Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sisig Pampanga (Ver. 1)

“Sisig” is a term in the “Capampangan”, the dialect of the people of Pampanga and partly of Tarlac Provinces of Central Luzon, Philippines which means "to snack on something sour". It usually refers to unripe of half-ripe fruits sometimes dipped in salt and/or vinegar. More widely known, it also refers to a method of preparing meat, especially pork and later on fish and other exotic meats, which is marinated in a souring agent such as calamodin (“calamansi”) or lemon juice or vinegar, then seasoned with salt, chili pepper and other spices.

Onion and chicken or pork liver are among the important ingredients of the tasty dish regarded as an ultimate Filipino “pulutan” or bites/morsel usually eaten while drinking alcoholic drinks or beverages. Whilst it started as a roadside eatery food, it is now widely eaten in every Filipino home as well as in many restaurants, big and small.

Mrs. Lucia Cunanan of Angeles City, Philippines has been credited with inventing the dish. The Philippine Department of Tourism has acknowledged that her "Aling Lucing's" Restaurant had established Angeles City as the "Sisig Capital of the Philippines". Mrs. Cunanan's trademark “sisig” was developed in mid 1974 when she served a concoction of boiled and chopped pig ears and cheeks seasoned with vinegar, “calamansi” juice, chopped onions and chicken liver and served in hot plates.

Today, “sisig” varieties include pork combination, “bangus” (milkfish), chicken, squid, tuna, “tahong” (green mussels), mixed seafood, ostrich, spicy python, frog and tofu, among others. For further variations, addition of any of the following is now often done: eggs, pork or ox brains, “chicharon” (pork cracklings) and even mayonnaise. Due to the popularity attained of the way it is served in a sizzling plate, the word “sisig” may also refer to sizzling “sisig”.

The typical preparation of “sisig” as we do it in Pampanga and Tarlac involves three phases: boiling, broiling/grilling or frying and chopping/mixing. Now others consider frying or sautéing as the final step. A pig's head or jowl is first boiled to tenderize it. Then the meat is cut up and grilled/broiled or as some likes to do, deep fried. Finally, it is finely chopped alongside with the onion and liver. As mentioned above, some prefers that after chopping the meat, it is fried or sautéed with onions and liver which I don’t usually do unless for leftover “sisig”.

For this version of “sisig” Pampanga, I will do the deep fried type. Whilst I prefer the grilled type and considered it as the authentic version, this method is very handy when living in the city and grilling in an open charcoal is hard to do. For the preparation we need about half a kilo of pork jowl, boiled until tender and then deep fried until crispy on the outside.

The other ingredients needed are 1 large onion, peeled and halve, “calamansi” or lemon juice, about 3 tbsp, 1 tsp salt or to taste and 2 pcs chili peppers. Most tasty “sisig” being served in eateries, bars and restaurants have MSG so adding some would not harm and will, in fact, enhance the taste even more. But of course, it is your discretion. My son will probably ask me to not even think about it. :-)

To complete the ingredients, we also need some chicken liver, about 3 pieces or more if you have, lightly boiled until there is no more trace of blood.

Since we have already boiled and fried the pork, the next step is simply chopping and mixing everything. But this process is quite important and usually providing the difference between an ordinary “sisig” and a distinctly tasty one.

In a wide chopping board, carefully chop the crispy pork meat to a rough texture first. Then roughly chop the onion as well. Mix the two ingredients and chop finely allowing the flavors to combine during the chopping process.

Add the chicken liver and continue chopping. The flavors of the 3 ingredients will further combine while chopping.

Transfer in a deep mixing bowl and add in all the other ingredients. Using a large serving spoon, mix everything. Apply a pressing action to somehow squeeze all the juices from the ingredients then stir it again to fully blend the flavors. This is very important. Do it several times until everything is fully combined and taste has developed.

Transfer in serving plate or in a sizzling plate and serve immediately. Others will probably break a fresh egg on top when using a hot plate to heighten the taste. Serve it with some “calamansi” juice + soy sauce + lot of chili dipping sauce on the side. As viand of an adobo-garlic fried rice would be great. Enjoy! c“,)

I ate this wonderful dish with steamed rice and it’s so good; but as I said, this goes very well too with your favorite drinks. Call your friends and start the party. :-)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Authentic Filipino Foods at a Pinoy Christmas Party in Sri Lanka

Last Saturday, we were invited by our Filipino friends from another construction firm engaged in the other phase of the same national expressway project we are constructing here in Southern Sri Lanka, to grace and participate their early Christmas Party. Most of the Filipinos living or working here, or abroad in general, are going back home during the holiday season so early Christmas party is inevitable. Since it has been always look forward to have party full of fun with our friends there, we excitedly headed to their place bringing a modest pot of beef “caldereta” as our share in the food, some items for the prizes and some bottles of the best local brandy for the drinks.

