Sisig, Filipino Food You Need To Know


IT'S FILIPINO FOOD TIME. This post is to commemorate Ngo Your Meal's 1 Year Anniversary. Also, it's my beautiful girlfriend Stephanie's 22nd birthday! And, sisig happens to be one of her favorite dishes. I love you, Stephanie! Anyways, what is this heavenly plate of sizzling meat? Is it Korean BBQ? No. Is that bacon? Close. To me, its like Korean BBQ and Bacon amalgamated into a seductive love dish of sizzling hotness and, no, I'm not referring to myself. It's called Sisig and it's from the great Republic of the Philippines. My family is from Manila and I might be a little biased, but sisig is definitely a gift from baby Jesus. My girlfriend might actually love this dish more than she loves me. Just kidding. Who would love something more than me? Nobody.

Anyways, the word "sisig" is Kapampangan (language spoken in Pampanga, Philippines) for "to snack on something sour". But, it also refers to the method of marinading meat or fish in something sour before seasoning it with spices. Often times, sisig is prepared as sizzling sisig, where pig's head and liver are seasoned with calamansi (Philippine lime) and chili peppers, then served on a sizzling plate. The dish is said to have originated from locals who bought leftover pig parts from the Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga. Since the leftover pig parts were usually thrown out, the locals were able to buy them cheap. With a little bit of sauce, seasoning, and creativity, the locals were able to create the sisig we know today. So. Resourceful. Lucia Cunanan of Angeles City, a.k.a. The Sisig Queen, is credited with inventing sisig. Her famous sisig consists of boiled pig ears and cheeks seasoned with chicken liver, chili peppers, vinegar, onions, and calamansi over a sizzling hot plate.

Sisig. Source:  Robyn Lee

Sisig. Source: Robyn Lee

To make this dish, pig parts are boiled in salt, vinegar, peppercorns, and water to tenderize the meat. Then, depending on the recipe, some parts will be grilled and some will be broiled to sear the outsides of the meat. Finally, the pork is diced, added to a sisig mixture, and placed on a sizzling plate. Sometimes, the pork is grilled over a charcoal fire to give it a more BBQ-like flavor. Other sisig versions might use green mussels, frog, python, or ostrich instead of pork. Sometimes, restaurants might even add eggs, ox, pork or chicken liver to change up the flavors.

Interested in trying sisig in New York City? Check out these great Filipino restaurants below:

  1. Maharlika: Pig ears, snout, cheek, and belly cooked three ways with garlic, bird's eye chili, red onions, and calamansi. For $16, it also comes with a side of garlic rice and egg mixed into the sisig.

  2. Grill 21: Uses chopped pork belly with egg and "special spices" for $17.

  3. Pig and Khao: Decent serving. Uses pork head, chili, and egg for $15.

  4. Krystal's Cafe: Pretty big serving for $12 and it's still really good.

  5. Ugly Kitchen: Nice big serving for $13. It's not super greasy and fatty but it's just right. 

Do you live in San Francisco? Try Señor Sisig for some sisig tacos or sisig nachos.

In case you're interested in making this dish for yourself, here are a few recipes:

  1. Food and Wine: Recipe by Andrew Zimmern. He uses this intense marinade that makes me want to draw the recipe all over my body for the world to see. Basically, he chooses to marinade some pork belly with a beautiful mix of sexy flavors, including orange juice, peanut oil, lemongrass, Chinese chili paste, and garlic. Then, he roasts the pork belly in pineapple juice, bay leaves, cilantro, leek, carrots, and celery. At this point, the pork belly could be a meal on its own. BUT NO. He creates a sisig mixture consisting of celery leaves, shallots, scallions, calamansi, cilantro, vinegar, serrano chiles, salt, pepper, garlic, and peanut oil. While the mixture marinates, the pork belly is chopped up and cooked until brown on a skillet. Then, the pork belly is mixed into the sisig mixture and served. This is madness.

  2. Kawaling Pinoy: Simple recipe. Follows the steps: Boil, Grill, Sauté.

  3. Cooking Channel: Another simple recipe. Follows the steps: Boil, Grill, Sauté.

  4. Chow: Complicated. Follows the steps: Boil Shoulder, Grill Shoulder, Braise Shoulder, Boil Pig's Ear, Grill Jowl, Broil Jowl, Cut and Grill Shoulder, Grill Everything.... I think? It's just really complicated.

By the way, my uncle makes the best sisig in the world. FACT. 

Sisig. Source:  Chip Sillesa

Sisig. Source: Chip Sillesa