Few things reveal as much about a country’s past like the dishes that shape its culinary culture in the present. In Japan, the delicacies that define high-end kaiseki cuisine nod to the influence of the country’s Imperial Court. Vietnamese banh mi represents the fusion of local ingredients and French baking traditions.
In the Philippines, sisig, a concoction of chopped pork cheek, ears and belly spiced with green chillis and a citrus fruit called calamansi, was first recorded back in 1732 by Diego Bergaño, a Spanish missionary. Lucia Cunanan, the owner of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Angeles City, started serving the dish on a sizzling platter in the 1970s, a stroke of genius that sparked its modern incarnation.
But for Arianne Dizon, the co-founder of Lazza, a Marrickville restaurant that specialises in Filipino cooking, sisig, isn’t just about history. The dish, which originally featured guava and papaya spiked with vinegar in lieu of pig meat (the original translation is something close to “make it sour”) recalls the comforts of home.
“Because Filipino food borrows a bit of Spanish and a bit of Chinese, it’s sweet, salty and sour all at the same time,” says Dizon, who opened Lazza on Marrickville Road with her husband Arone, a chef, back in May and has lived in Australia for 3 years.
“In the Philippines, we sometimes eat sisig with rice, but it’s usually an appetiser that we enjoy alongside a San Miguel beer. At Lazza, we serve it with a raw egg on top. My husband is from a part of the Philippines where they also add mayonnaise to the dish, so that’s also a secret ingredient! People have said that it’s some of the best sisig they’ve ever tasted.”
Lazza’s version of sisig is a lesson in flavour and texture, although the nature of the dish is unashamedly crispy, crackly and fatty — a combination that requires a high capacity for indulgence. But Lazza is also dedicated to showcasing more subtle Filipino fare.
"My husband is from a part of the Philippines where they also add mayonnaise to the dish, so that’s also a secret ingredient! People have said that it’s some of the best sisig they’ve ever tasted.”
Along with pata, pork knuckle slow-cooked and deep fried, and sinigang na baboy, tender pork belly cooked in tamarind soup, you can order bangsilog, marinated milkfish and lumpiang sariwa, vegetables wrapped in egg crepes and served with a sweet garlic sauce. Dizon says that the kare kare, braised oxtail simmered in peanut sauce is a house specialty. According to The New York Times, the dish originated with the Indian cooks that came to Manila when the British wrested The Philippines away from Spanish control during the 18th century. It also sums up Lazza’s culinary philosophy.
“One of our specialties is kare kare, which is beef oxtail cooked in peanut sauce with shrimp paste on the side,” she explains, adding that she plans to introduce rotating weekly specials in the coming months. “We add a bit of coconut milk so it’s really good, very tasty. In Filipino cooking, there is so much preparation and we don’t have that luxury so we’re trying to focus on cooking simple and uncomplicated dishes and making them perfect. We also want to make Filipino food interesting and approachable. The important thing is my husband cooks from his heart.”
246 Marrickville Road, Marrickville, NSW
Wed – Mon 10 am – 2pm, 5pm - 10 pm
In the Philippines, chocolate for breakfast isn’t a treat, but a typical start to the day, with traditional chocolate rice pudding, tsamporado, eaten by kids and adults alike. In this recipe, cocoa is used to flavour the rice while dark chocolate is sprinkled on top and drizzled with condensed milk for extra sweetness. Traditionally, to balance the sweetness, dried fish (tuyo) is sometimes mixed in or eaten on the side.
These rolls, from Yasmin Newman's 7000 Islands cookbook, are a popular way to eat leftover adobo in the Philippines.