If you’re a beer drinker and you’ve been to the Philippines but were never treated to a plate of sisig, then let me tell you right now: you got shortchanged by your tour guide. Now if you live in the Philippines and you’ve never had sisig, you really need to sneak out of that convent once in a while, heh.
Sisig is the quintessential Filipino pulutan (beer match). I can’t tell you for sure about its origins but one theory involves a former U.S. airbase in Pampanga and Filipinos living around it who could not let a good thing go to waste (pigs’ heads in this case).
There are as many variations to sisig as there are beerhouses in the country. (One of my favorite food bloggers, Marketman, even has a recipe that calls for the head of a lechon or roast pig and I can imagine it must be a really good and crunchy sisig.) There are now also chicken, tuna, and bangus sisig versions. This super basic recipe, or should I say guide, for preparing pork sisig comes from a former colleague who now suffers from gout and arthritis (or so I’ve been told). Consider yourselves warned, haha.
Let’s get to it. (Another warning: This dish is NOT for the squeamish.)
First, you need to invite some friends because sisig is no good without beer and beer is no good without friends to drink with. Plus, your friends can volunteer to bring the beer (San Miguel, of course, any variant). What’s even more fun is if they help you prepare the sisig.
In our house, it’s the Mr. who makes this dish. He says the amounts you get here are only estimates and you may add or subtract according to your preference.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1/2 kilo pig’s cheeks, snout, jowl, nape, ears — are you squirming yet? (at the market, ask for the maskara, batok, tenga, etc. — just tell them you’re making sisig)
1/4 kilo pork liver (or chicken liver, which we used this time because we already had it on hand)
5 red onions (please do not substitute white or yellow onions for this)
5 pcs. bird’s eye chili (siling labuyo)
black pepper, crushed
pinch of sugar
kalamansi or lime
hot sauce (optional)
You will also need:
a charcoal grill
a wok (or large shallow pan)
sizzling plate or small pan
Step 1. Chill the beer.
Step 2. Prepare the sisig.
Wash everything properly, especially the snout and ears. Be meticulous about this. I think you know why, haha.
Fill a large pot with water and boil the toughness out of the pig parts (or partlets, as I daintily call them), except the pork liver. If you are using chicken liver, boil those first and quickly — it will take less than 5 minutes. Then set the chicken liver aside to cool.
Once the pig partlets are tender, lay them over a charcoal grill. No, you can’t just roast them, you have to grill. It’s not the same. (We tried this once during a rainy day and we were unable to do justice to the pig.) Make them smoke like so.
Since no one here is weak at heart, let’s take a closer look.
Nice. Now that gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘smoke coming out of one’s ears’.
Turn them over for even grilling.
And don’t just let it smoke. Char them a bit.
Just before you finish grilling the partlets, cut the the pork liver into 1/4-inch thick slices and put those on the grill, too. Liver cooks quickly so don’t keep them in the grill too long. You’ll be dicing them later and they get tough & chewy when overcooked. (If you’re using chicken liver, you need not grill them.)
Take everything off the grill and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
Then chop everything — the pig partlets and liver. Dice them.
Put them in the wok or large pan.
Touched that your friends brought two cases of beer instead of one as you requested? It’s time to chop the red onions.
Throw them in with the pig partlets.
Mix them with a fork.
Add some crushed black pepper and salt to taste.
Now the fun part. Take the bird’s eye chilies (siling labuyo, none of those sissy pansigang stuff), mince and mix in as well.
How many chilies you use will depend on two things:
a) whether or not you can take the heat (e.g., If you’re from anyplace like Bicol or India where people like their food extra spicy, you may go to town with the chilies. Paint your stomach linings red!), and
b) whether or not you take pleasure in seeing your grown friends cry.
The above factors will also determine what you’ll do with the seeds. In our household, we must have our capsaicin so we include them.
Bring the wok or pan to the stovetop and cook the sisig quickly over high heat, stirring constantly. You may add a pinch of white sugar to the mixture if you want.
Cook the sisig until it’s smoking hot and some bits are already crunchy. While you’re doing that, warm up a small shallow pan or a sizzling plate.
Transfer the cooked sisig to the heated pan/plate. This is where personal preferences usually come in. Some people mix in one or a combination of the following: salty liquid seasoning (e.g., Knorr Seasoning or Maggi Savor), vinegar, pineapple juice, an egg, or a dollop of mayonnaise.
Always serve with hot sauce (for those who want even more heat) and some sliced kalamansi, preferably on the side (because certain people, like yours truly, prefer sisig without kalamansi).
Now get the beer (and maybe some steamed rice), say thank you for the pig (and for ingenious Filipino cookery), and dig in.
If you like it, you may thank me (& the Mr.) later.