Sizzling Pig Face! Aren't you excited?!
Sisig is a dish made from parts from the pig's head -- ears, cheeks, jowls -- that are cooked not once, not twice, but three times(!), flavored with calamansi and/or vinegar, and served sizzling on a hot stone/iron plate.
It is best eaten, people say, when imbibing beer.
Although, personally, I've never felt the need to drink beer with sisig -- I can gobble up the stuff just fine!
One fine day, JS bought a couple of packages of pig's ear. Sisig immediately came to mind; I don't actually know too many specific dishes that call for pig's ears besides this one.
You're once... (The First Cooking)
First, the ears were simmered with onions and garlic in water splashed with a little vinegar. And salt to taste, of course.
The recipe I've included at the end of the post is from Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine. That recipe called for adding pineapple juice to the simmering liquid as well. We didn't bother.
Well, that recipe also called for passing a deboned pig's head over an open flame to get rid of bristles. Obviously, we skipped that step as well.
After simmering the pig's ears, we let them cool in the simmering liquid. We actually cooked them the day before.
Being the lazy pig that I am, I actually might have left the pigs ears too long to boil. The ears ended up being softer than I would have liked.
I figured we'd leave the ears overnight in the fridge to stiffen up a bit -- but they might have gone too tender on me already.
The next day, whoa! Let me tell you, those ears produced a lot of gelatin!
Twice... (The Second Cooking)
Of course, the best way to grill these would be over charcoal. We had to settle for a grill pan over the stovetop.
Hmm, I think I may have overdone the char. But, we'll get to that later.
The pig's ears were then chopped into tiny pieces.
Three times a pig's head... (The Third Cooking)
Third time's the charm: when sisig becomes sisig.
Usually, sisig would be served on hot grill plates, sizzling still when it comes to the table. We debated whether we should get one for this post, but decided against it, with the help of inertia, given that it would just be another thing cluttering up the kitchen.
Before any sizzling action can commence, I chopped onions and chilies into small pieces.
We had some calamansi juice that we froze from months before.
Once the calamansi hits the wok, the game's on. There is really nothing quite like the fragrance and the flavour of calamansi.
In lieu of the sizzling plate, we settled on sorta-stir-frying it in a wok.
As is our tendency towards laziness and shortcuts, we overcrowded the wok a tad. We're really just too lazy to do stir-frying in batches -- but kids at home, please do it right.
The chopped pig's ears were "sizzled" together with the onions, calamansi juice and chilies. We also added more vinegar to intensify the acidity. Don't forget the salt! (And black pepper.)
OK, now that we went through all three cooking steps, what was the verdict?
It was... meh.
So, what went wrong? Let me explain.
We only used pig's ears.
It was too ear-y for me! I really wanted a mixture of pig parts.
We overcooked the pig's ears.
They ears were left too long to simmer. They were too tender and lacked that nice cartilage-y crunch.
We over-charred the pig's ears.
The too-charred nature of the ears lent a decidedly bitter note to the dish.
The moral of the story, folks, is to prepare the dish with care.
So, another fine day, when we had a pig's head from leftover lechon, JS and I decided to give it a another try.
We already made a "starter" Paksiw na Lechon (Philippine Roast Pork simmered in Vinegar) from the rest of leftovers, and it was time to tackle the head.
Since the pig's head was already cooked, we didn't bother with cooking steps 1 and 2 (boiling and grilling, respectively). I simply chopped what meat I could salvage from the head and proceeded to step 3.
Unfortunately, the pig's ears from this head were too "cooked" and hard, thereby making them unusable.
After some faux-sizzling action with onions, chilies, calamansi juice, vinegar and salt, the dish was done.
Unfortunately (again), the leftover pig's head meat we had did not really have enough crispy skin to provide some crunch to the dish. We did not have chicharon on hand at the time -- BUT!
Do as I say and not as I do:
Add CHICHARON ("chicharrón" in Spanish) or PORK RINDS as a topping for sisig. Just do it.
Depending on your tolerance, you can make sisig with a variety of pig parts.
To make the dish palatable to more mainstream palates, for instance, you can use non-offally pig parts, such as pork belly or heck, even pork shoulder.
However, the essential ingredient, in my humble opinion, is pig's ears. It just has that crunchy-elastic texture that no other pig part has, plus that unmistakable pigfunk-y goodness.
Do take a look at the Kulinarya recipe below, and do it right! ;) The recipe also has suggested substitutes for pork.
More eatingclub Philippine/Filipino food
Burnt Lumpia: Spicy Sizzling Sisig
Market Manila: Sizzling Sisig
Market Manila: Lechon Sisig a la Marketman
Market Manila: Lechon Sisig on a Charcoal Grill
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Sisig (Thrice-cooked Pork)
from Kulinarya: A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine
1 kg deboned pig's head (jowls, cheek, and ears)
2 pcs / 340 g big-sized white onions
8 cups / 2 liters water
2 cups / 500 ml pineapple juice
1 Tbsp / 15 g salt
1 Tbsp / 10 g whole black peppercorns
4 pcs chicken liver
2 Tbsp calamansi or lemon juice
1/4 cup / 60 ml white vinegar (sukang puti)
salt and pepper to taste
bird's eye chilies (siling labuyo) to taste
1 Carefully pass the deboned pig's head over an open flame to remove visible bristles. Wash and cut into 4 pieces.
2 Peel and chop onions finely.
1 In a stockpot, place water, pineapple juice, salt, peppercorns, chicken liver and pig's head pieces. Cover stockpot and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to simmer. Continue to cook until meat is fork tender but not too tender, so the ear cartilage is still on the crunchy side, about 45 minutes to an hour.
2 Remove pork and chicken livers from stockpot and cool to room temperature. Discard the liquid.
3 Grill the pork over charcoal until the skin becomes brown and crisp.
4 Chop the pork and chicken livers into small cubes. Place in a bowl.
5 Mix in the calamansi or lemon juice, chopped onions, white vinegar, salt, pepper and the chilies.
6 Just before serving, heat a skillet to sizzling hot. Put the meat mixture in. This is the third cooking stage where the meat becomes browned a bit and gets an added crunch.
Sisig is served on a hot sizzling skillet with halved calamansi and chopped chilies on the side.
lechon kawali/pork belly