Monday, August 25, 2014

The evolutions of Pinoy sisig and my food dictionary

You may wonder how sisig was invented and become one of Pinoys' favorite pulutan.  From my many travels around the country and readings from various references, I able to collect valuable information about the evolution of sisig.  The following are the original entries in my script  submitted to ANVIL for the printing of my dictionary: Edgie Polistico's Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary.  
Shown above is the original script of my dictionary with its lengthy, encyclopaedic entries. Immediately underneath the main entry are the sub-entries which I designed to minimize browsing through the pages when looking for related entries. Below, are the abridged entries presented using the conventional layout of contemporary dictionary.  The sub-entries were reduced into a simple list of food names and transferred at the end of the dictionary to serve as index.

 Though it is my desire to revolutionize the contemporary format of Pinoy dictionaries, I was obliged to trim most of my lengthy encyclopaedic entries, to conform with the publisher's description of what a traditional dictionary must be. Yes, the entries were abridged. Thus, my lengthy entries about sisig and its many variations were not spared. Nevertheless, my would-be first printed food dictionary would still be very much informative and sisik sa laman despite the enforced limitation in its scope. 

Anyway,  nothing to worry about, What I wrote in the original script will still be shared in my future publications. If we are lucky  to find enough time and space, I will keep on posting these entries, though partly, somewhere in my future online postings. Thus, if you folks insists to demand its publication, just let me know.