We arrive quite early. Everyone is still busy with the preparation of food, drinks, physical arrangement, Christmas decorations, sound system, prizes, gifts, etc. and we had our chance to somehow help our friends. We watch in awe while the whole pork “lechon” is roasting, the “lechon kawali” is sizzling in hot oil, the pork barbeque is grilling, the “lumpiang shanghai” is frying and the “menudo” is stewing. Soon after, the Christmas atmosphere started to build up as the familiar tune of the delightful Filipino Christmas Carols filled the air. Suddenly, the magical feeling of Christmas overwhelmed everyone ……. and all is smiling …….. laughing ……. eagerly anticipating the party ……. and probably thinking home. :)

It turns out that our friends also invited other Filipinos from other companies who have project in this tiny Island nation. Some are coming from other construction companies and some from the garments industries. All showcasing the expertise and talents of the world renowned human resource called Filipinos. Let me not resort to the crap hero-branding of the Filipinos abroad. That is hardly felt by us.

All in all, more than 70 professionals and skilled workers gathered for the special Christmas celebration hosted our hospitable friends. For such a big number of hungry Christmas celebrators, mostly males, who will sing, dance, play, frolic and drinks all night, lots and lots of food is needed. :-) But our friends made sure no one will get hungry and thirsty and everyone will be tummy-filled with delicious Filipino foods and at the same time heart-filled with the Christmas spirit. c“,)

As the party celebrates Christmas and promotes unity and camaraderie among us, it also serves as a showcase of authentic Filipino foods highly missed by all of us here. Whilst of course, the center piece is the famous Filipino pork “lechon”, many other main course dishes are prepared for everyone’s amazement and enjoyment.

"Pork Lechon" (Roasted Whole Pork)




Beef Caldereta

"Lechon Kawali" (Deep Fried Pork Belly)

"Lumpiang Shanghai" (Meat Spring Rolls)

Pork Barbeque

Chop Suey


There were also some sumptuous traditional rice cakes (“puto”) and delicacies (“kakanin”) for dessert.

"Puto" (Filipino Rice Cake)

Maja Blanca

There were also lots of drinks which turned everyone into better singer (except me) and dancer as the night gets deeper. But since this is a child-friendly blog, I can’t show any of those drinks. :-) Instead, I’ll let you enjoy the colorful images showing the fun, happiness and blast that everyone felt during the party.

From me, my Pareng Jun Roxas and the rest of our group from Kumagai, we wish to express our heartfelt thanks to our friends from Taisei Corporation headed by Mr. Don, the Pangulo, and Ka Pedring, the other Boss, for a wonderful night. :-)

At least for one night, we forgot about concrete pouring, residents’ complaints, delayed work schedule, cost and time claims, cut slope collapse, rectification works, unending variations, uncertified amounts, billing preparations, etc. etc. c“,)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Fresh Fruits for Dessert

Dessert is a course that typically comes at the end of a meal, usually consisting of sweet food such as cakes like banana cake and chocolate cake, cookies, pastries, ice cream, candies, puddings, chocolate bars, sweetened fruits like “banana que” and sweetened banana, sweet delicacies and my favorite, fresh fruits. Dessert is an important part of a meal as it enlivens the eating satisfaction to a higher level. Sort of completing the food intake to a point where taste buds will attain a state of pure pleasure and will temporarily shutdown in craving for foods or anything. :-)

Fresh fruit is my preferred dessert for every meal. With so many good things being attributed to fruits I guess no elaboration is really needed. However, it is worth mentioning that fruit provides energy in the form of natural sugars which our body can extract without even feeling fulfilled. Said sugars are digested in a short period in a chemical process with no toxic waste byproduct. Fruit also contains substantial amount of the important fibers and high percentage of water which is almost the same water percentage of the human body at 80%.

Being in a tropical country like the Philippines, we are blessed with many varieties of fruits available to everyone at a relatively low cost here in Sri Lanka. I have featured before some of the local harvests of fresh fruits in season as well as the remarkable king coconut and banana which we enjoy all year round. There are many more which I hope to post one by one or in groups in the future.

For dessert we usually have, as shown above, pineapple. It is the crunchy-sweet variety which is also a favorite of our Japanese friends.

For very good source of natural sugars + water, we have water melon and melon which provide a refreshing dessert at the end of a satisfying full Filipino meal during weekends. :-)

Imported fruits also make a good dessert although not quite cheap here. Grapes, apple, oranges and seedless water melon are perfect at the end of a sumptuous meal during special occasions.

