A Cook's Diary

Sizzling sisig: grilled and chopped pig’s head

My first sisig experience was at a restaurant called Trellis in the Diliman area, a few minutes’ drive from the University of the Philippines. My friends had been raving about the place and the food and they said that nothing went better with beer than sizzling sisig. They were absolutely right. But the best sisig I’ve ever had was in Angeles City. We were staying at Fontana with friends, one of whom was very familiar with the best eateries in the area. A group went out to buy dinner and they came back with the most fantastic sisig from Aling Lucing’s where the dish was reputedly born.

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What is sisig and why does Anthony Bourdain describe it as a “divine mosaic of pig parts, chopped and served sizzling and crisp on one side on a screaming hot platter”?

Well, because that’s what it is. The dish consists of pig parts — many parts, most of which come from the head. Cheeks, ears, snout, brain… Boiled in brine, grilled, hand chopped, tossed with chopped onions and chilies then dumped on a very hot iron plate where it sizzles all the way to the dining table. Halved kalamansi are squeezed over the sizzling meat and, sometimes, liquid seasoning is drizzled before everyone digs in.

Note, however, that as good as the “original” sisig recipe is, there are some very fantastic variations too. I’ve tried “cold” sisig (with mayo, I think). Outside the restaurant and eatery circle, the best sisig I’ve experienced was prepared by a friend’s chauffeur — Karancho, he is fondly called — who tosses the ultra crisp grilled meat with coconut cream. Oh, lovely. We’re having a potluck party over the holidays and I’ll tell my friend, Laura, that her share ought to be Karancho’s sisig.

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