Spicy Sizzling Sisig

As mentioned in my previous post, I will be introducing, one at a time, 5 utterly fatty Filipino pork dishes I have deemed as the Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique. The first fatty pork dish I’d like to present to you in this series is Spicy Sizzling Sisig.

Sisig is a spicy and sourish Filipino dish usually comprised of pig ears, snout, and cheeks (and sometimes brain!) that have been boiled, grilled, and fried (yes, it’s cooked thrice) with spicy chilies and then served on a hot sizzling platter. In other words, it’s a platter of sizzling pig’s face (and sometimes brain!).

Before any of you turn your own noses up at this dish, let me say that after I’ve had it in the Philippines in Boracay, and after making it myself, I can certainly attest that Sisig is a damn fine and tasty dish. (Market Manila also has some great Sisig posts here, here, and here.)

Ok fine, you’ll give Sisig a try, but how does one obtain a pig’s face you ask? Well, if you happen to have access to a severed pig’s head, you yourself can easily butcher the face off, as shown in the following Gourmet Magazine video that shows Chef Chris Cosentino butchering a pig’s head to make the Italian dish, Porchetta di Testa. Warning: the following video can be disturbing if you don’t like to see meat being butchered, but it’s pretty awesome and informative nonetheless:

See, Filipinos aren’t the only ones to eat pig’s face!

Of course, many of us probably don’t have access to the severed head of a little piggy, let alone are we willing enough to butcher it ourselves. So making Sisig sans snout with just pork ears and jowl is the next best thing.

If you happen to have some pork ears with hair on them, just shave them with a razor and/or burn them off with a blowtorch as was shown in the Gourmet Magazine video above. Luckily for me, the ears I purchased were already clean-shaven.

To make my Sisig, I first boiled some pork ears for a couple of hours in some water along with a couple of dried chipotle chilies and bay leaves (the chilies and bay were more for aromatic purposes as I didn’t want my place smelling like boiling pig ears).

Pork Ears for Sisig

Are you listening to me?

Some Sisig recipes I’ve seen say to grill the ears first to get rid of any stray hairs, and then boil them. But that seemed counterintuitive to me in that the boiling would probably wash away any desired char and smokiness from the grill.

I also took one of my pork jowls and trimmed away much (a whole friggin lot) of the fat because I thought it would be a shame to waste all the delicious jowl fat to the flames of my grill. Don’t fret though, there was still plenty of fat left on the jowl and I saved the trimmed fat for another use down the road (another post for another time).

Pork Jowl for Sisig

Fatty Jowl

For those of you unfamiliar with pork jowl, it is used to make the Italian cured meat called Guanciale–which is basically face bacon (rather than bacon made from pork belly). Luckily I ordered two jowls, one for Sisig and one for Guanciale. As soon as the weather cools down around here, I will be curing my own homemade Guanciale with the other pork jowl I have (yet another post for another time).

I then marinated the boiled ears and the trimmed jowl (no need to boil the jowl) in some soy, vinegar, kalamansi juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes overnight. After marinating, I grilled the ears and jowl over high heat until they were nice and charred. I tasted the ears and jowl at this point, and they were so good already–especially the ‘qued jowl:

Grilled Pork Jowl for SISIG

Grilled Pork Jowl for Sisig

Tasty Barbecued Pork Jowl. Tender meat, quivering fat.

The pork ears were no slouch either, as they seemed to take up a lot of the flavor from the marinade. Although the ears are, of course, all cartiledge, they weren’t tough to chew on at all as they were rendered tender from the earlier boiling. Although I used four pork ears for my recipe, feel free to tone it down to two ears.

Grilled Pork Ears for Sisig

Soft ears

After I removed the pork from the grill, I chopped everything up into small pieces. Along with some chopped onions and some thai and serrano chilies, I sauteed the pork jowls in a hot skillet–some of the fat renders out from the jowls and ends up caramelizing the onions into sweet bits. I added the chopped ears to the pan at the last minute, then presented everything on a hot sizzling platter as Sisig should be served. Sisig, it’s spicy, smoky, tangy, and utterly porky delicious.

Pork Sisig

Sizzle fer shizzle, home skillet!

And that friends, is the first dish for my Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique. Use it with caution. Although there are four more dishes to go, I won’t reveal them all here at once because there is indeed a rather effective defense against the lethal Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique: Moderation.

