(This feature was published in OAP and Mercato Centrale last May 24, 2013)
The SISIG. A Filipino favorite that is traditionally made with pig’s ears and served on a sizzling plate. This humble dish is said to originate from Pampanga but is now known outside the country, thanks to the feature of renowned chef and television host, Anthony Bourdain, who raved about it in his show No Reservations.
A lot of restaurants and bars serve sisig but only Chef Bab of Mercato Centrale can offer eight variants at one time. Even during the former Distrito Market, he has been dishing up this specialty, but now, he is offering foodies a chance to customize their sisig. Want it hot? Request for more chili. Want it as a meal? Order it with rice! Want a vegetarian version? Go for fish or tofu sisig. All orders are cooked on the spot, too, ensuring its freshness and deliciousness.
Diners may select from the following sisig variants: crispy pork, chicken, beef, squid, dinakdakan, tofu, bangus and veggie meat. Not surprisingly, the Crispy Pork Sisig is the bestseller. Imagine minced pork ears or cheeks that is cooked with onion, ginger, bell pepper and seasoned with soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi. Although it might not paint a pretty picture fit for a five-star resto, the taste is definitely up there. It is best served hot and with a raw egg on top. I prefer the spicy version because it has more zing. I like this sisig variant the best because of the texture of the crispy pork and the dominant onion flavor. It’s a dish fit for pork paradise! (Just eat in moderation.)
Another must-try is the Dinakdakan, sisig the Ilokano way. It uses the various parts of the pig’s head, including the brain, and it is prepared similar to pork kinilaw. It has some pork liver and is served with mayonnaise as well. The technique to enjoying this rich and tasty dish is not to think about the individual ingredients and simply enjoy every yummy bite. Try it and you’ll like it. Really.
Chef Bab’s (Francis Basa in real life) hails from Nueva Ecija and his passion for food and skill in cooking is reflective in his creative sisig creations. He honed his cooking skills in Magsaysay Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts and he has been in the food business for years now. He recently added sisig turnover (omelet sisig) in his menu and is planning to introduce sisig sandwich in the weekend markets soon. With the undying love of Filipinos for sisig, looks like Chef Bab is here to stay.