29 Jun2006


This little (or is it HUMONGOUS?) piggy went to market… When I was teeny tiny tot too young to resist my mom’s bribes (two cans of broas and unlimited hot chocolate) to spend a piggy3week or two with her in her ancestral town in Bohol, I had one of those memorable food experiences that I can still vividly recall today. Soon after we arrived at the town and ran around the house and grounds of relatives, one of the cousins took me out to see some “newborn” piglets. They must have been about 3-4 weeks old and they were cute as cartoons. Perky, hairy and beige-y pink, they really did look like moving stuffed animals. They asked me which one looked the cutest and of course I picked one of them, clueless that I had doomed its young soul to another dimension. In seconds, a sharp knife came out of nowhere, they slit the pigs throat, it squealed a blood curling scream and I skeedadled back to the main house, probably ready to faint. I am, you see, allergic to sight of blood. Always knew I wouldn’t be a doctor. Now if that isn’t a probinsyanos unveiled attempt to stick it to a city dweller, I don’t know what is!

At any rate, I do recall refusing to eat pork that night, whatever it was… fried pork chops, grilled liempo or dinuguan, and sulked while eating my acharra, banana ketchup and rice. piggy2Despite that traumatic experience, I rapidly returned to consuming four legged animals as I could definitely not live on vegetables alone…at the time, I only ate cucumbers! So last week, while at the farm, when I spied a small piggery on our land it brought back very vivid memories. But I am much older now, and curious enough to give it another try so I went smack into the middle of the piggery and said hello to the pigs. Despite the stench, oh yeah, pig doodoo SMELLS bigtime, I was actually shocked at the size of this whopping pig! At just 13 months old, this massive animal weighed over 170 kilos! That’s an average weight gain of about 13 kilos a month! Yipes, thank goodness I am, not literally, a pig.

I was curious about the huge pig because I had recently purchased guanciale, a specialized Italian bacon made from pig cheeks. Guanciale is critical to an “authentic” spaghetti carbonara and it differs from other bacons made from the stomach or other parts of the pig. piggy4Well, wonder no more, large pigs have massive cheeks (facial, not butt), not to mention massive snouts and ears great for sisig!!! What did surprise me even more than the size of her cheeks was how engaging she could be… she actually struck me as being incredibly intelligent and quite attentive. I tried to pet the pig (third picture above) but apparently you just don’t do that so I decided to just pose for a picture instead… I tried to converse with the pig and asked her how life was and she really seemed to be listening… Once the pig is sent off to the market, she garners only PHP50-60 per kilo live weight or roughly 10,000 for a 170 kilo pig…seems a bit cheap for such a smart animal! Now I wonder how much her cheeks cost becuase the guanciale I bought was wicked pricey…



  1. Jacob's Mom says:

    Aha! So Italians also use pig’s cheeks pala! Thanks for this ammunition. I regularly get teased by my co-workers about the pig parts I eat and have no rebuttal bec I don’t know what other ethnic groups appreciate them. :)

    Jun 29, 2006 | 4:55 am


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  3. Mila says:

    I was just reading an excerpt from a book called The Good Pig, a real story about a piglet who turns into a pet and community symbol somewhere in Vermont. The author shares a little about pig psychology, how pigs raised in massive hog farms go a bit beserk due to the inhumane (unporcine?) conditions, so there have been cases of people bitten in the kneecaps (pigs have sharp teeth and powerful jaws), and some children have even been killed. She wrote that more people are killed by pigs than sharks in the US. What caught my eye was the factoid that there are 4 million feral pigs in the US. Feral cats and dogs, I understand, feral pigs? I wonder where they roam.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 8:06 am

  4. erleen says:

    There was a documentary in National Geographic about a giant feral pig, located somewhere in the midwest i think, they call it Hogzilla.

    Hog cheeks and ears for sisig are cheaper than regular pork. Around, 70-85 pesos per kilo. They usually cut it as a pair, one cheek with one ear.

    My mom uses pig cheeks for making the broth for mami.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 9:55 am

  5. joey says:

    Ooooh! I love pigs and pork, and have always wanted a piggery so I could make money and eat at the same time! Ok, now to business, where did you get the marvelous sounding guanciale?

    Mila, did you watch Snatch? “Never trust a man with a pig farm”? Yikes! Also, in the movie Hannibal when that guy raised the pigs to be thiese wild killing machines? Woof. Or should I say oink? :)

    Jun 29, 2006 | 10:26 am

  6. fried-neurons says:

    They say that pigs are among the smartest of all animals, smarter than dogs, even.

    What’s interesting is that even a domesticated pig, born from domesticated parents, will turn wild within weeks if it ever gets cut off from human contact.

    Pero yeah, pig meat (whatever part) is SO good.

