Eat

Filipino Friday with SALO

Story by Matt Heidkamp - matt@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos and video by Raoul Beltrame

Sizzling Sisig with the SALO Project from Citizen Brooklyn on Vimeo.

It’s ten am on a Friday morning, and Yana Gilbuena is standing over a counter of pig ears, pork belly, chicken liver, and an array of accouterments. There’s a pot of rice boiling and packets of calamansi juice, red chili peppers scattered in front of her. In a few minutes, she’ll be dumping the pig parts into a vat of garlic water, the first step in preparing sizzling Sisig, a Filipino specialty not for the faint of heart. If you don’t dig on swine, that’s too bad. I love the smell of pig ears in the morning.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana doesn’t own a restaurant. She doesn’t need to. She’s the founder and chef of SALO, an underground popup dining series giving America a taste of traditional Filipino cuisine. Starting in March, she’ll be taking the show on the road to all fifty states, including Hawaii and Alaska, hitting a new city every week. Today, we’re set up at her friend Marie’s apartment, a second-story walkup in Long Island City where dozens of seagulls soar in front of a backdrop of midtown high-rises.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

The garlic-y aroma of the vat moves throughout the room as Yana tosses the ears and belly in piece by piece. She begins to dice a healthy amount of chilies and tells us that sisig is pulutan, Philippine slang for spicy food typically paired with drinks during inuman sessions, or drinking sessions. On the islands, you’d be slugging down lambanog (coconut vodka) or tuba (wine moonshine) with your meal. But today, we chose Miller High Life, which, in all seriousness, would later turn out to pair perfectly with the sisig.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana tossed the boiled pig parts into the oven, where they would crisp up for the next thirty minutes. On the fly, she whipped up some fried rice with coconut oil and garlic on a French crepe pan, just because. She’s used to cooking guerilla style, and grew up with the mentality to cook creatively with whatever was laying around the house. In fact, because many homes in the Philippines don’t have a refrigerator, stir-fry dishes that employ an everythingbutthekitchensink mentality are a morning after tradition.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

We’re waiting for the ears to crackle as Tonti, a strange little house cat, comes slinking out of the bedroom to plop himself on the kitchen table. He eyes up the measuring cup of pureed chicken liver before positioning himself by the space heater. Within a few minutes, the ears and belly are on the cutting block, and Yana starts chopping until the pieces are indistinguishable from each other. The liver, pig, and vegetables get sautéed in pork fat, creating a warm embrace of sizzling goodness. After a few short minutes and a couple fried eggs, we’d be good to go.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana dresses the counter top in banana leaves, our plates for the day, before scooping a pile of rice onto the center. The sisig, still sizzling, is set down next to the rice, creating a mouth-watering yin and yang of Filipino delight. Some kewpie mayo is squeezed onto the meat and I’m told to dig in, sans utensils. I find that Yana’s sisig is everything I dreamed it would be and so much more. It was savory, spicy, garlic-y. Each bite was better than the next. My eyes watered with the welcomed heat as crispy bite after bite entered my mouth. This is the quintessential cold day comfort food.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

We open up a bottle of sparkling red wine as the three of us finish our meal. Yana and Marie seem like old friends, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. You wouldn’t guess by seeing them interact that they’ve only known each other for a year. They’re a testament to the power of bringing food and people together. You can expect the same at a SALO event, where you’ll find yourself with a handful of sisig and a smile on your face, laughing full-bodied with your mouth on fire. At SALO, you’ll come as strangers, and leave as family.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Special thanks to Yana for the amazing meal and Marie for hosting. Yana will be throwing two more SALO events in New York City before the SALO US Tour in March. Follow SALO on Facebook here (https://www.facebook.com/SALOseries) for more details.

Yana Gilbuena Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana Gilbuena Photo © Raoul Beltrame

SALO’s Sisig Recipe

Ingredients:
1.  2 lbs pigs ears
2.  2 lbs. pork belly (sliced)
3. 1 lb of chicken liver (pureed)
4.  1 cup of red Thai chilies (chopped)
5.  2 medium red onions (diced)
6. 1/2 cup of garlic (diced)
7.  1/2 cup soy sauce
8. 1/4 lemon/lime juice
9.  4 eggs
10.  Mayo (Kenko or Kewpie mayo)

Yana Gilbuena Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana Gilbuena Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Procedure:
1. In a large pot, boil pigs ears and pork belly together for 30 mins.
2.  Pre-heat oven to broil or convection bake at 425.
3.  After the meat boils, place in sheet pan and put in oven.
4.  Broil/convection bake for 30-45 mins, until crispy.
*Save the pork fat oil
5.  After meat crisps, dice into small cubes.
6.  Sautee garlic in pork fat (from broiling), until golden, then add onions, chilies and chicken liver.
7.  Add diced meat. Then add soy sauce and lime juice.
9.  Mix and sautee until liver is cooked.
10.  Crack eggs on top, then keep sauteeing.
12.  Stop when eggs are done.
13.  Serve add a dollop of mayonnaise on top.

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana Gilbuena & Matt Heidkamp Photo © Raoul Beltrame

Yana Gilbuena & Matt Heidkamp Photo © Raoul Beltrame

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