Spicy Sizzling Sisig

Serves 4-6

2-4 pork ears, cleaned and rinsed
2 dried chipotle peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cane vinegar
1/4 cup kalamansi juice (or a mixture of lemon and lime juice)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound pork jowl, trimmed of excess fat (save trimmed fat for another use)
1 onion, diced
1 thai bird chili, sliced
1 serrano chili, sliced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimenton)

Place the pork ears, chipotle peppers, and bay leaves in a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue simmering for 2 hours until the ears become tender. Drain the ears and allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine the soy, vinegar, kalamansi juice, garlic, and pepper flakes to make a marinade. Place the pork ears and jowl in a large zip-top bag, or in a shallow dish, and pour the marinade over the pork. Marinate the pork overnight.

Remove the pork from the marinade then discard the marinade. Pat the ears dry with paper towels, then brush them with oil (no oil is needed for the already fatty jowl). Place the ears and the jowl on a very hot grill and cook for a total of 15-20 minutes, turning the ears and the jowl frequently. Remove pork from grill and allow to rest until they are cool enough to handle.

Chop the pork ears into small pieces and set aside. Chop the pork jowl into small pieces and set aside, making sure to keep the jowl separate from the ears.

Add the pork jowls to a large skillet over high heat and saute for 3-5 minutes. At this point, you can pour off some of the rendered fat that collects in the pan, but I left it in there. Add the onions, chilies, and paprika to the hot pan and cook until the onions soften. Add the chopped ears to the pan and mix everything to combine. Cook for 1 more minute, then place the Sisig on a pre-heated sizzling hot platter.

Provide some fresh kalamansi (or lime or lemon) on the side for spritzing onto the Sisig. Serve the Sisig with rice and an ice cold beer.


The Five Point Pork Exploding Heart Technique:

  • Manggy November 2, 2008, 9:43 pm

    Hey, you forgot the Maggi/ Knorr liquid seasoning! 😛 The shot with the chili pepper dead center is what they call teh money shot, my friend :)
    Frankly, I’m not as hung up on Sisig as my friends but I don’t not eat it either. (I usually find it too fatty.) Call me a wuss but I prefer the bangus (or was it tuna? Bleh, just go with bangus) version, even if I had a helluva time looking for the bangus ears. In any case, to have it fresh and crispy (on a hot plate!) is the best way– I’ve had it chewy and soggy from sitting out for a while. Not good eats! But my friends had no problem gobbling that down.

  • joey November 3, 2008, 1:55 am

    Ossabaw pigs?? Oooh! I have only ever read about them! You lucky thing you! I love jowls and ears :) Have you ever had the ears bbq’d on the streets here (usually with the same people that sell the isaw)? So awesome :)
    Your sisig looks perfect!!! I am so impressed!
    Looking forward to the other four points :) This is definitely a series that I am going to LOVE!!!

  • greasemonkey November 3, 2008, 4:01 am

    cardiac delights! =) mmm mmm mmm!!! can’t wait for the others!!! lechon kawali?! crispy pata!?! pata tim!?! bagnet!?! chicharon!!? chicharong bulaklak!?! aaaarrrgghhh!

  • jacqueline November 3, 2008, 4:27 am

    Did you know I posted my pig butchery slide show? Are you going to 555Cochon? I’m writing a pig book, too. Wow-ee Zowee – Met Eliza at Slow Food Nation. Great pork! Enjoy! I made cassoulet with my suckling pig shanks.

  • Erin November 3, 2008, 7:28 am

    Great post. It’s good to see recipes that use cuts other that those of the grocery store variety.
    I am curing my own guanciale as I type this. I can’t wait to use it.

  • Katrina November 3, 2008, 7:38 am

    Your sisig does look perfect! Some people like to crack an egg on top, then mix it in quickly while it’s still sizzling. It’s a delicious variation which would also help you achieve your heart-stopping goal. 😉
    Did you read what Bourdain said about sisig? If not, go to philstar.com and search for “Anthony Bourdain.” Three articles came out last week, and in one of them, he talks about how he enjoyed this dish. :-)

  • Julie November 3, 2008, 8:53 am

    I always forget what that dish is called, but its look is unmistakeable. I never know what its ingredients were, either. Now that I know . . . it’s good to know that it doesn’t bother me. Yum!

