Sisig in the Bibig Chronicles — Tenga Trouble

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The idea of creating traditional Filipino dishes scares the crap out of me. I'm not the only FilAm who feels this way, right? I mean, this is the food that my ancestors grew up eating and that, by definition, means I have to get these flavors down. So in true Ariana fashion, I've stepped up to the plate to take on Filipino cooking. My first stab was inspired by the pork sisig from Jurace Grill in El Nido, Palawan—a greasy, crispy, caramelized onion-filled plate of hot and heavy goodness. Little did I know how much trouble I was going to run into while making this seemingly simple meal...

I started in the hopes of doing these 4 things: 
1) Fill people's appetites for lunch
2) Impress older generations of Filipinos who will tasting the food
3) Give a good introduction to sisig for someone who has never had it before
4) Make something that just tasted damn good

In short, I didn't do any of them...

So what went wrong? After researching some recipes on the YouTubes, I stood in my kitchen trying to cook pork sisig for 3.5 HOURS. If that doesn't scream 'trouble' I don't know what does. My lesson? Beware of the tenga (ear)!

Using all tenga ruined me. After boiling the tenga for an hour, the cartilage still made for a very tough moutfeel. Also, I don't think the meat itself did so great of a job soaking up flavor. My family's feedback (which I am very thankful for) was to mix in other meats or choose another cut altogether. The recipe I followed is in the video below but I also added soy sauce to taste!

Back to the drawing board! I decided to do more research on meats and I learned that traditional sisig used any part of the mukha ni baboy (pig's face) and I could even substitute other meats to my liking. 2 weeks later I went and bought pork belly in an attempt to redeem myself. It was the same good ol' flavor but paired with a more palatable texture. I'm happy to say the dish was wiped clean the very same day :)

Notes for Future Sisig

  • Boil the meats a whole lot longer!
  • I could make my sisig dish a bit greasier (a.k.a. yummier). I think this could be done by adding butter, more liver paste or actual livers, and using a variety of cuts. I'll be experimenting with this and will document my best findings on the blog.
  • Cut the pieces of meat smaller and possibly use tenga again if chopped up super fine :)
  • Experiment with marinades!

Behind-the-Scenes

My first attempt at pork sisig. You can see the toughness just by looking at it. Eep!

My first attempt at pork sisig. You can see the toughness just by looking at it. Eep!

Chopping up pork belly.

Chopping up pork belly.

Sigsig Facts and Resources:

  • Sisig literally means "to make it sour"
  • Its existence was first recorded in a Kapampangan dictionary back in 1732 by Diego Bergaño, a Spanish missionary who served as the parish priest for Mexico, Pampanga at the time. The Augustinian friar defined sisig as “a salad including green papaya or green guava eaten with a dressing of salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar.”
  • The dish's sourness was said to help fight back dizziness and nausea, which could be the reason why pregnant women would eat sisig a lot in their first trimester.
  • Sisig is known as a pulutan. 'Pulot' literally translates to 'to pick up with the fingers' and pulutan refers to small bites and finger foods that are best served alongside an alcoholic drink. If we were to tie in this fact + the one prior, sisig is the perfect hangover food.
  • The reinvention of sisig was known to be done by Aling Lucing of Angeles City in 1974 (video below).

Sisig: The Tragic History Behind Our Favorite Pulutan

History of SÍSIG: How Angeles City Kept Reinventing a Traditional Kapampángan Delicacy