Savoring the legacy of Pampanga’s Sisig Queen

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By Alexander Villafania

ANGELES CITY, PAMPANGA –  Lucia “Aling Lucing” Cunanan is gone but she would have been proud to know that she is credited for re-inventing  sisig, a popular staple pulutan in the Philippines.

Aling Lucing’s legacy is her restaurant that she named after herself in the early 1970s. Back then, Aling Lucing, who was already 46 at the time, saw that some parts of butchered pigs were being thrown away. She took the to-be discarded ears, and facial skin of the pig, ground it, mixed it with garlic and onions, and then cooked it in extremely hot metal plates; thus, the rebirth of a new version of sisig.

Since then, Aling Lucing’s sisig cooking style has been copied in practically every corner of the country and is especially popular for beer drinkers. It’s also been modified to include eggs, and meat from other parts of the animal. There have been variations of meat type, such as goats, chickens and fish. These are also marinated in chili and soy sauce, and calamansi. Of course, Aling Lucing’s original version is still the best.

Recipes of sisig abound, especially on the Internet. The local Filipino cuisine site Pinoy Recipe has a simple cooking method. Another food blog, Panlasang Pinoy has video “walk through on cooking sisig.

Because many consider it as a delicacy in Pampanga, this province has been dubbed as the “Sisig Capital of the Philippines.” She herself has been dubbed the “Sisig Queen” They have even added making gigantic sisig servings during Angeles City’s annual foundation day. Just this year, they cooked 2,700 kilos of sisig on a hot plate the size of a small house.

Having been in the business for 40 years, Aling Lucing’s Restaurant essentially expanded its servings from just ordinary sisig to grilled fish, pork, beef and chicken. Grilled eggplant goes well with buro, another popular Pampanga delicacy made of fermented rice mixed with either fish or shrimp. The smell, though, is something that can turn off first-time eaters.

Some say buro is best eaten when it is homemade. The website EntrePinoys Atbp has posted a recipe of buro, originally posted by the Technology Livelihood and Resource Center (TLRC).

My office colleagues and I had a chance to visit Aling Lucing’s Restaurant, which was moved to the adjacent side of the street. Despite its hole-in-a-wall look, Aling Lucing’s has been one of the more popular destinations for celebrities in the entertainment and political scenes. Her restaurant’s walls are covered in huge photo murals of her as well as framed news clippings and photos of celebrities.

In fact, famous American chef and book author Anthony Bourdain made a stop at Aling Lucing’s restaurant as part of his global tour for his book series Kitchen Confidential.

The popularity of Aling Lucing has also reached Metro Manila where the enterprising family members of the elder Lucing opened up a shop in Makati City. Blogger Anton Diaz wrote an article about his visit to this particular branch.

Another group of enterprising businessmen located in Daly City, in California, USA, put up a restaurant that they simply called House of Sisig.

The popularity of sisig, is more or less established and many still view that the original from Pampanga is still the best. The death of Lucia Cunanan in 2008, signified the end of her era, but her legacy of being the Sisig Queen will long be remembered.


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