    I have to say, though, that pork here in the US is nowhere near as flavorful as pork from the Philippines, especially if you buy the meat from freshly slaughtered pigs in Batangas. When you cook it as inihaw na baboy, all it needs is a little salt and it becomes something sublime.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 11:48 am

  7. CecileJ says:

    This is so funny! Such diverse comments on pigs! (The one about buying pig’s cheeks and ears in pairs got me rolling on the floor! Kawawang piggy!) That’s why I love this blog! People who go here are such wits! (Not nitwits, ha!) Having said all that…YEAH, I LOVE PORK TOO!!!

    Jun 29, 2006 | 1:14 pm

  8. Mila says:

    Joey, yes, I read Hannibal and learned all about those ferocious boars in Italy or spain.
    Hogzilla! When can we expect a horror movie about a crazed pig (literal, not the figurative ones we get all the time)? Better than ferocious tomatoes.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 2:36 pm

  9. gonzo says:

    Hogzilla! classic!

    jacob’s mom: i think if you did some research you would find several european nations that make full culinary use of the pig– that is, they eat everything, feet, head, offal, innards, etc.

    anybody ever wonder why, with pork being one of the tastiest meats on earth, muslims and jews are banned from eating it?

    Jun 29, 2006 | 2:54 pm

  10. bugsybee says:

    Gonzo’s last statement made me laugh bigtime. Hey, I hope I don’t get slaughtered for this.

    MM, after the first time I saw a pig being slaughtered and then roasted before my eyes, I didn’t want to eat lechon for a long, long time.

    I don’t know if you’ve asked your readers yet but I sometimes wonder where the best lechon is in the Philippines? Many swear by Lechon de Cebu (I don’t know where to get it); we have someone here in Bacolod who does really delicious lechon but I’d like to try lechon from other places.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 3:12 pm

  11. Marketman says:

    I am not completely sure of my facts, but I think Muslims and Jews “banned” pigs because they were viewed to be dirty, and perhpas because the meat spoiled faster than other meats and could really make you sick… A similar rationale applies to Jewish dietary customs regarding dairy products and meats…in the warm weather of the Middle East, these had a tendency to spoil…so what was once just a practical reason has become part of religious traditions…

    Joey, guanciale at Galileo Enoteca deli, the only place I have noticed it available in Manila so far. It’s EXCELLENT in a proper made carbonara, recipe up in a few days/week.

    Yes, the pork in the Philippines is much tastier than the leaner bred versions in the states. Europe had pretty good pork too…

    What’s with all the feral pig comments…maybe I will let some loose on the land and when they get really wild, I can make them into nice hams…or have them hunt for coconut truffles…heeheehee.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 4:39 pm

  12. edee says:

    is guanciale different from pancetta?….in recipes for carbonara, i only encounter pancetta……haven’t seen or heard guanciale before…..must keep my eyes open next time i go to market…….

    Jun 29, 2006 | 4:58 pm

  13. lee says:

    hear ye beloved readers…

    The reason why the Jews forbid the consumption of pork is found in Leviticus 11:2-8 particulary verse 7:
    “And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you”.

    but I would love to have those wonderful guanciale. hmmmmm…. not in carbonara but with rice, lotsa rice. I’ll eat them with my bare hands. A bottle of ice-cold coke nearby would be great too.
    Why not ask someone from our good pork eating country to create some guanciale equivalent? Fast! This post is driving me nuts!

    Jun 29, 2006 | 5:15 pm

  14. gonzo says:

    Yes maybe pigs were not suited to the Middle Eastern climate and terroir, so the animals were possibly ridden with disease and unhealthy, and people who ate the meat also got sick.

    But those backward days are long gone, people! Everything is modern and hygienic now, including the rearing of humongous porkers as per Marketman’s photos above…so lighten up with the porcine culinary taboos already!

    That reminds me of the time i seriously thought of putting up a BBQ and Lechon joint in tagaytay; i was going to call it The Bar-B-Que Pit, with the byline underneath, “Swine Dining At Its Best”. Luckily i came to my senses.

    Hey MM, that was a good question, where IS the best lechon in the Philippines? I reckon that would be a worthwhile quest to discover the whereabouts of the definitive roast pig.

    Hey lee, guanciale with rice? spoken like a true pinoy! (sounds like there was a bit of rum nearby that ice cold coke of yours. im kidding, hee hee.)

    Jun 29, 2006 | 6:50 pm

  15. Apicio says:

    Here is a tip for those of you wanting to raise pigs and still keep a healthy appetite for them. Never give a proper name to a pig (or anyother animal) that you are raising for food.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 7:02 pm

  16. izang says:

    the best lechon in the philippines?………hmmm……

    try Lola Berta’s Lechon here in pateros…….they export their chicharon bulaklak and bituka under the same name…..

    Jun 29, 2006 | 7:53 pm

  17. Marketman says:

    For more information on guanciale, click this site http://www.babbonyc.com/in-guanciale.html from the restaurant Babbo of Mario Batali which describes how to make your own!