So here's my warm serving of favorite Pinoy pulutan. Enjoy learning, making, and dining with sisig.
Samples of Capampangan wrap sisig served to us by the Apang Marangle during the sneak preview of BIG BITE food fair in MarQuee Mall of AngelesCity in Pampanga on October 10, 2013. It's a pork sisig wrapped in green ice lettuce, rolled then secured with toothpick.
sisig(sí-sig; Capampangan and Tagalog dish; dw ???. ???) [n.] minced ears, cheeks and head skin of pig. sisig has evolved from being a snack of fresh green fruits, like guavas, mango and papaya, to a more complicated and elaborately prepared meat sisig served as sizzling dish on hotplate. The earliest recorded documentation of sisig was an entry of 1732 Pampango-Spanish dictionary, Vocabulario de la Lengua Pampanga en Romance, by Fray Diego Bergano with a noun entry for sisig defined as “vinaigrette salad; an acidic hor’s dóeuvre or snack of unripe mango, guava or papaya; anything that is fermented in vinegar.” While an adjective entry mapanyisig “refers to someone who is fond of snacking on sour food.” In that old era in Pampanga, the pregnant women have that common practice of eating sour fruits in the early stage of conceiving a child to relieve their selves from discomfort in pregnancy. Their kind of fruit sisig is dipped in vinegar and/or salt like that of present-day burong mangga. In the last three months of their pregnancy, the expectant mother would prepare another and different kind of sisig. This time it is made of boiled pig ears and tail that is eaten by dipping in vinegar before every bite. There is an urge for expectant mother to chew plenty of this cartilaginous sisig as they attributed the eating of lots of cartilages to good development of fetal bones. Our contemporary pork sisig now is made not only of ears and tail, but also of snout of pig, maskara (entire skin of pig`s head), meat from pig’s head, finely chopped liver and sometimes bits of pig’s brain tissues. Even the thick skin and fats on other parts of pig is also used. The skin (sometime complete with the underlying fats), ears and liver are parboiled, grilled, minced, then sautéed in oil with garlic and onions. Then smothered with minced or chopped onions, siling labuyo (Philippine bird’s eye chili) and juice extract from calamansi (Philippine green round lime), and sometimes daubed with a dollop of pig’s brain. It was in mid 1970’s that Aling Lucing Cunanan introduced the idea of serving large quantities of sisig in her eatery along the railroad crossing (a.k.a. Double Dead Park) in Angeles City, Pampanga. At first, she just served sisig that was merely a mix of boiled and chopped pig’s ear seasoned with vinegar and locally available spices. When demand increases or when supply of pig’s ear went scarce, Aling Lucing had to add pig’s cheeks and snout to augment the meat ingredient in making sisig. Aside from boiling, she also had to grill the cheeks and snouts making it crunchy. Later on, she added chopped boiled chicken liver and seasoned her modified sisig with chopped onions, calamansi extract and the optional siling labuyo (Philippine bird’s eye chili). Not far from the railroad crossing is another eatery, the Sisig Benedict, which started the style of serving sisig on sizzling plate (hotplate). Being now among the famous food in the Philippines, some big food manufacturers in the country are now producing instant sisig. It is pre-cooked, frozen, cut into slabs and sold in vacuum-packed plastic wrapper. With the mass production of precooked sisig, it is now very easy and quick to have a serving of sisigeither by stir-frying or heating it in microwave oven.
Some variations of sisig prepared by the Chef Bab's Sizzling Sisig whenever Mercato Centrale launches a food fair in Metro Manila and nearby provinces
 Nowadays, sisig is no longer popular as food for pregnant mothers. It is rather known now as pulutan (food taken along with alcoholic drinks), even considered as main dish or viand. Other variations of sisig came into existence that uses fish, chicken meat and other meats as replacement to the pork parts for the benefit of those who are health conscious. When the traditional Capampangan way of making sisig then is “grilled” (not fried), now the meat are cooked in oil after undergoing a sort of parboiling or half-cooked grilling. Adaptation in other regions and commercialized production of sisig are rather “stir-fried.” Cooking the meat mostly end now in pan frying to obtain that crisp finish and crunchiness in the minced meat ingredients. For added crunchiness, crushed chicharon (pork skin cracker) is sometimes garnished as topping. Modern sisig is whipped with mayonnaise, mustard sauce, pesto or any other savory sauces for an enhanced taste or twist in flavor. Some would serve sisig with half-fried whole chicken egg and listed as among the Pinoy silog meals. Varieties of sisig now include that of pork sisig; chicken sisig; bangus sisig; pusit sisig; tuna sisig and some are served as sizzling dish. Probably we are too confused that almost all dishes served in sizzling plate are called sisig. Sisig has evolved into many forms that it is now hardly recognizable with the original Capampangan version
