Sisig is eternal, a beautiful confluence of chopped-up porky bits whose alternating crispness and sogginess, and sourness and saltiness, make it one of the several dishes that captures our complex Filipino palate. It that has kind of morphed into a global symbol, with so many regional and modern variations that top ten lists can barely represent the endless spins on the favorite. When a word as huge as ‘best’ is used to describe a plate, it’s hard not to take notice.
Aysee’s, whose original location is right across the road from St Paul Pasig, is often recognized as having one of the best plates around. It’s been around for decades, but I first encountered it last year, during a chef-guided crawl that never made it into an article. It was the last stop, late into the night, and people were still pouring into the tiny shack, and we were drawn by the distinct smell of almost-burnt, fried pork.
Their sisig is leaner than most, highlighting crunch over fat. They only use cheek meat, so none of the ears’ chewy bits disrupt the singularly crisp texture, which is achieved by frying the whole pisngi before dicing it up onto the plate. There’s no brain for creaminess, but a whole egg is dropped into the middle, then toyo, and hot sauce is served on the side to adjust the flavor to your liking.
Aysee’s charming owner, Daisy Bulus, didn’t grow up in the kitchen. Instead, she learnt by eating and tasting favorites everywhere, then deciding how she could improve classics, creating her own preferred, distinct version for her short menu which has remained almost the same since 1986. This is evident in her take on sisig, where she puts crispness above everything else, or her adaptation of the Ilocano sour clear stew papaitan. While it’s filled to the brim with offal, she leaves out the abdo, removing the bile’s intensely bitter profile, turning Aysee’s version into a more approachable one.
Aysee’s has built such a storied reputation, based on their sisig alone, allowing the outdoor carinderia to expand to several locations, including one in Anaheim, California, which opened late this year. Maybe ‘best’ is the only appropriate tag for this ghetto grub’s unique take on the pulutan.
A hole-in-the-wall carinderia serving up local fare in Mandaluyong city.