As we get old, our interest in nutrition increases and we are getting more conscious about what we eat. Consequently, our interest in fruit and its contents grows. As expected, more and more people are now eating fruits for dessert. c“,)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Callos, Spanish-Filipino Tripe Dish

It’s has been five days since my last post so I want to feature an extraordinary dish not only in the sense that it uses many special ingredients and requires a laborious preparation and cooking but primarily because it is uniquely rich, tasty comforting and deeply satisfying. It is simply known as “Callos” in the Philippines and called “Callos a la Madrilena” in Spain. This is probably among the original Spanish dishes introduced to the Philippines by the Spaniard colonizers. Filipino “Callos” is not an everyday dish. Even the affluent Filipino families only have entree during special occasions like Christmas and important family gatherings.

To find a really good “callos” though is not difficult when in the Philippines. A short visit to the many Spanish restaurants is all that is needed to enjoy the wonderful tripe dish flavored by Spanish chorizo (“chorizo de bilbao”) chickpeas (garbanzos), paprika and tomato sauce. Since vegetables like potato, carrots, green peas and bell pepper are usually added, the dish is considered a complete stew that can be eaten with rice as the main meal or with crusty bread as snack. Yes, it goes very well too with the Garlic Bread posted recently and among the popular “tapas” of Spain like “Gambas Al Ajillo” which I also posted earlier.

A good “callos” starts with fine beef tripe. I already provided some important information about tripe in my post about “Goto” or “Arroz Caldo con Goto”. The same method of cleaning and boiling the tripe with crushed ginger until tender is necessary to be assured of good-smelling and succulent tripe. :-)

For the dish, I bought around 2 kilos of beef tripe which I meticulously washed and cleaned and slowly simmered with the aromatic ginger until fork tender. I ended up with about 1½ kilos of thoroughly drained and already tendered meat, cut up to small pieces, about ¼ x ½ inches rectangle or 1 x 1 cm square.

In addition to beef tripe, some meat and processed meats are necessary to create a delicious “callos”. So, I added about 250 grams (8 strip/slices) streaky bacon (can be substituted by ham), chopped, 350 grams boiled pork knuckle (skin & tendon parts, you can also use pork cheeks or beef tendon) and 2 pcs “chorizo de bilbao” (garlic sausage of Spain), sliced thinly.

The first set of other ingredients are 2 tbsp vegetable oil (olive oil if you have), 2 tbsp butter or margarine, 1 head garlic, peeled and minced, 2 pcs. chili peppers, 2 large onion, peeled and chopped, 3 pcs tomatoes, chopped (but I ran out of supply so I compensated with extra tomato sauce), 2 pcs bay leaves, 1 tsp whole peppercorn, cracked, 1 pc green bell pepper, 2 sprigs fresh flat leaf parsley, ½ tsp dried basil, 1 tsp paprika, ½ cup grated cheese and 1 tsp salt or to taste. If you have green olives, add about 10 pieces. I don’t. :-(

The other vegetable ingredients which will complete the rich stew dish are 1½ cups cooked chickpeas or garbanzos, ¾ cup cooked green peas, 1 pc large carrot, peeled and cut up to 1 cm cube and 2 pcs potatoes cut up to 1 cm cube. Of course, another key ingredient but not photographed is tomato sauce, about 2 cups. Around 4 cups of good chicken or pork broth is also required.

In a large pan or wok, heat the oil and fry the bacon followed by the "chorizo" until slightly browned and bacon has rendered some of its fat. Remove the cooked bacon and chorizo pieces and set aside.

Heat the same pan with remaining oil + bacon extract oil and add the margarine. Sauté the garlic followed by chili and onion. Add the bay leaves, tripe and pork meat and continue sautéing until it slightly sizzles and aromatic.

At this point, I figured out my wok can hardly contain all the other ingredients so I transferred everything in a large deep pan. Continue by pouring the broth and simmering on low heat. Add the cracked pepper and salt when liquid is boiling. Then, add in the chickpeas, green peas, carrots and potatoes and continue simmering. When the liquid is again boiling add the tomato sauce and further simmer until the veggies are just tender.

Add the remaining ingredients – basil, fresh parsley and cheese. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. Since I don’t have and did not use the required fresh tomatoes, I added some more tomato sauce, about ¼ cup, and about 2 tbsp of white vinegar. All together they made the taste wonderful to me. Please adjust accordingly as tomato sauce differs in level of acidity. Sri Lankan tomato sauce is sweet and not quite acidic unlike the Del Monte brand common in the Philippines. So if you’re using the acidic type of tomato sauce, you might need a slightly lesser quantity than above.

Continue simmering for some more minute and it’s done. Transfer in a shallow bowl and serve immediately. Enjoy! c“,)

The dish is should be served with either hot steamed rice or garlic fried rice as main meal or with some bread for snack. Tripe dish at its best. :-)


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