Practically the country’s national pulutan fare is the Kapampangan delicacy known as sisig, a dish of chopped-up pig’s face and other parts traditionally served cold but more contemporarily served hot, with or without eggs, on a sizzling plate. It’s a classic with beer, but also often enjoyed with rice as a viand; and though affordable options run abound in carinderia and other local eateries, a few brands have made it even easier to enjoy everyday with pre-cooked, ready-to-eat versions available in supermarkets, for stocking up on in the home pantry. How do the different versions compare?
Note: sisig variants were all tasted straight from the package and briefly heated (about five minutes right over the pan sans the use of extra oil or seasonings, for uniformity).
Argentina’s version hits you with a strong, peppery aroma as you open the can. It bears a ground-up mealy consistency—some bits come soft in the way textured vegetable protein (TVP a.k.a. soy protein, which is listed in the ingredients) can be, some bits feel more fibrous similar to lean shredded meat, and everything comes bound together by a thick, emulsified, vinaigrette-like liquid that lingers on the lips. On the taste front, Argentina leans toward the piquant, vinegary side with a strong liver-y hint in the backdrop. It’s no doubt tasty without being too salty, but (though claimed to be “spicy” on the label) not a lot of heat actually comes through.
Saltiness: 3/5 | Piquancy: 3.5/5
CDO prides its sisig for being chunky, as is printed on the label. It’s generally mealy and ground-up in consistency (albeit a touch more fibrous, giving the impression of being closer to real meat), amidst which you’ll find distinct, sizable chunks that more solid and dense. (On one can we encountered a piece about the half the size of our thumb that was especially hard and rubbery; upon biting through we suspect it was an overcooked chunk of liver). Still, it delivers a slightly sweet, decidedly piquant bite with a peppery finish that brings to mind corned tuna, ending with a hint of liver-y depth despite not having liver listed in the ingredients.
Saltiness: 4/5 | Piquancy: 4/5
Purefoods’ version also gives you a ground-up, slightly mushy consistency very similar to Argentina’s. Even less salty than the said brand, it delivers a bright, piquant, slightly peppery profile with a somewhat more bouillon-y note to it, possibly due to the use of pork, beef, and “poultry meat” aside from soy protein in the mix. Past the richness of liver that underscores the brightness, it also delivers on the heat that Argentina’s unfortunately missed (despite making no claims of being spicy on the label)—not as a singular explosion, but instead building up gradually as and surprising the tongue with its clear, appetite-inducing eruption at the end.
Saltiness: 2.5/5 | Piquancy: 3/5
Ulalamin is the sole player of the group that comes packaged in sachets; you can enjoy it as is, or submerge the sealed package briefly in hot water to heat it up. It has a distinct consistency of relatively dry, fibrous flakes in a more watery surrounding liquid, bringing to mind canned tuna in water. Flavor-wise, you get an acidic, savory, soy sauce-and-vinegar-laced profile reminiscent of bistek or adobo rather than anything specifically sisig-like; it’s not bad as it is, but it hardly reminds us of what it’s actually meant to replicate.
Saltiness: 4/5 | Piquancy: 4/5
The Verdict: Purefoods
Though none of the brands deliver on the distinctive creaminess and porky depth of true sisig, Purefoods’ take satisfies with its rich and meaty but zesty flavor profile, liver-y backdrop, and surprise buildup of heat. Coming close to taking home the crown is Argentina’s; short as it may fall on spiciness in spite of its promise, you get a balanced taste profile and texture nevertheless.