Originally conceived of as a sour fruit salad to cure hangovers, sisig’s come a long way from its anomalous origins. Today the dish remains as popular as ever, prepared in home kitchens, carinderia, and Filipino restaurants around the country – though often adapted to suit modern tastes. Many of today’s recipes, for example, take after the style popularised by Angeles City’s Aling Lucing where the meat mixture is served sizzling on a hot plate with other ingredients that include chopped onions, pork brains, and chicken livers (and – though not traditiona – eggs, dropped raw and cooked in the plate’s residual heat). Past the traditionally “wet” mixture that marked its traditional iteration, diners today have come to know the distinctly different, but equally tasty, “crispy” version. These days, sisig can be found in different forms – used for filling tacos, stuffed into sausages, mixed into pasta, and more; no longer limited to just pork, any other protein can be used in the modern day sisig.
Regardless of the type of sisig you’re going for, one thing remains constant: the unique combination of flavours and textures that mark sisig’s venerable identity. Think chewy with crunchy, fresh with fatty, savoury with sour and spicy – seemingly polar opposites at first, all of which come together harmoniously as the ingredients mingle with the turn of your spoon. This incredible blend is also why the traditional sisig calls for pork brains – though it is not always easy to come by in supermarkets today.
Enter the modern-day alternative: mayonnaise.
Think of mayonnaise as the pillar that holds everything in place, unifying contrasts into a singular sensation, taste- and texture-wise, that appeals to Filipinos of all ages. Creamy and with a thick consistency, it cradles each and every speck of meat and provides a richness that makes every bite feel absolutely indulgent. With its subtle sweetness, mayonnaise helps round out the sisig’s overall flavour profile by balancing out the spicy, piquant pow of the other seasonings.
And you’ll find mayonnaise to be a great addition whether you’re using it hot or cold: it is at its creamiest and most voluptuous when cold – try it mixed into the kilawin-like style of sisig that marks the Kapampangan original. When heated, the tasty condiment melts into an egg-oil emulsion, which helps crisp up the bottom surface as it cooks on the hot plate and forms the flavourful crust that always proves to be a hit.
Diners who prefer other proteins besides pork can also enjoy the classic Filipino dish. Here we suggest three tasty alternatives, each with its own distinct profile: chicken, a fairly neutral protein that takes on other flavours nicely; oyster, a briny mollusc with a moist, succulent texture; and ox tongue, the polarising offal that - when in the right hands - turns unbeatably tender when braised.
Though worlds apart in taste and texture, once tossed together with the other ingredients – soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi, sili, and of course, mayonnaise – they all make for sisig variations that are every bit as tasty as the original version made with pork.
Like any dish, sisig is a work in progress that will continue to evolve – and we say keep exercising your creativity. Either way, the beauty of sisig is in the way it harmonises opposites into a complex but comforting dish that hardly ever fails to please. And for this, you can always rely on the power of a dollop of mayonnaise.