I grew up eating Filipino food and many of the dishes have created great life memories for me and Sisig is one that stands out.
The first time I had Sisig was when I visited the Philippines as an adult. My friend and I thought it would be a great life experience to visit the Philippines on our way to Ireland. We spent two weeks in Manila, the capital of Philippines with my uncle and cousins. It was then that I was introduced to Sisig and the delicacies of Filipino bar food.
I remember the night well, we were taken to a night club but to me, it looked like a huge tin shed with a bar and a dance floor. The place was mainly outdoors and to the back of the this tin shed was what seemed to be a make shift kitchen with guys dressed in casual clothing with a tea towel in hand waiting for an order. We sat on a one of the huge wooden communal tables and waited to be served.
I remember it being a balmy night. I remember thinking how far we were from the civilized world of little ol’ Adelaide, thinking how very different this “night club” was to ours at home. I remember ordering San Miguel beer and immediately thinking how awesome this beer was and how unlucky that we didn’t have it in Adelaide. I also remember how my cousin’s friend ordered all the food that night with caution because he knew that most of it was so different to the food we usually eat in Australia and boy, I was amazed at how fast it all came out once he ordered and I remember the smell that filled the room once the food was placed on the table.
Filipino men like to drink beer with food readily available. When these guys get on the sauce, it seems they anchor down and do a proper job at it. Food must be served at these sessions. Now, I don’t know if traditionally the women cook or if it is expected they cook, but when ever I have drinks with my Filipino male friends in Australia, food just miraculously appears, discretely served by their Filipino wives. Sisig was one of those dishes or pork in general cooked in many different ways. What ever meat it is, it’s usually crispy, salty and served with a dipping sauce that consists of chillies, vinegar and soy or a combination of all or some of those ingredients. Smart really (for the men who drink at these bars and for the people who own the bar) salty, sour and crispy snacks are the best if you want drink alcohol, because the flavours almost induces more drinking.
Sisig is no different. It is made mainly from pigs head, every bit of the head from the snout to the ears, cheeks and even the brains. It also has pig livers and if you have the luxury version, people may add pork belly to it. Simply put, the head is boiled for a long time then char grilled until almost black, picked and chopped into a small pieces. Chopped, grilled livers are added to it and then finished by binding it together with the pigs brain and dressed with a vinegar and soy based dressing then served on a sizzling plate and finished with a raw egg on top and calamansi, a type of citrus used in a lot of Filipino cooking.
Sounds interesting huh? But let me just add, I served this little beauty to 240 guests at a gala dinner not so long ago and a lot people commented positively on the dish, mind you, they didn’t know what they were eating!! But that’s not the point, they enjoyed it because it is a tasty meal. Crispy pork bits bound with gooey egg, cut through with the freshness of the calamansi juice. Salty, sour, hot and tangy at the same time, perfect beer snack. As one of the ladies at the function mentioned, it is a type of “Filipino Dude Food”, and you know what, I like that because as she mentioned that, I thought back to the first time I had sisig and that description fit perfectly well.
This is a a bit of a process but well worth the effort. Be the first to discover this flavour, it is unique and enjoyable. This type of food will take off, I know it. Even though it’s classified as offal, the flavours are just too good and Aussies love a “good thing” especially if it goes well with beer. Every time I have made Sisig and served to “unsuspecting” diners, they have always come back with positive reviews. This will be the next wave of “dude food” in Australia.
I have blogged this before, look into “Cooking Lessons” for step by step tips on this recipe. That’s how much I love this dish, I just had to re-blog it!
Sisig – served on a hot plate with calamansi & raw egg
1 Whole Pigs Head
1 Pigs Brain – vacuumed sealed or sealed in sandwich zip lock bag
2 Onions – finely diced
1kg Pork Livers or Chicken Livers – cleaned and de-veined
8-10 Birds Eye Chilli – sliced
2 Cups Cane Vinegar
½ Cup Soy
2 Bay Leaves
4 Spring Onion Stems – finely sliced
1 Whole Egg
- Boil the pigs head, the meat off of the head in water, black pepper and bay leaves until tender, approximately 1 hour
- Boil the livers in water for about 20 minutes along with the brains. Strain, then set aside to cool
- Make the sauce by mixing the chilli, 1tablspoon f the chopped onion, vinegar and soy and seasoning with salt and black pepper, balancing with the sugar
- Once the meat is tender strain the meat until dry then BBQ or grill it along with the pigs head and livers. Grill them until the livers are evenly browned and the pig meat crackles on the skin side and browns lightly on the meat side. Smokey flavour is the key with out burning
- Allow the mat to cool slightly so you can handle it, and pick the meat off the bone. Leave the eye
- Finely chop the meat into small bits, leaving small chunks
- Place the chopped meat into a bowl ad add the remaining onions and mix through with your hands
- Do the same with the remaining chillies
- Add the sauce and mix through thoroughly
10. Add the brain by crumbling it into the mixture, breaking it into small pieces
11. Heat up a heavy based pan until it smokes slightly then add the pork meat mixture
12. Cook until starts to brown, stirring continuously. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan every time it starts to stick, this is the flavour of the sisig
13. Once crispy, heat up a Chinese hot plate until smoking hot and add the sisig to the plate
14. Crack one egg on top and sprinkle with chopped spring onions