After living in the city for 30 years, EC moved to the countryside. He writes about life in the mountains, dogs, plants, and cooking.
Sisig: An Illustrious Filipino Dish
The term "sisig" refers to the spicy and fatty—but oh-so popular—meat dish served all over the Philippines. It is considered a specialty food because its long and arduous preparation is really a "labor of love." But after hours of cooking, the aroma alone can make anyone hungry.
Sisig is best served with a mug of ice-cold beer. It is the unofficial national dish for Filipino beer-drinkers because of its unique blend of chili-pepper spice, sour vinegar and calamansi juice, as well as the saltiness of salt and soy sauce. Other herbs like garlic, red onion, white onion, ginger, black pepper, green bell pepper, celery, green onion leaves, kinchai, and kuchai also add to the rich bouquet of aromatic flavor.
Sisig is considered to be a special dish and is often served with steamy rice for lunch or dinner at home. Well-known Filipino restaurants have concocted different cooking methods, yet the dish always ends up spicy, sizzling, and delicious.
Spicy pork sisig has also become a popular topping for pizza. Hot sauce lovers will surely love "sizzling sisig" pizzas!
Pork Sisig: Original and New Ingredients
The common—and original—ingredients for sisig are parts of the pig's head (snout, cheeks, and ears), chicken liver and heart, and crispy pork skin. The dish is typically served on a sizzling plate, thus the term "sizzling sisig." A whole raw egg is placed on top as the main garnishing.
Today, this ultra-versatile dish has adapted different varieties of main ingredients, including beef head, chicken, tuna, bangus (milkfish), pork, tofu, mussels, mixed seafoods, ostrich meat, python, frog meat, and more.
Making Sisig Involves 3 Cooking Techniques
This dish is characterized by the small bits of all ingredients mixed together. Everything is chopped: meat, garlic, onions, chili pepper, chicken liver, and any additional spices; except the raw egg and the calamansi, of course.
As if chopping everything is not enough work, the preliminary preparation requires three cooking methods: boiling, grilling (or broiling), and frying the pig's head, which has been deboned with only the snout, cheeks, and ears included.
- Boil. To tenderize the pig's head so that deboning and cutting into smaller parts will be easy.
- Grill/Broil/Barbecue. To remove the hair from the pig's head and provide an authentic smoky taste.
- Fry/Sauté. To crisp the meat and to sauté with garlic, onions, and other desired spices.
Sisig has always been served on sizzling hot plates, but many variations have been introduced by adding any of the following:
- Raw egg
- Chicharon (pork or chicken crisp/cracklings; or beef rind)
- Liver (pork or chicken)
- Brain (pork or ox)
Since not all people like to eat fatty or oily dishes, local chefs have concocted different versions using other ingredients such as chicken, tuna, bangus, squid, and tofu.
Video: How to Cook Pork Sisig
Why Pigs' Heads?
Before sisig was invented and popularized, pigs' heads were cheaply priced because they were not often used in preparing meals for the family. People who usually bought them simply boiled the ears and jowl until tender, then chopped them and marinated them in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and ground black pepper.
Whole beef heads were priced higher because they are used in another popular Filipino dish: gotong batangas. This is a hot soup that contains chunks of assorted beef, internal organs, and deboned beef head, boiled until cooked in ginger and different spices. Recently, beef heads are also prepared as beef sisig.
Video Tutorial: Sizzling Pork Sisig
How to Cook Chicken Sisig
Of all the variations, this one is the easiest to prepare.
- 1 jumbo-sized roasted chicken
- 1 tablespoon seedless calamansi juice
- 3 medium red onions, chopped
- 3 medium white onions, chopped
- 3 long green peppers, chopped
- 1 red chili pepper, chopped
- 1 big red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 palm-sized ginger, chopped
- Remove the bones from the chicken and cut the flesh into small cubes. Add the chicken cubes to a microwave-safe bowl. Blend in the calamansi juice.
- To the bowl, add the red onions, white onions, green peppers, chili pepper, red bell pepper, and ginger. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
- Microwave directions: Heat in the microwave oven for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stovetop directions: If you don't have a microwave oven, heat the mixture in a non-stick pan while stirring constantly.
- Serve hot over steamed rice or cooked pasta.
How to Cook Tuna Sisig
This is also very easy to prepare.
- Buy a large piece of fresh tuna steak. Wash and drain. Drizzle with vinegar or calamansi juice and grill over hot coals until cooked. With a fork, flake the tuna flesh and set aside.
- In a non-stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Sauté one whole garlic head (peeled and minced) until golden. Add chopped 1 big red onion, 1 long green pepper, 1 red chili pepper, and 1 tablespoon of ginger juice. Stir in flaked tuna and blend well over low-medium heat. Add one whole egg, if desired.
- Serve hot on sizzling plate. Provide calamansi, soy sauce, and chili pepper in a separate dip dish.
