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Food Porn Friday: Eat your face off

Filipino "sisig": Hannibal Lecter approved.

 

In my years as an intrepid chronicler of tasty morsels, I've been around the block and seen a few things. Small game hunting in Plain Dealing, La., to make "squirrel and dumplings?"  Check. Slaughtering and butchering a whole, young steer in upstate New York? Done it.  Eaten a roasted guinea pig, Ecuadorian-style? Yeah, buddy.  The annual Testicle Festival in Rock Creek, MT?  Well, that's one I don't think I'll ever forget.

Not that I've seen everything (not by a long shot), but still, the big fear and a significant motivating factor for most food writers is the thought that perhaps we're starting to see the end, that there's nothing new under the sun for us to discover and devour. So when we do find something new -- or at least new to us -- it's a truly wonderful thing, a banner day.  Especially when that thing involves roasted pork.

On a recent visit to Milkfish, a Filipino popup restaurant in the Marigny, I was introduced to a magnificent dish called "sisig."

"Ooh, that looks amazing," I cooed when the chef presented a plate filled with what appeared to be some kind of roasted meat topped with a fried egg and a side of white rice. "What's this?" I asked.

"It's braised pork face," she said plainly, "chopped and cooked on the plancha with chicken livers, onions and spices."

That's right: PORK FACE. On my plate. It's the kind of dish that gives an avid eater like me a food stiffy. While just the thought of consuming such a thing would undoubtedly make a lot of people lose their lunch instead of beginning it, I was bouncing in my seat with excitement. Mostly, this was because I know how good a pig's face can be; anyone with even a glancing familiarity with guanciale, or cured Italian "face bacon" made from a hog's cheeks and jowls, would appreciate this particular cut. But I'd never eaten it this way, with the Filipino spices, and paired with the satiny chicken livers and a gorgeous sunny-side egg. (Note: I've long held the opinion that very few dishes cannot be improved upon by the edition of a fried egg.)

Even though, in the Philippines, sisig is a common dish often served in bars to go with a cold beer, to me it was a revelation. It was marvelous, spectacular, but more than anything else, it was NEW, and for me, and those like me, novelty in cuisine is a golden thing indeed. And for those who still blanche at the thought of eating a pig's face, I say: More sisig and guanciale for me.

What about you? Some face on your plate?

Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore and a blog by the same name, has written for GourmetEdible BrooklynThe Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Catch his weekly food column for The Advocate here.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.