    Jun 29, 2006 | 8:05 pm

  18. joey says:

    Hooray! Thank you!

    Jun 29, 2006 | 10:31 pm

  19. Mandy says:

    haha, so many comments on a pig. i also saw that natl geogrpahic episode on the hogzilla.
    fried neurons–not only do they get wild; strangely they grow those horns (?) too! like a real baboy damo! scary!!!

    pigs are the reason why i will not become a vegetarian: lechon, crispy pata, bacon, pork barbecue, chicharon!!

    Jun 30, 2006 | 12:14 am

  20. Lei says:

    wow, I read MM’s comments about pigs hunting for truffles, so this is a total offshoot, but what kind of special pig do they actually use to ‘smell-out’ those truffles?

    btw, I was also subjected to one of those ‘harrowing’ experience of actually witnessing the butchering of a pig. It was fiesta time in the province, and if I try very hard to recall, I think I can still faintly hear the squeals of the pig. Something I would rather forget altogether. =)

    Jun 30, 2006 | 11:26 am

  21. Jacob's mom says:

    Gonzo – you’re right about European use of all those other parts. In fact, these Pennsylvania Dutchies that I call my colleagues eat such things as scrapple and hog maw and
    have no qualms about the “spare parts” that go into it. I guess they just find pig cheeks rather exotic. :)

    Quite coincidentally, I’m finishing up Ruth Reichl’s memoir Garlic and Sapphires, and she has a recipe for carbonara, where she mentions her preference for bacon over guanciale (defined in the book as cured pork jowl). I found it super easy and quick, you beat a couple of eggs in a large bowl and toss the cooked pasta in it, the heat turning the eggs into a sauce. Unlike the carbonaras I grew up eating, this uses no cream at all, just a little parmesan after the cooked bacon has been mixed in. Just the thing to make when your five-year old is clamoring for dinner. :)

    Jun 30, 2006 | 11:42 am

  22. Marketman says:

    NO CREAM, NO CREAM, NO CREAM IN CARBONARA…PERIOD. Sorry, that’s one of the cardinal rules in our home. Our daughter will grow up with that memorized… NO CREAM, NO CREAM, NO CREAM!!! Heehee.

    Jun 30, 2006 | 12:47 pm

  23. alb says:

    Guanciale is great but expensive and not easy to find. For Carbonara an excellent substitute and inexpensive, too, is salt pork.

    Totally agree, no cream. And certainly no eggs, too!

    My Carbonara recipe is very simple. It goes like this. Boil water (please no salt or oil) and throw in a package (16 oz) of dry spaghetti (I like De Cecco, Santi’s or Bacchus should have some). While waiting for the spaghetti to cook, heat up a large heavy-bottomed skillet and pour in good olive oil (maybe 6 tbs). When oil is hot (don’t let it smoke!) throw in diced salt pork (2 tbs is fine, but I like a little more). Cook salt pork until crisp and brown (don’t let it burn!), then turn off heat. Add finely chopped garlic (2 tsp is fine, but I like a little more). The garlic will cook slightly in the heated oil. Season with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Toss in cooked pasta (make sure it’s al dente, not overboiled) in the skillet. Turn pasta over so it’s evenly coated with the oil. Add grated parmiggiano reggiano (pecorino is fine if you’re on a budge) and toss pasta until well coated with the cheese. Then get about half a bunch of fresh basil with the stems cut off (about half a cup) and tear it over the pasta (only the French would use a knife). Toss pasta again. Finally, plate the Carbonara (this should be good for 4 portions). Finish by drizzling good extra virgin olive oil and more grated parmiggiano reggiano (pecorino is fine if you’re on a budget). Wash down with a light Italian red like Chianti or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

    Jun 30, 2006 | 3:48 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    alb, sounds good but I definitely put eggs… will have a recipe up in a few weeks as I return to the Florence and Rome posts…

    Jun 30, 2006 | 4:48 pm

  25. gonzo says:

    MM is right– no cream in carbonara. the cream i suspect was an americanization of the recipe. Of course anyone who has cooked proper cream-less carbonara knows that the tricky part is the timing. Overcooking it means pasta with bacon (or guanciale or salt pork) and scrambled eggs!

    Speaking of ruth reichl, can anyone recommend a good foodie read these days?

    Jun 30, 2006 | 6:58 pm

  26. Marketman says:

    I just started reading “The Curiosities of Food or the Dainties and Delicacies of Different Nations Obtained from the Animal Kingdom” which is a reprint of an old book with an introduction by Alan Davidson. It’s a bit tedious but interesting…it covers all the “strange” things humans ate around the globe, originally written in 1859. I also just recently read “Dinner is Served” written by Arthur Inch, a long time butler to some of the great homes in England and this is his short book on the art of the table… Finally, I have recently picked up several cookbooks but the one that is getting a lot of post-it marks for recipes we want to try is a terrific cookbook “The Cuisines of Spain” by Teresa Barrenechea…definitely worth adding to one’s cookbook library!