Note: Canned tuna chunks can also be used. Choose the variant in vegetable oil. Use the oil from the can to sauté.
How to Cook Bangus Sisig
Bangus, or milkfish, is a little tricky to prepare because the fish has more than a hundred tiny and needle-thin bones to remove. Use a pair of tweezers to pluck them out.
- Clean, wash, and cut a large-sized whole milkfish into 4 parts. Boil in salted water for 15 minutes and drain. Remove the head and tail. Using a fork and knife, flake the flesh and carefully separate all fish bones. You may include the fish skin (without the scales), if desired. Marinate in vinegar and soy sauce for 10 minutes.
- Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick pan. Over medium heat, sauté 5 cloves of minced garlic, 1 chopped green bell pepper, and 1 tablespoon minced ginger. Add bangus flakes and cook while stirring occasionally. Add 1 large chopped white onion and remove from heat.
- Serve hot on a sizzling plate. Garnish with sliced calamansi fruit and red chili pepper.
How to Cook Squid Sisig
Squid sisig is somewhat chewy because the stringy flesh is not finely chopped. Squid rings are used as garnishing.
- Clean 2 pounds of fresh large squids. Remove the round bulge inside the squid's mouth, the transparent backbone, and the innards. Wash thoroughly and drain. Marinate in calamansi juice and salt for 15 minutes, then boil for 5 minutes. Remove the skin and drain very well.
- Chop the heads and tails. Cut the body into rings but use only small-sized ones as garnishing; so chop the bigger rings into bits. Set aside to drain.
- Mince 1 large garlic head and a thumb-sized slice of ginger. Chop 1 large onion, 3 long green peppers, 2 red chili peppers, and 1 large red bell pepper.
- In a small amount of hot oil, sauté garlic, onion, ginger, and all peppers. Add the chopped squids. Stir to avoid sticking. Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle a half cup of vinegar and leave to boil without stirring. Add a dash of soy sauce, just enough to add color. Let simmer for 15 minutes over very low heat. Prolong cooking time to remove excess sauce. Serve hot.
How to Cook Tofu Sisig
Tofu sisig is a bit oily because the tofu cubes have to be fried first. Use vegetable oil or olive oil in frying. Brown the tofu cubes to make it slightly chewy.
- Wash and drain 1 large block of firm tofu. Cut into cubes and deep-fry in very hot oil. Place in a strainer to remove excess oil.
- Sauté a half cup of chopped red onions and 1/4 cup of sliced long green peppers in small amount of hot oil. Stir in fried tofu cubes.
- Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar and let boil. Add salt and ground black pepper to season. Sprinkle brown sugar to sweeten the taste. Serve hot.
How to Cook Beef Sisig
Filipino Soul Food
The term sisig originated from Pampanga (a province in the island of Luzon, Philippines), and means "to snack on something sour." "Something sour" usually refers to unripe or semi-ripe fruits that are sour to taste (such as mango) and eaten with salt and vinegar dip.
The word is also used to describe a method of food preparation that marinates fish and meat (particularly pork) in a sour concoction—lemon juice or vinegar—and seasoned with pepper, salt, and other desired spices (such as garlic or green onion leaves).
These days, the only sisig that Filipinos (especially from other parts of the Philippines) know is the unforgettable "sizzling sisig."
Aling Lucing and the History of Sisig
In mid-1974, Lucia Cunanan, a lady restaurateur in Angeles, invented the original pork sisig dish. The pig ears and cheeks were boiled until tender and then chopped into small cubes. The meat was generously seasoned with vinegar and calamansi juice, then served with chopped onions and chopped grilled chicken liver and served on sizzling plates.
Aling Lucing, Ms. Cunanan's nickname, has been acknowledged by the Philippine Department of Tourism as the Sisig Queen, and her restaurant established the City of Angeles in Pampanga as the "Sisig Capital of the Philippines."
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 24, 2016:
i have a lot of friends at blogjob who are filipino, this is the recipe i was looking for
Rose on December 01, 2012:
Cool & interesting post..Not bad @ all.......Yummy:)
mharveen25 on March 09, 2012:
will cook it later,, very informative hub! Thumbs up!!
sunshine on December 28, 2011:
Tried Sisig yesterday for the first time, loved it! Today I'm scouting online for the receipe, thank you for your page!
anonymous on November 21, 2011:
sisig is awesome! if you don't like pig snout (which I don't like) go to other varieties :D
chi on October 01, 2011:
will try to cook squid sisig for pulutan,,thanks much for the recipes.^_^ God bless..:)
applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on September 03, 2011:
this is making me really hungry. thank you for putting together this hub.
