In its home province of Pampanga in the central Philippines, sisig is a rough-hewn dish of chopped pig ears and jowls, first boiled, then braised and fried before ending up heaped onto iron sizzle platters. Here in the U.S., on the streets of San Francisco, Chef William Pilz made a less rustic version that he served from his Filipino food truck, Hapa SF (now closed). You can still make Pilz’s recipe at home, adding sustainably raised pork shoulder to the ear-jowl mix, marinating the meats overnight in an aromatic soy brine before braising, simmering, or roasting each separately. The final step calls for seasoning the meats with sautéed onion, chiles, and calamansi juice. It’s a two-day process with a succulent payoff, assuming you’ve thought to provide sisig’s two essential accompaniments: hot rice and cold beer.
What to buy: A meat purveyor who specializes in whole-animal butchery is your best source for the jowl and human-grade pig’s ear. Jowl has generous streaks of fat, much like pork belly, which makes a good substitute.
The calamansi is a smaller, slightly milder cousin of the lime—if you can’t find it in your local Asian market, fresh lime juice makes an acceptable substitute.
Game plan: The shoulder, jowl, and pig’s ear can all be cooked up to 2 days ahead and stored separately in the refrigerator. Cut them up and do the final sauté when ready to serve.
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- Yield: 6 servings
- Difficulty: Medium
- Total: 2 hrs, plus at least 12 hrs brining and 3 hrs braising time
For the brine:
- 4 cups soy sauce
- 3 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 medium lemongrass stalks, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 1 (4-inch) piece fresh ginger, unpeeled and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cups water
For the pork:
- 1 (1-pound) piece boneless pork shoulder, also known as pork butt
- 1 pound skinless fresh pork jowl
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 uncooked pig’s ear (about 8 ounces)
- 1 small yellow onion, medium dice
- 3 serrano chiles, stems, seeds, and ribs removed and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed calamansi or lime juice (about 1 medium lime or 1 large calamansi), plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more as needed
- Steamed white rice, for serving
For the brine:
- Place all of the ingredients except the water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat, add the water, and stir to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a large bowl or plastic container. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
For the pork:
- Add the pork shoulder and jowl to the cold brine and invert a small plate over them to keep them completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
- Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- Scrape off any excess marinade or solids from the jowl, remove it to a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Scrape off any excess marinade or solids from the shoulder and remove it to a plate; set aside.
- Set a strainer over a large bowl, pour the brine through it, and discard the contents of the strainer. Set the strained brine aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the pork shoulder and cook, turning occasionally, until it’s browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total, adjusting the heat as necessary so that the pork doesn’t burn. Remove the shoulder to a clean plate and set aside.
- Wipe the oil out of the pan with a paper towel and return the pan to medium heat. Add the water, use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer.
- Return the pork shoulder to the pan, add about 1 1/2 cups of the reserved brine (enough to come about halfway up the side of the pork), and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with foil and transfer it to the oven. Braise until the shoulder is fork-tender, flipping it halfway through, about 3 hours total. Transfer the shoulder and its cooking liquid to a medium bowl and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook the pig’s ear.
- Place the remaining brine and the pig’s ear in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the tip of a knife inserted into the ear meets only slight resistance, about 3 hours. Remove the ear to a clean plate and let it cool to room temperature; discard the contents of the saucepan. Meanwhile, cook the jowl.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Pat the reserved jowl dry with paper towels. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the jowl and brown it on all sides, adjusting the heat as necessary so that it doesn’t burn, about 5 to 8 minutes total.
- Remove the jowl to a baking sheet and bake in the oven until it’s cooked through but still springy to the touch, about 30 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and set it aside to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. (At this point, you can store the pork shoulder, jowl, and ear in separate covered containers and refrigerate for up to 2 days before assembling the dish.)
- Cut the shoulder into medium dice, discarding any large pieces of fat; set aside. Cut the jowl into medium dice; set aside. Cut the ear in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick strips, discarding any tough, thick cartilage pieces near the base of the ear; set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the jowl and brown on all sides, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and return the pan to medium heat. Add the onion and chiles and cook, scraping up any browned bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add the shoulder, ear, and browned jowl and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is warmed through and sizzling, about 5 minutes. Add the measured calamansi or lime juice and measured soy sauce and stir to combine. Taste the mixture—it should have a good balance of salty, tangy, and spicy. Add additional calamansi juice and soy sauce as needed. Serve immediately with steamed rice.