Mention Capampangan food nowadays and the first thing that comes to people’s minds is sisig but probably, what they know is what I call the modern sizzling sisig. To add insult to injury, the sisig served in restaurants isn’t even sour. Many times have I tasted something that more closely resembles our palaman torta or the pork filling for omelettes.
Just to refresh our memories, sisig is the generic Capampangan term for something sour and eaten by itself. These could be naturally acidic unripe fruits – mangoes, guavas, tamarind – or those that are dipped in vinegar like manibalang papaya or even sicamas.
[The following three paragraphs are from a previous entry on sisig páro.
My other favourite resource, Fr. Diego Bergaño’s Vocabulario de la Lengua Pampanga has this entry:
“SISING. (pp.) N. S. Ensalada. Y aun papaya verde, o guayaba comida con pebre. V. act. y su prot. Hacerla P. 2. lo que Ma, N. Mapanisig, no solo es el que hace muchas, sino goloso de ellas.”
It might have been the early pronunciation but I tend to think of his spelling of “sising” to the Spanish difficulty in pronouncing and thus confusing our ‘ñg’ and hard ‘g’ sounds. The give-away clue is in ‘mapanisig‘ which is still used nowadays in that context, someone who is fond of snacking on sour food on its own, without rice or another accompanying dish.
Through time, the term ‘sisig’ has also come to refer to food prepared with a simple sour marinade, such as meats and seafood. An example of this is the older version of sisig babi which is boiled pork ears and jowl, sliced thinly then dressed with calamunding (or vinegar), onions, chillies, salt and pepper.]
I have heard it said that the old version of sisig babi (now called sisig maputi or sisig matua) used to be served to conceiving or pregnant women. This makes perfect sense as the head, especially the cartilage of the ears are rich in calcium that help in bone formation. I have heard this being told by those from the vicinity of Angeles and thereabouts. Those in our area (second district of Pampanga), however, say that sisig babi has always been for all, just like sisig paro, sisig parusparus or any type of sisig has been served on the dining table.
In any case, extant documents or not, here’s the recipe for sisig babi that I grew up with. The recipe can substitute vinegar for calamunding and dalayap but if you haven’t tried it with those souring agents, I suggest you give it a try at least once.
Sisig Babi (non-sizzling)
1 kg. pork head, jowl and ears
1/4 kg. chicken or pork liver
10 pcs. shallots (sibuyas Tagalog)
10 pcs. calamunding
6-8 pcs. dalayap (lime)
4 pcs. larang labuyu (bird’s eye chillies)
salt and pepper to taste
- Properly clean and boil the pork till tender. Set aside to cool.
- Juice the calamunding and dalayap. Slice the shallots and chillies very thinly.
- Upon cooling, slice the pork into tiny squares, approximately 1-2 cubic cm. Finely chop the liver. In a mixing bowl, toss the pork, the shallots and the chillies then dress with the calamunding and dalayap juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Adjust the heat (paras) and sourness (caslam).
Good for snacking but also fantastic with freshly cooked rice.
This post is slightly modified from an article published in my column for SunStar Pampanga on 7 June 2007. It was one of the last, for I then stopped writing for the newspaper, when I took on a government position and left me not time to cook, much less, research and write about food.