Sun-Girl from Nigeria on June 30, 2011:
Nice and very interesting hub, which i so much enjoyed reading from.
aquemini954 on June 06, 2011:
Saw this dish on Anthony Bourdain No Reservations, and I can not wait to make it. Lots of great info here, thanks!!
knowaskconsider from Dallas, Texas on April 26, 2011:
You are killing me with wonderful recipes. Such beautiful photo's as well. Too hungry to talk any further. Shame on you for making me hungry.
Jason Reuter from Portland, Oregon on April 06, 2011:
This is the first hub I've read of yours, and it is fantastic! So much information and varied videos and photos, it's really put together well. Sisig definitely looks delicious, although I think I will have to opt for the chicken version, I'm not too sure about that pig head! ;)
carlei on February 11, 2011:
cant wait to try tofu sisig tom..thanks for the recipe :)
joji55 on December 07, 2010:
All my respect and thanks to queen cleopatra for sharing all these informations and how tos! I will surely try this with our cook. Merci encore!
tinar on December 04, 2010:
thank you for posting thr recipe for sizzling chicken.. il prepare it for my friends bday...
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on October 25, 2010:
Thank you, rosy _life. I'm glad to learn that the recipe here has helped! Happy eating :D
rosy _life on October 23, 2010:
I've been trying to find a recipe for sizzling tofu similar to Max's for almost 2 years now since i tasted it but now i finally found it and so excited to try it tomorrow. Me and my husband both like it.
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on October 21, 2010:
Hi Jigga22 :D Thanks for the lovely comment. haha! We Pinays cook like magic. lol
Jigga22 on October 20, 2010:
My husband is american and he love this food when we were in the Philippines. I tried to make it here and now he keep asking when I'm gonna make it again.
DjBryle from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =) on September 15, 2010:
Suddenly, my mouth is watery... lol! Thanks for sharing this very delectably tasteful hub! Voted up! =)
leih tegio on September 06, 2010:
whoooaaaa...i liked the tuna sisig...nice hub.and nicer pics..its making us hungry..thanks for sharing..
(F)resh.LIP on August 02, 2010:
sisig is my FAVORITE pinoy dish, and my dad just taught me how to cook it yesterday. it took 4 hours to prepare! it turned out pretty good for my 1st time i must say! haha. i
topnoyze on May 18, 2010:
love it ... yummy sisig...slurrppp...
ruthsoberano on April 12, 2010:
do you have a gravy recipe for sisig?
Tato on April 01, 2010:
This is just perfect!!! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm hungry already cant wait to get home and cook my first time sisig. ;)
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on March 29, 2010:
Thank you for reading and leaving a nice comment, prey. Yup, a little mayo or yogurt on top of sisig would add yumminess. :)
prey on March 28, 2010:
hi! thanks for the recipes. have been looking for recipes to replicate Max's Tofu Sisig which I just recently tasted! Yummy! I should ask, there have been a number of restos that uses a little bit of mayo before serving I guess. I've tried Gilligan's sisig and Max's tofu sisig both have a whitish creamy sauce. It tastes great!
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on February 10, 2010:
Thank you for visiting my hub. Tuna sisig is the easiest to make. :)
pinkhawk from Pearl of the Orient on February 10, 2010:
...hmmm...yumyum! My stomach is shouting now, even only in the pics-they are mouth watering, my favorite is the tuna sisig! :) thanks for this yumilicious hub! :)
cynnch on October 23, 2009:
thank you for the sisig tofu.
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on May 27, 2009:
Hi, johnlopez1985! Thank you for dropping by. I'm glad you like the pix :)
johnlopez1985 from Singapore on May 27, 2009:
Wow! Great hub. The pictures are making me hungry.
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on May 23, 2009:
Thank you, mdawson17 :) Creating this hub had been a pleasure to me and I'm glad that other people likes it.
mdawson17 on May 23, 2009:
That had my mouth drooling!! Your hub had my stomach growling right at the beginning! This was a very good hub and as well it gave me another idea when I host friends over!!
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on May 22, 2009:
Hello, RGraf! Thanks for dropping by. You can always cut out on spices to suit your palate. Try the chicken 'sisig' :)
Rebecca Graf from Wisconsin on May 22, 2009:
If I only liked spicy.......
Thanks for making me hungry.
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on May 17, 2009:
Hello, quicksand! What a gentleman you are, calling me 'your majesty.' lol. Thank you for dropping by :)
quicksand on May 17, 2009:
Your Majesty, my appetite has risen to 99.999 after seeing all those pix!
EC Mendoza (author) from Philippines on May 10, 2009:
Hello, men are dorks :) Thank you for visiting my 'sisig' hub. You must be like us. My family don't like the oil so we perfected the recipe for the chicken 'sisig.' You must try it 'coz we love it.
men are dorks from Namibia on May 09, 2009:
Queeny, I can smell it and drool and savour, but the head and snout in the pot... I have to think twice. Don't get me wrong I'll eat, but oi, the sight.