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Ask chef Carlo Lamagna what’s in the sisig at Magna Kusina, his homey new Filipino restaurant in Portland, Oregon, and he’ll point to the rather cryptic menu description: “pork bits, egg, chile.”
Push him further and he’ll tell you that it’s Filipino headcheese: all the edible parts of a pig—roasted, simmered, and hand-chopped. “When I was living in the Philippines, I used to go hang out at bars and clubs at a young age—don’t ask—and this was a very common dish served alongside a cold beer,” he says. “Some cultures have bar snacks. Filipinos tend to take it to the next level.” Once he became a cook, he consulted with some friends from Pampanga, where sisig originates, to come up with the perfect recipe.
“But which parts of the pig, exactly?” you’ll persist.
He’ll wait, watching you pierce the golden egg yolk so it flows over that crispy-fatty meat melange and melts like hot butter on your tongue. Only then, as you’re leaning back against your chair with silent satisfaction, will he divulge: The secret is what he calls pork mayo, a.k.a. poached pig brain. Chile-laced, soy-salted, and supernaturally creamy, it transforms an already rich dish into something otherworldly. But by this time you’re too busy mopping it up with sticky rice to ask any more questions.
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