The best sisig hangouts in the Philippine food capital

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Saturday, July 23, 2011


NO OTHER dish has ever rose to fame to the point of being equated as the best iconography of Kapampangan cuisine than the humble sisig.

When friends outside of the province would gather for lunch in town, they would always demand a generous serving of sisig in a humongous sizzling plate and declare that it is the best Kapampangan dish ever conceived; a statement that I always object to.

Sisig is always the best choice during drinking sprees, a necessary dish during parties and a constant at the menu list of every restaurant that claims to offer authentic Kapampangan food.

The first mention of the word is in the Kapampangan dictionary compiled by an Augustinian friar, Diego Bergaño. (The Spanish missionary served as parish priest of Mexico, Pampanga in 1725-173). In his dictionary, Bergaño defines sisig as a "salad, including green papaya, or green guava eaten with a dressing of salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar." "Manyisig" means "to make salad" while "mapanisig" is "one who makes a lot of salad, or frequently eats salad, or picks tidbits of it."

Sun.Star Pampanga's resident historian cum columnist Robby Tantingco has this to say about sisig: "The sisig of our ancestors is the equivalent of our vegetarian salad today, no meat, just green fruit soured further with vinegar, tempered with salt and spiced with pepper and garlic. They probably ate it as a regular side dish ('tiltilan'), and maybe as cure for nausea."

The nearest existing evidence of this is the sisig pusung saging (banana flower) that still retains a sour distinct taste different from pork sisig. In fact, in some towns like Sta. Rita, Porac and Guagua, when one ask for sisig cooks will always ask if they would make it in pork or banana flower. Older folks here have fun memories of sisig pusung saging before it evolved to the sisig that we know today.

"Over the years, sisig evolved from being just a salad to being main dish, when our ancestors started putting meat in it, like pig's ears and pig's cheeks," Tantingco added but it was Lucia "Aling Lucing" Cunanan of Angeles City who revolutionized the humble sisig.

"She further redefined sisig by introducing two features in the preparation: broiling or grilling the pig parts after boiling them, and then serving the dish on a sizzling plate. She had retained all the elements of the traditional sisig (chopped meat sprinkled with calamansi juice) but it was the sizzling plate that revolutionized the Kapampangan sisig and made it a national sensation, catapulting the obscure little lady from the railroad tracks to national fame," Tantingco said.

Owing to its popularity among non-Kapampangans, I am often asked by my non-Kapampangans friends on the best places to experience authentic sisig recipes. The following is a listing of restaurants and eating places that our novice gastronomic tastes would consider as among the best places to visit for sisig.

Ihaw-Ihaw and Special Sisig (Porac)

This place features alfresco dining at the town proper. Neatly lined tables dot the vicinity of an old house that serves as kitchen and office for the establishment. The place is a few feet away from the Porac River and provides a clear view of locals passing through the main town road.

The place does not open until late afternoon where it caters to locals wanting to enjoy food and a generous serving of beer. The place is frequented by yuppies and call center agents before going home after their late-night shifts.

Their sisig boasts of the freshest pork and is cooked without cartilages. Their sisig is tender and soft due to the longer time they devout in boiling the meat and soft skin. Served in a sizzling plate, each serving is good for 3 to 4 people and costs P150 per serving. The establishment is open until dawn.

Luring's Barbeque House (Guagua)

With several branches in and outside of the province, this well established food establishment can cater to every Kapampangan's longing for home-cooked food. Located along the Porac-Guagua Highway in Barangay San Roque, this establishment evolved from a quaint barbeque house into a bonafide destination for Kapampangan dishes and grilled meats.

Their branch in Guagua town is open almost 24-hours and offers a fantastic sisig sizzled in butter and with cooked liver shreds, best eaten with toyomansi (soy souse and calamansi) or with vinegar.

San Vicente Food Strip (Sta. Rita)

The short road strip of the Barangay San Vicente, which serves as the town's humble commercial district, turns into a food strip with housewives selling cooked food from grilled meats to noodles at night.

Vendors cater to middle class workers and students coming home from the commercial districts in the City of San Fernando and neighboring Guagua town. Here, one can pick-up a fresh serving of "sisig to-go" for P50 and is already good for 2 to 3 people. Ones a week they also offer sisig pusong saging.

Aling Lucing's Sisig (Angeles City)

Located along crossing (Henson Street, Angeles City) is the birth place of sisig as we know it today. This sisig is usually served in chops of pork, pig skin and even the brains of the pig transforming it into a tasty, crunchy and fatty dish best consumed in gulps of light beer.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 24, 2011.

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