  • Mikey November 3, 2008, 9:50 am

    Everything in life always comes back to the Simpsons.
    If Homer was Filipino:
    Lisa: No I can’t! I can’t eat any of them!
    Homer: Wait a minute wait a minute wait a minute. Lisa honey, are you
    saying you’re *never* going to eat any animal again? What about Lechon?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Tocino?
    Lisa: No.
    Homer: Sisig?
    Lisa: Dad! Those all come from the same animal!
    Homer: [Chuckles] Yeah, right Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

  • Dione November 3, 2008, 3:59 pm

    Again (if you grew up in the US), you’re not really Filipino until you buy various pig parts online for dinner! Just keepin’ it REAL! You put my culinary adventures to shame! Thank you for sharing the links to the farms, someday I will dare order and handle these, now that I have your instructions. For now, it’s off to Queens for my fix of Pinoy porky delights!!! :)

  • elmomonster November 3, 2008, 4:18 pm

    Mikey took what I was about to say! But damn, Marvin…now I know what real sisig is!

  • bagito November 3, 2008, 9:04 pm

    YUM! With sizzling sisig, you always gotta have extra rice and extra calamansi. ALWAYS. :)

  • Mila November 4, 2008, 1:42 am

    First of 5 posts, and look at the beauty of those pork parts! Let me guess what a few of the other 4 will be – bagnet? lechon kawali? crispy pata (I didn’t see a hoof in that box photo, but maybe it was hidden below the jowls)? You did say you’re doing guanciale (how mario batali of you 😀 ), so that leaves three more…
    Between you and MM, no one is safe from pork happiness.

  • Fearless Kitchen November 4, 2008, 7:21 am

    This looks great – thanks for posting something to do with an often overlooked part of the animal. I’ve had pig jowl before, in Catalunya, and was pleasantly surprised by how tender and flavorful it was. (I was also surprised to find that it was, well, a face.) I bet I’d like this just as much if not more.
    And it’s something to do with pig ears besides feeding them to the dog.

  • Mikey November 4, 2008, 9:54 am

    Just need some good ol’ fashioned pork adobo up in the rotation. Adobo stained t-shirts will follow.

  • Arnold November 4, 2008, 3:23 pm

    Nice…you made Serious Eats (again).
    I can’t wait to read the rest of the posts in this series. My heart already hurts in anticipation.

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js November 5, 2008, 9:02 pm

    Wonderful post. I do love me a sizzling plate of pig face! I’m jealous.

  • Janice November 6, 2008, 6:06 am

    sisig = amazing.
    I’m drooling.

  • Burnt Lumpia November 6, 2008, 9:03 am

    I didn’t even know they had a bangus version, Manggy. Although I’m still sure I like the pork version much better.
    I think you’d love the pork from these pigs, Joey. The fat is so white, pure, and creamy–it almost seems healthy;) And the meat from the Ossabaw, probably from any heritage breed, is so red and full of flavor.
    Stay tuned, greasemonkey! You’ll see!
    I’m not going to 555cochon, jacqueline, though I wish I were. I had no idea you were writing a pig book, that sounds like it would be a good read.
    Hi Erin. I’m just waiting for the weather to cool off here in SoCal before I start my guanciale. I’ve read that you shouldn’t let it hang out if it’s above 60 degrees.
    Thanks for the heads up on the bourdain article, Katrina. I searched and found it. It’s not surprising that he loved sisig;)
    Now you know, Julie. And knowing’s half the battle;P
    Well said, Mikey! Homer’s right though, it is a wonderful, magical animal.
    Haha Dione! Thanks for keepin’ it real!
    Indeed, elmo. Sisig is pig face!
    You’re right bagito! You need rice to soak up the fat, and the calamansi to wash the fat off your tongue;)
    Good guesses, Mila. You’re right on a couple of them, and although I will be making guanciale, it won’t be included with the other 4 dishes–they will all be Filipino dishes.
    Hi Fearless Kitchen. Pig jowl prepared like this is indeed tender because of all the fat in it!
    I will definitely be working on a pork adobo, Mikey.
    Thanks Arnold! My heart is fearful in anticipation;)
    No need to be jealous, js. Just get yourself some pig parts and make your own!
    Thanks Janice! I’m glad I’m not the only one that drools at the sight of fatty pork.

  • Yarn Hungry Hog November 6, 2008, 4:12 pm

    This is a sad day for me, Marvin. I, being a hog lover, am soooooo heart-broken upon seeing pix of pork.
    Oh, what the heck, I love pork. I love fat. I’m sure all this love for meat will make me a candidate for high cholesterol and heart-attack.
    SISIG is one dish I’ve never tried. I didn’t even know it existed until my sister described it to me. I’d really, really want to try this dish one day soon. I’d hope sooner than soon. That’s a hint to my sister, who does visit your website.

  • Jude November 6, 2008, 7:45 pm

    The things I could make with that pork jowl…
    Thanks for this sisig recipe. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in any of my Filipino cookbooks.
    All I need is a case of San Miguel.

