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.