Though the history of sisig is often contested, many attribute its conception to Lucia Cunanan. However, few realize that she wasn’t the first to chop up pig parts, or put it on a sizzling plate. Sisig is actually derived from the old Tagalog word sisigan, which means “to make sour”.
Its existence was first recorded by an Augustinian friar in 1732. In his Spanish-Kapampangan dictionary, he catalogued it as a “salad, including green papaya, or green guava eaten with a dressing of salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar". Centuries later, sisig remained a citrusy side to heftier meats, although variations of it with meat, oyster or native deer popped up around the region here and there.
It wasn’t until the American occupation that the version we know with pisngi and other odd bits of pork really developed. Commissaries at the Clark Air Bases would throw out tons of pig heads and innards because they avoided its use in preparing meals for the American troops stationed there. Nearby restaurants would take the discarded off-cuts and incorporate them into the sour salad, serving them with beers at their late-night joints by the railroad, an area known as the “Crossing”. It was here in the 1970s that Aling Lucing Cunanan adopted this plate and transformed it into something else entirely. Her recipe included grilling the cheeks and adding vinegar, calamansi juice, onions and liver, turning it into the pulutan we know today. Cunanan became the Sisig Queen and started a revolution. It didn’t take long for others to make her style the standard, with another restaurateur, Benedicto Pamintuan, offering it up on a sizzling plate, thereby igniting another trend.
Nowadays, sisig has become one of our most popular exports, a dish that is often championed abroad by local and foreign chefs alike. It has taken the world by storm, and is bringing Filipino cuisine to the forefront of the global dining scene, with popular chefs like Anthony Bourdain featuring sisig on their food shows. There is even a festival dedicated to the beloved food held in Pampanga, where it all began.
If you want to learn more about this beautiful mess of delicious pig parts, here’s a handy timeline that traces back its origins.
Submit your best sisig recipe and win!
Knorr, in partnership with LTB Chef's Association and Zomato, is out to find the best, most innovative sisig dishes out there, and yours might just be the one. The challenge: come up with your most creative sisig dish using Knorr Liquid Seasoning (a key ingredient to any standout sisig) good for 2-3 servings.