It’s crispy and crunchy. It’s taste is a rich medley of saltiness and sourness with just the right dash of spiciness for the added kick. This Filipino dish, made from parts of pig’s head and liver, is served in a sizzling hot plate–oftentimes with fresh egg. Sisig, one of the favorite appetizers of Filipino beer guzzlers, got it’s name from the Kapampangan dialect, which originally means “to snack on something sour.” Invented in 1974 in Angeles city, Philippines by a Filipina named Lucia Cunanan, sisig has found its way to practically all corners of the world where Filipinos can be found. Here in Taipei, I just had my first taste of sisig last Friday at this bar and bistro called “Toast” owned and managed by Jonathan Wy, a Filipino Chinese who has regarded Taipei as his home for the past 20 plus years.
I first heard about “Toast” from my friend Jackie, who said she has a church mate working at this restaurant. At that time, we were walking along An-Ho road on the way to Carnegie’s to have breakfast when, lo and behold, to our surprise, the “Toast” signage virtually unfolded before our eyes. It wasn’t until about three weeks after when I first stepped foot on this restaurant. I was with my Filipino-Chinese friends and our conversations in Tagalog must have echoed all the way to the kitchen that the owner, and later, the Filipino cook came to our table and introduced themselves to us.
Sisig is not really found in the “Toast” menu, as this bar and bistro boasts of an all-day American breakfast. It was through another Filipino Chinese friend where I learned that sisig can be ordered by special arrangement or request. And so last Friday, being a weekend, me and my buddies, Alex and Martin found ourselves at the second floor of “Toast” to sample its proud list of Mexican and Italian dishes. We initially ordered our personal food choices on the menu, but Jonathan Wy, the owner, happily came in and told us that there were Filipinos in the next table and that they ordered sisig.
“Could we order too?” I eagerly asked.
“You want? Sure! I’ll have it prepared right away,” Jonathan quickly answered in Tagalog.
Less than 10 minutes later, in between talks about the joys and pains of our respective jobs, I could already hear the sizzling sound of hot sisig and could smell the strong waft of delicious roasted pork. The Taiwanese lady server, knowing me and Martin were Filipinos, proudly said “Here’s your sisig. Do you want me to mix it for you?” Without waiting for our reply, she started to stir the sisig on the sizzling plate with fork and spoon where my eyes caught the quick transformation of the fresh egg from colorless to yellowish white while it was mixed with pork rind, onions, garlic and chilies.
Alex, our good friend from Barcelona, Spain, remained clueless on what lies ahead of this latest Filipino culinary adventure he got himself into. But when he took a small portion of the dish to his mouth, his first words were: “It’s crispy. It’s good!”
Martin, on the other hand, couldn’t contain his excitement. Ever the consummate gadgets dude, he quickly got his new Samsung phone, turned on the camera and started taking pictures of the sizzling sisig. Seconds later, his picture was already posted on Facebook and friends started commenting on where on hell this dish can be found in Taipei. The picture you’re seeing attached to this blog was taken by Martin.
And so it came to pass, my very first encounter with sisig here in Taipei. A comfort food I both eat with much gusto and precaution. My mouth and tongue have once more been touched by the crispy, salty and spicy taste of pork and for a fleeting moment, I have been deluged by a flood of memories. Sisig calls to mind memories of countless libations, laughters, long conversations, friendships, heartaches and afternoon walks in the rain. It’s a bittersweet reunion with a dish I sorely miss.