Most countries I travel to, I usually have some idea about the food I’m going to encounter. Arriving in the Philippines, it was a bit of a blank slate for me with only a couple gaps filled in. Other than adobo and balut each dish was foreign. Knowing it was quite a meat and rice based diet I didn’t think I would have much of an issue though. Luckily, here in the Philippines nearly everyone speaks English so it’s easy to ask the locals for suggestions. When multiple people, both local and expat kept telling me ‘sisig’, I knew it must be good. They weren’t wrong as I dug into my first plate of pork sisig.
I had just checked into Thresher Shark Divers and sat down to go over some PADI review. As I watched the sun recede and the sky burn, I realized throughout my day of transit I had eaten precious little. When sisig was yet again recommended, it was time. Time to pay homage to this sizzling cast iron plate of crispy pork and crunchy, delectable pork bits. Hissing pork fat like shrapnel hitting flesh. Smoke aromatizes the room with the caramelized scent of meat caressed by garlic and chili. If the juices aren’t already flowing, wait for it. An egg cracked on top and scrambled in creating fluffy pillows clinging to chunks pork.
Keep it down. I know, it sounds amazing. This is actually not the first version of sisig I had while on Malapascua. This is what I came to know sisig as. Initially it was served up as a dry style stir-fry of small chunks of fatty pork with chili and garlic served with rice. This was enough to get my motor running though. Crisp chunks of fatty pork married with simple and distinct flavours, this was a language I understood. It was love at first bite as this became my go to dish throughout the Philippines and so far had only tasted a mediocre version of it.
I quickly discovered the sizzling plates. They draw attention like a baby crying as they are carried into a room. The crackle and pop of charring flesh and the trailing smoke has everyone looking. A dish making use of all the senses. It wasn’t just the visuals that were new. Soft, rich liver and crunchy cartilage were being thrown into the mix. It is a versatile dish where rarely two are the same.
It was upon my return to the Philippines that I began to discover just how versatile sisig is. I found a version made with Bangus or Milkfish, the national fish of the Philippines. Light and flaky, it is a great way to eat Bangus as it can be an extremely boney fish in other preparations. A little known fact is that crocodile are actually native to parts of this archipelago. This in turn means now through sustainable farming there is crocodile meat to be had. In Puerto Princesa along Baywalk Park is where I was introduced to this. Crocodile Sisig. Although my favorite remains the almighty pork sisig, it is a dish worthy of much exploration.
Have you ever tried Sisig? Which kind is your favorite or is there another style I missed?
Let me know below!