A dish that dates back to the 1700s, sisig originated from a Pampanga region in Luzon in the Philippines; however, the dish was very different from what’s commonly served today. The word ‘sisig’ stems from sisigan, an old Tagalog word that means ‘to make sour.’ Sisig started as a simple sour salad made with green papaya or guava, salt, pepper and garlic, tossed in a vinegar dressing. Sisig has since evolved into a pulutan, which is a catch-all term for foods that are best enjoyed with alcohol. Sisig is now a meaty drinking snack that has gained popularity worldwide.
Sisig evolved into its more meaty modern version when Filipinos living near Clark Air Base in Pampanga could get pigs heads for either cheap or free from the US Air Force personnel who had no use for them. They would boil the heads, cut off the ears, jowls, and snout, and added the parts to sisig salad. Sisig has a combination of savory and fatty flavors coming from the different cuts of a pig’s head tossed with a spicy and acidic dressing.
Pork sisig is the most popular, but there are many other variations of sisig where other ingredients can be used in place of or in addition to pork. Chicken sisig is a popular alternative to the traditional dish as well as tuna or even squid. Other common ingredients in sisig include onion, chili peppers, egg, liver spread, garlic powder, soy sauce, calamansi, and lemon. Some cooks also like to add mayonnaise or pork cracklings into the dish for extra flavor. The combination of salty and tangy ingredients with the creamy texture of mayonnaise gives sisig a rich flavor.
Sisig is a dish that leaves nothing to waste and is usually served as an appetizer but can also be eaten as a meal. Nowadays, especially outside of the Philippines, sisig is usually made with pork belly, mayo and egg, and is usually paired with a lot of plain white rice because the flavor is so rich. The sourness of sisig is also known to be a remedy for nausea and hangovers and is a dish that is almost always served with an ice-cold beer, which is why sisig has earned its reputation as the unofficial national dish for Filipino beer drinkers.