I’ve always placed sisig under the category of “bar foods” but my mother-in-law tells me otherwise.
For the longest time, and probably for many of us, sisig is just about equivalent to anything you eat while drinking ice cold beer. So long as it is piping hot, because it is served on a sizzling plate with a newly cracked egg that’s supposed to get cooked from the dish’s own heat, is fine and I never really cared enough to pay attention to how it tastes.
Sisig is of Kapampangan origin. And so is my mother-in-law. And just recently, she opened my eyes to the real deal–that Sisig is a tradition like no other, and just like any other delicacy, you need to be under the tutelage of an elderly Kapampangan to master. Here are 3 unbelievable myths about this specialty. Try to keep your eyes from rolling in disbelief as your read them.
Myth # 1. Sisig is made from pig’s ears. I have known all along that this was true, I even let foreign guests have a taste of this dish and explain how it was cooked from the ears of a pig. Apparently, the dish is made not just from the ears of a pig, but from the entire face or what we call locally as maskara. The pig’s face needs to be boiled for a long time until tender, fried until crisp and chopped to tiny bits until your arms hurt. Pig’s brain is also included, and is actually one of the most flavorful ingredients of this dish. The brains need to be heated in a small amount of water until it is cooked through but not squished. Yeah, pig’s brains need to stay intact before it is mixed with the rest of the ingredients.
Myth # 2. Sisig should be served sizzling hot. Sisig can actually be served at any temperature. The use of sizzling plates to serve Sisig was not out of tradition but just fancy fare. In fact, after mixing all the ingredients together, it needs to rest for a certain amount of time to let the wonderful flavors marry and develop. When this happens, you can eat it at once, leave it on your counter to enjoy later, or prepare it in advance and serve all-day long to guests. Because the flavors are already very well developed, it’s going to taste that way until it’s gone.
Myth # 3. Calamansi is added immediately before serving. I used to think that calamansi was to sisig as it was to pancit. Something that you squeeze for added flavor prior to eating. But, as a matter of fact, calamansi is one other key ingredient to this dish. For this bowlful of sisig that we made, I had to hand-squeeze a cupful of pure juice from dozens and dozens of calamansi. Imagine that. And the difference in taste compared to adding just one piece of calamansi. Now you know enough to tell the difference.
And so that night we had sisig and rice and bottles of ice cold beer. But this time we knew better to enjoy it Kapampangan style, in all its glory.