October 10, 2012

Sisig Overload

Photo from http://tourism-philippines.com/pampanga/
by http://www.flickr.com/photos/lesterphotogallery/
Sisig has surprisingly made its regular appearance on the dinner table when my parents, sister, aunt, and grandma were here late last month. Except, of course, for that dinner in North Park, which obviously does not serve this dish, and that dinner at home during my parents’ 31st anniversary celebration. I admit I have underestimated the taste buds of the rest of the family and categorized them under “picky” and “unadventurous”. They eat innards. I don’t. They eat any fish dish while I have my own list of “edible” fish. They stuff themselves with more greens than I can tolerate. So, who’s picky?

As you may already know, sisig is made of a pig’s cheeks and is often mixed with liver and what have you. The first time I saw it, it was as if I was seeing in reality my mental sketch of a human brain taken out of a skull, chopped finely, and cooked. I may have gory imaginings sometimes but that sisig still looked weird and scary to bits. But the innovative Pinoys devised a way to make it friendlier to the less adventurous segment of the population.

I have only eaten sisig in college, when everybody was nuts about it and it was the mandatory pulutan in most drinking sessions. My first try didn't go well because of the liver bits. But after that, I enjoyed every sisig meal that I had. Well, some may be less enjoyable than the others, but I have managed to eat them without a hint of disgust.

I was not aware that I already missed my weekly fix of sisig that I was delighted to hear them order it when we had dinner in Congo Grille Mall of Asia. I deliberately brought them there because I remember Nanay, my maternal grandmother, enjoyed their sisig when we dined there years ago, when she still lived with the R’s in Cavite.

Congo Grilles’s sisig falls above the “ok” sisigs that I have had, even one of the best I've had. It was creamy rather than oily. I forgot if it was topped with egg, which made it creamy, but I suspect that it had mayonnaise. The light crunch that the cracklings gave was also a pleasant contrast to the soft rice. Though I would have loved it better if it had a mild kick, Congo Grille’s sisig was the best out of the three sisig dishes I had that week.

By pure fate, my sister and her college dorm mate crossed paths in Greenbelt. I do not know how that happened! She treated us to dinner at Mesa and one of the orders was— guess what?— sisig! If Congo Grille's was above "ok", theirs fall under "ok." I do not know why I found it incomparable with Congo Grille’s sisig. Probably because it had too much oil. The grilled sampler that we ordered may have also been a factor because everything in it tasted almost the same and it sort of affected how the sisig tasted in my mouth.
Taken with iPad, hence the poor quality. Sorry. :D
Nanay and Tita Rhodel were the last ones to go home to Leyte and the night before their flight, we had dinner at Gilligan’s in Market! Market!. And of course, dinner wouldn't be complete without the ever loved sisig. This was the least that I liked among the three sisig dishes. But to be fair, I should state here that this was the third time that week that we had sisig and grilled meat viand. Not to mention that my favorite lechon from Leyte was also flown to Manila for my parents’ anniversary so I was already on a cholesterol high that day. Though it was the least I liked, I’m not saying that it was bad at all.

From it’s true home in Pampanga, sisig already has many versions, and even forms, all over the country. Just like sisig, I am pretty sure that from a nation that loves to cook and eat, there are still a lot of local dishes that deserve to be brought to the national scene. I hope these "undiscovered" culinary treasures can be unearthed soon and be experienced by the rest of us.

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