*bagnet sisig (bág-net si-sig; Ilocano ) [n.] sisig dish of finely chopped bagnet
*bangus sisig (ba-ngús si-sig; Tagalog ) [n.] sisig that uses bangus fish fillet as an alternative meat to the conventional pork version. The bangus fillet is cut into small pieces (usually in cubes) and marinated, then fried brown and added to sautéed sliced onion. When cooked, the dish is placed on preheated metal plate and served while it is very hot and sizzling
*Cabalen sisig (ka-ba-lén sí-sig; Capampangan ) [n.] (same as sisig Capampangan)
*chorisisig (tso-ri-sí-sig; Tagalog ; dw Span. chorizo [pork sausage] + Tag. sisig) [n.] sisig dish with chorizo (Philippine pork sausage). Chorisisig is coined after combing the words chorizo and sisig. The maskara ng baboy (skin of pig’s head and face) is washed clean, scalded and shaved, and then boiled in the pot filled with water seasoned with onions, garlic, bay leaf, pepper corn and meat tenderizer, such as ginger or resin from green papaya. The meat are boiled till tender. When tender, the maskara ng baboy is taken out from the pot, rubbed with salt and air dried. Meanwhile, a heap of charcoal is set to burn into glowing embers, and the dried maskara ng baboy is broiled till lightly seared, with some parts dark and crisp, then chopped into small pieces and set aside. In a heated pan, garlic, onions and minced chorizos are sautéed till aromatic, then followed by a sprinkle of paprika, then the finely chopped maskara ng baboy and stir-fried for at least 2 minutes. Then removed from the pan and placed on a heated sizzling plate. While sizzling, mayonnaise and calamansi extract are added with the optional chopped siling haba (green finger chili). Finally, topped with crumbled pieces of chicharon baboy (pork skin crackling)
*dinacdacan (di-nak-dá-kan; Ilocano ) (also spelled as dinakdakan in Ilocano; a.k.a. warek-warek in Ilocano) [n.] mixed chopped broiled maskara (pig’s face skin) or pig’s cheek, or finely chopped skin of cow`s face skin, usually with sliced meat, liver, pig’s ears, pig’s snout, innards, and pig’s brain. The skin and innards are parboiled to easily cook the inside part of meat before it is grilled and chopped into bits. The chopped pieces are tossed with salt, vinegar (or calamansi juice), pepper, chopped leeks and red onion, and then cooked the way Capampangan sisig is done. Thus, it is referred to as the Ilocano version of sisig. Sili (chili pepper) of any kind can be added if piquancy is desired. Dinacdacan is often served as a heap on dish plate. It can also be served on heated sizzling plate, or shaped into small sisig balls by molding dinacdacan with mayonnaise to help the pieces stick together
*pork sisig (pork sí-sig; Tagalog ) (a.k.a. sisig babi in Capampangan) [n.] sisig dish made of broiled pig ears, cheek, and skin of face and head, then minced and stir-fried with spices and seasonings and maybe served on heated sizzling plate (hotplate); Pork sisig can also be of pig belly braised until all the water is gone and the pork is fried on its own fat and skin is crisp. The pork belly is then chopped into strips and mixed with chopped green siling mahaba, and finely cchopped red onion, spring onion leaves, ginger, and dressed with lots of mayonnaise. The taste comes tangy only when bits of ginger are chewed. The combined hotness of finger chili and ginger makes the dish a good appetizer. It is served with the condiment soy sauce or fish sauce with fresh chili pepper on the side. Pork sisig may also be served as sizzling pork sisig or spicy pork sisig. The sizzling pork sisig is served on a heated hotplate, while the spicy pork sisig can be of finely chopped broiled ears, cheeks, snout and skin head of suckling pig and then spiced with lots of minced chilies
The classic sisig Capampangan is popularly known across the country as the pork sisig.  It is also known by its other Capampangan name as the Cabalen sisig or the sisig pisngi at balugbug babi.
*pusit sisig (pu-sìt sí-sig; Tagalog ) [n.] a sisig dish made of stir-fried squid rings or pieces of chopped squid; Fresh squids are grilled till the meat turns opaque and lightly seared. It is then cut into rings or chopped into bits then sautéed with garlic and onions. Chopped tomatoes and onions rings may also be added as garnishing and dressed with spiced vinegar, mayonnaise, mustard sauce, pesto, or any other savory sauce
*sisig antiguo (sí-sig an-ti-gú-o; Capampangan ) [n.] the old-style traditional Capampangan sisig and the earliest and simplest version of meat sisig. It is made with boiled pig ears and tail, and dipped in vinegar before every bite. Antiguo is from the Capampangan word antigo, which means “antique” or “old-fashioned.” In olden times, expectant mothers had the urge to chew plenty of this cartilaginous sisig as they attributed the eating of lots of cartilages from pig ears and tails to good development of fetal bones
