by Jocelyn Tolbert
The original version of sisig, as described in a 1732 dictionary, was a green papaya salad served with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar. The version we know today is markedly different.
“It’s a traditional Filipino dish that has a lot of sour and bitter notes. It’s made from the leftover head after roasting a whole pig,” says Chef Eric Ernest, CEC, CCA, Executive Chef, USC Hospitality. “Sometimes they’ll put in the liver, belly snout, ears or cheeks … then it’s chopped up with calamansi — that’s a Filipino lime — and there’s egg and onion.”
“In America there are a lot of cuisines we’ve already had or adapted to the point of bastardization,” Ernest says. But Filipino food isn’t yet as ubiquitous here as the American versions of Italian or Chinese food, and as authenticity gains in popularity in the U.S., the demand for dishes like sisig has grown, too.
“It fits into the trends of creativity, international, wholesome flavors and whole animal butchery,” he says. “It’s the perfect storm for Filipino cuisine.”
Ernest gives a talk on sisig in New Orleans during Cook. Craft. Create. ACF National Convention and Show on July 16. Follow @acfchefs on Facebook for all the latest updates from Convention.