  • dp November 6, 2008, 11:41 pm

    Okay, if you just presented me with the final product and didn’t tell me what it was, besides calling it pork, and I hadn’t read your entire post, I would eat it because it does look good and I do love all things pork.
    How’s that for a run-on sentence?

  • greasemonkey November 7, 2008, 9:11 am

    no worries, there! lol! i don’t use a homepage but if i did it would either be burnt lumpia or trophy manager!
    i wanted to make sisig from scratch too but i wasn’t really in the mood. so, i got a monterey pack and a coupla san mig cerveza negra and that worked almost as well.

  • greasemonkey November 7, 2008, 9:25 am

    speaking of guanciale, i think bill buford has an article about making it (among other things) from a whole pig he bought and transported home on his vespa! not sure if it was an excerpt from his book, heat..

  • Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes November 7, 2008, 8:30 pm

    You. Are. My. Hero.
    BTW – I was at Moneta Nursery buying my citrus trees, and they had kalamansi, but it was too small for my plan and I did not get one. It is still on my list.
    Lori Lynn

  • Cynthia November 8, 2008, 4:46 am

    Marvin, damn! I want to come live with you :)

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver November 8, 2008, 11:46 pm

    At T&T (Chinese supermarket), they sell pig noses! Actually, it’s quite funny, because for some reason it’s not displayed in the regular displace case, but rather already all wrapped up on a small styrofoam tray wrapped in cellophane. There would be about 4 noses per pack. =D

  • jay p November 10, 2008, 1:34 am

    bravo bravo!

  • Rowi November 13, 2008, 2:25 am

    Just love this post! And I was laughing my heart out until it was almost about to explode…
    Pork in Sweden where I live is pretty regulated – pork face – what’s that??? The only time you see a roasted pig’s head is during Christmas time when traditional “Julbord” is served. If you’re lucky.
    I found fresh pata (normally sold brined) recently at my local mini-supermkt, bought plenty and look forward to a crispy pata pig-out session with my hubby, who loves Crispy Pata and he’ not even Pinoy! Would love to read your next pork chapters! Any take on Crispy Pata?

  • Burnt Lumpia November 17, 2008, 8:22 pm

    Thanks very much, Yarn Hungry Hog. From now on, you can also be know as hog hungry hog;)
    Hi Jude, San Mig and sisig go hand in hand. You should try getting some pork jowl, I’m sure you can work magic with it.
    DP, even knowing what’s in sisig, it’s still quite tasty!
    You’re right about Heat and Buford, greasemonkey. He buys a whole pig from a farmer, then has to lug the whole thing home on his scooter!
    I hope you’ll find a big calamansi tree soon, lori lynn.
    Come on over, cynthia! I’ve got plenty of pork for everyone.
    Hi TS! I’ve seen pork noses too at my Filipino market, but I wanted to stick to naturally raised pork.
    Thanks jay p!
    Thanks for visiting my blog rowi! I’m thinking about pata, but we’ll see…

  • The Snake February 14, 2009, 8:47 am

    My aunt makes it almost the same way but uses balsamic (yikes) instead of Datu Puti and no sizzling plate. Part of what she fondly calls her 9-1-1 recipes that includes lechon kawali and crispy pata…

  • Gourmet Mama June 28, 2009, 12:24 am

    I have never heard of this dish before but wow, I can’t believe the amount of time and effort you put into making it. That says a lot for this dish.

  • erine layog July 3, 2009, 1:40 am

    We’ve done loads of experiments on doing this dish… But I learned that putting a lot of lengua (pork tongue ) was a better option than putting the jowl part… It’s minus the fat and adds the crunch..
    We also prefer deep frying than broiling… yet my mom always tell me that the best way to make it yummy is putting some liver pate or the simple “reno liver spread” will do the job…
    just posting suggestions… have a gastronomic feast!!!

  • Abram December 28, 2009, 11:47 pm

    This is the perfect venue for me to ask my question. So I went out searching for pork bellies for which to make lechon kawali. I couldn’t find any. So a person at the meat dept. at a grocery store recommended that I try pork jowls (what you apparently used here for sisig). I relented and bought them, thinking that I could create a gastronomical and culinary miracle, and someone recreate the exact same taste and texture of lechon kawali with these pork jowls. What do you think? Do you think I’ll be successful on New Year’s Eve night?

  • Burnt Lumpia December 29, 2009, 8:49 am

    Hi Abram. If the pork jowls have the skin on them, they might just work as a substitute for belly. It probably won’t be the same texture depending on the fat/meat ratio in the jowls, but it might be close. I think it’s worth trying.

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