieces.
Toss flaked bangus in liver spread. Set aside.
Melt butter in a wok over medium heat. Add chopped onions and sweat until transparent. Add bangus mixture and toss till almost done (roughly 3 minutes). Add garlic and ginger powder, Worcestershire sauce, and cook for 2 more minutes.
Top with mayonnaise and serve immediately.