Next week, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5 in Spanish), a Mexican holiday which is enjoyed by Americans. I’m making spicy Pork Sisig Tacos to put a Filipino flavor to the festivities. Sisig is that decadent, cholesterol-laden Pampango pulutan (appetizer).
In Pampanga, sisig is typically a concoction of chopped roasted pig’s cheeks and chicken liver, smothered in onions, red hot siling labuyo (bird’s eye chilies) and kalamansi, the Filipino lime,” chimed in my cabalen (town mate), Claude Tayag of the restaurant ‘Bale Dutung’ in Angeles, Pampanga, a province in the Philippines. My husband and I enjoyed Bale Dutung’s sisig when we visited Claude and wife, Mary Ann. And last summer, on a balikbayan trip, my family and I enjoyed this popular pork dish at Aling Lucing’s in Angeles city – where folks say the now world-famous Philippine pork sisig originated.
Sisig has a long history according to Claude Tayag’s book Food Tour: A Culinary Journey. Sisig in 1732 started out as a platter of tart, fresh fruits in its unripened stage –filled with mangoes, guavas and papaya. The dish has evolved through centuries. I cook mine with pork belly.
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces on May 5, 1862 at the Battle of Puebla. Topping the list of Cinco de Mayo menu offerings are tacos. They are easy to prepare and you can even have a make-your-own taco bar where guests can fill their own soft or hard tortillas with the toppings you serve. No matter what Cinco de Mayo stands for, it’s a good excuse to break out the tacos filled with spicy, crisp bits of pork belly sisig, whip up the Margaritas and have fun.
Pork Sisig Tacos
For pork sisig
- 1 pound pork belly a whole piece
- 2 whole white or yellow onions chopped, divided, use 1 onion for boiling pork, rest for marinating
- 6 cups water for boiling pork belly
- 1 cup pineapple juice canned or fresh, for boiling pork
- 1/2 Tablespoon salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon whole black pepper corns
- 2 Tablespoons calamansi or lemon juice fresh or frozen calamansi juice; or fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, minced
- 2 to 3 pieces siling labuyo (bird's eye chilies)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil to pan fry pork sisig
- 2 stalks scallion greens chopped, for garnish
- 1 whole red onion sliced, for garnish
- 1 whole lemon sliced, for garnish (or fresh calamansi if preferred)
For tacos and toppings:
- 8 to 10 pieces taco shells soft or hard
- 3 whole tomatoes chopped
- 1 large red or green bell pepper seeded, white membrane removed, chopped
- 2 large fresh, ripe mangoes peeled, pitted, sliced in 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup salsa mildly spicy
- 2 to 3 cups shredded fresh lettuce
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Step 1- To boil pork on the stove-top:
- In a large stockpot place the entire pork belly slab. Pour the water and pineapple juice. Add the salt, peppercorns and onions. Cover and cook pork over medium-high heat then after it boils, lower to a medium simmer. Cook pork for 55 to 60 minutes till tender.When pork is cooked, remove from the stockpot. Drain and discard liquid. Pat pork dry with paper towels.
Step 2 -To roast the pork belly:
- Place the pre-boiled pork slab on a shallow baking pan or rimmed cookie sheet (with a height of 1 inch). Oven roast till top is crisp like lechon. *Roasting time should be 30 minutes for every pound at a pre-heated oven of 350 F. Adjust according to weight and amount of pork you are using.When pork roast is done, remove from the oven and let it cool on the counter, uncovered for 1 to 2 hours.
Step 3 -To pan fry the pork sisig:
- Using a cleaver or large, sharp knife, chop the slab of pork into tiny, small cubes till finely minced.Place the chopped pork in a medium-sized bowl. Marinate with calamansi (or lemon) juice, onions, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Add the chopped siling labuyo (bird's eye chilies). Let the pork absorb the seasonings for about 1 hour (or up to overnight, refrigerated).
- In a large, cast-iron skillet, over medium-high heat, add the oil. When oil is hot enough after 2 minutes, add the pork belly bits. Stir fry the meat till it turns brown and is crisp, for about 3 minutes.Garnish with scallions, red onions, slices of lemon and more siling labuyo if desired. Serve this as a filling for the tacos. Or as an appetizer or main dish on its own.
Step 4-To assemble tacos:
- Fill taco shells with pork sisig at the bottom. Leave enough room for toppings desired. Pile as many layers as possible.
For Step 1: To boil pork in the Instant Pot
- For the first step, to hasten cooking time to boil the pork, do it in the Instant Pot.Place the whole slab of a pound of pork belly in the inside pot. Pour the water and pineapple juice. Add the onions, salt and black peppercorns.Close and lock the lid of the Instant Pot. Set the steam release handle to a Sealing position.Click Manual and cook on High Pressure for 25 minutes.When buzzer sounds, do a Quick Release of the steam release handle. When the float pin drops, carefully unlock the lid. Press Cancel to turn off.Using a pair of tongs, or large slotted spoons remove the pork belly. Follow rest of procedure from Step 2 above.
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