    Jun 30, 2006 | 7:44 pm

  27. Jacob's Mom says:

    Gonzo — I think you’re right re the cream being an American addition — checked a few cookbooks here and they all call for cream.

    Here’s another good read: “Best Food Writing 2005”, edited by Holly Hughes. Published by Marlowe & Co. It’s a compilation of articles mostly from papers in the US.

    Also, I enjoyed “Julie and Julia : 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 tiny apartment kitchen : how one girl risked her marriage, her job and her sanity to master the art of living.” The author set out to cook all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and blogged her efforts along the way, which turned into a book deal. Hint, hint, Marketman. :)

    Jun 30, 2006 | 10:18 pm

  28. Apicio says:

    Revisiting the (food) classics never fail to yield even sweeter and juicier rewards and the sweeping perspective they afford is simply transporting, they nudge you to consider certain vanished food items such as the turtle soup that Cole Porter mocked in the lyrics of the Real McCoy or the terrapin dinners that H. L. Menchen repeatedly indulged in and reported in his diaries; the threatened ones such as the wild sturgeon and its caviar, or the Chilean sea bass and many other delicious giant critters of the sea; the ones that endlessly weave in and out of our food consciousness or just come in and out of fashion such as pig and its lard or beef and butter, or the ones whose treatment only now poignantly impinge on our sensibility like the cruelty inflicted in the guise of gastronomy on the tiny bird ortolan and more recently, the forced feeding that geese and ducks are subjected to to yield us our all time festive favourite foie gras. Besides, nothing is as refreshing as reliving Alexandre Dumas’s encounters with rustic Spanish cooking.

    Jun 30, 2006 | 11:06 pm

  29. alb says:

    Sorry to be off-topic, but to respond to Gonzo, I highly recommend “Slow Food: Philippine Culinary Traditions”. Excellent collection of food essays there in the tradition of the best Filipino food writer, the late Doreen Fernandez. A bonus is the excellent wood-cut art of Baldemor that grace the pages of the book. Published by Anvil late last year I snapped it up as soon as it came out early this year. Slow Food, of course, is the international association of foodies to slow the advance of fast food. It started and is headquartered in Italy. Doreen Fernandez helped start the Manila branch. And by the way, I still enjoy rereading her book “Tikim”.

    Jul 1, 2006 | 12:22 am

  30. Kate says:

    What great book recommendations! Thanks. Now I’ll have to finish reading my current stack of books so that I can work on a new one all about food!

    Just a postscript on (and maybe a rationale for) this lively discussion on all things porcine—guess what our ancient ancestors, known as the Austronesians, took along as their baon in their trek from South China to Taiwan, RP and onward? Yup, pigs and red pottery, along with stone tools, maritime skills and agriculture. Our love affair with porkers is at least 6 thousand years old. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

    Jul 1, 2006 | 1:41 pm

  31. sha says:

    one of my biggest culinary joy when we go to our other “homeland” is.. when the Swiss cheese scour at local newspaper which butcher has slaughter day…

    this is the day when they serve literally all parts of the pig .. sausages, ribs, legs… who said only we filipinos love it
    the swiss too!!!

    leaving for sicily tom….

    Jul 3, 2006 | 6:53 am

  32. sha says:

    by the way all of us crew are looking forward to great italian cured meat…

    but PS our boss is kosher lol

    Jul 3, 2006 | 6:56 am

  33. Mira says:

    I would appreciate it if you could give address of Lola Berta’s lechon and chicharon bulaklak. Thanks

    Aug 9, 2007 | 1:34 pm

  34. Blaise says:

    Well, pigs are smart animals..

    Aug 13, 2007 | 5:38 pm

  35. Kate says:

    pigs are the best i luv them soo much i wish i could have my own, i think its a bit sad when they die but its nature! luv all u little oiggys out thre !!!! xxx

    Sep 29, 2007 | 11:04 pm

  36. elma says:

    where can i possibly get the aling berta’s chicharon bulaklak & bituka here in metro manila? any retail stores in makati, alabang? thanks.

    Oct 29, 2007 | 6:35 pm

  37. nicole says:

    for orders on berta’s chicharon bituka, you may text me at 0917 8250605. thanks.

    Jan 3, 2008 | 10:51 am

  38. mhisty says:

    Where can i possibly get this chicharon of aling berta’s? Where this place located or any contact number of their store, so i can go there. Thanks

    Feb 4, 2009 | 2:55 pm

  39. Jane says:

    Pls. let me know where I can order aling berta’s chicharon bulaklak. Thanks.

    Feb 8, 2009 | 3:33 am


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