When we think about sisig, the sizzling pork-face version is probably the first thing that pops into mind. It is, after all, the most popular version of sisig: the very iteration that has turned Angeles into a dining destination, and that made Anthony Bourdain swoon. There is more to sisig than pork, however. In fact, the first documented recipe of the dish in 1732 reveals a simple, sour salad made with green papaya or green guava, and vinegar. These days, sisig has grown into a showcase of different meats and ingredients.
Tracing the history of sisig
When looking at varieties of sisig, we should first look to the past. Early versions were closer to the sour salad of 1732, with no creamy components. They were similar to the Ilocano dinakdakan, or kilayin, but were made with varying main ingredients and often served cold. In a 1960s Kapampangan recipe book, there’s mention of sisig paro (made with shrimp), sisig pacu (made with edible fiddlehead fern), and sisig talaba (made with fresh oyster, similar to ceviche). The unifying factor is really the souring agent, onions, and long peppers.
In the 1960s, Lucia Cunanan, a.k.a the Sisig Queen, adapted this Kapampangan staple into the model we are most familiar with. At her roadside carinderia, she grilled off-cuts of pork and tossed them together with the traditional elements of sisig, turning it into a pulutan dish paired with beer. A few years later, Aling Lucing served it on a sizzling plate after adopting the idea from another restaurant in Angeles, thus beginning another chapter in sisig’s long culinary history. Today, it is Aling Lucing’s recipe that has become the standard, with chefs adding their own inventive takes.