*sisig babi (sí-sig ba-bi; Capampangan ) [n.] same as Tagalog pork sisig; A kind of sisig that is made with chopped pig’s ears and cheeks, seasoned with vinegar, spices and salt, and sometimes daubed with a dollop of pig’s brain (see also pork sisig)
*sisig Capampangan (sí-sig ka-pam-pá-ngan; Capampangan ) (a.k.a. Cabalen sisig in Capampangan) [n.] Capampangan-style pork sisig; The skin and ears of pig are broiled then chopped finely and mixed with chopped stir-fried chicken liver, and added with finely chopped fresh red onions and calamansi extract. It can be made spicy hot by adding chopped siling mahaba for milder hotness, or with siling labuyo for fiery spicy flavor
The giant pork sisig prepared and presented by a team of chefs and culinary students during the BIG BITE!, a three-day Northern Food Festivalin the  Marquee Mall of Angeles City, Pampanga.
*sisig de bobo (sí-sig de bo-bo; Tagalog ) [n.] pork sisig or beef sisig smothered or daubed with a dollop of sautéed brain of pig or cow
*sisig matua (sí-sig ma-tu-wa; Capampangan ) [n.] the kind of sisig first introduced by Aling Lucing Cunanan in mid-1970’s in her eatery along the railroad crossing (a.k.a. Double Dead Park) in Angeles City, Pampanga. The boiled maskara (pig head skin) and meat is cooked further by broiling or grilling then chopped into small pieces and mixed with chopped cooked chicken liver, spices, and seasonings (see also Capampangan sisig, above, for the history and evolution of sisig)
*sisig Pampangueña (sí-sig pam-pang-gén-ya; Capampangan ) [n.] same as sisig Capampangan
*sisig pisngi at balugbug babi (sí-sig pis-ngî at ba-lug-bùg ba-bì; Capampangan ) [n.] a sisig of pig cheeks and ears; The pisngi babi (pig cheek) and balugbug babi (pig’s ear) are parboiled, scraped clean of surface skin (epidermis) and hairs, then grilled till seared and chopped into small pieces then seasoned with calamansi extract, aslam (vinegar), asin (salt), black pepper, bawang (garlic), sibuyas pula (red onion), sibuyas dahon (spring onion), and other locally available spices and seasonings
*sisig saud (si-sig sa-úd; Capampangan ) [n.] strips of grilled pork in fresh mustard leaves and tomatoes. A slab of pork is seasoned with salt and pounded pamienta buto (peppercorn) then grilled till well done. The grilled pork is sliced into strips (about 2 inches wide by half inch thick) and then set aside. In a big bowl, sliced fresh tomatoes is combined with sliced onions and added with big slices of mustasa (mustard) leaves and tossed to mix. Then sliced grilled pork is added in and sprinkled with dash of salt (preferably ground salt, such as iodized salt) and pepper. It is best if the sliced grilled pork is still hot when added and tossed in the mixed greens and tomatoes. Spiced up vinegar can be used as dressing. Add the vinegar immediately before eating the freshly prepared sisig saud
*tuna sisig (tu-na sí-sig; Tagalog and Davaoeño ) [n.] tuna flakes cooked sisig style; A sisig dish that uses chunky cuts of tuna fish fillet, or simply from canned tuna flakes (in oil, corned or in tomato sauce) as an alternative meat ingredient. If using fresh tuna chunks, it is cut into small cubes and marinated, then fried brown and added to sautéed sliced onion. For canned tuna flakes, it is crushed and sautéed with sliced onion. When cooked, the dish is placed on preheated metal plate and served while it is very hot and sizzling Enhanced version uses crushed pork chicharon as additional ingredient and garnishment. There are those who would also smother their tuna sisig with tuna roe
*warek-warek (wa-rék wa-rék; Ilocano [Ilocos sur and Abra] )[n.] the other Ilocano version of sisig similar to Ilocano dinacdacan; It is made with pig tongue and internal organs usually that of pig liver, intestine, and brain. The internal organs are washed clean (except the brain), then parboiled or grilled till half-cooked, and sliced into strips then mixed with sliced onions and garlic. The brain is boiled then smothered over the sliced internal organs and stirred to mix evenly. Little amount of vinegar may be added and/or with calamansi extract then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Other ingredients that can also be added to enhance flavor and taste are mayonnaise, minced ginger, and sliced grilled pork. It is often served as pulutan in drinking session

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Author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary. A lexicographer since the age of 14.  Filipino Linguist. Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. Visual artist. Photographer. Traveler who had been to all four corners of the Philippine archipelago, and still setting more footprints. 

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