I am the first to admit, pork snout, pork ears and pig brain all in one dish definitely need getting used to. I, for one, had to be “tricked” to try authentic dinakdakan for the first time. Not that I have any qualms about eating offal. I’ve been known to chase down taco trucks for their tripas. I actually favor ox tongue over any cut of beef and I do have a good number of recipes on the blog using chicken feet, tripe and even, frogs! But pig brain? Pig brain! I just couldn’t wrap my brain (pun intended) around that concept. Until, as I’ve said, I was tricked to try it the first time.
Dinakdakan is an Ilocano delicacy made with grilled pork parts such as the face, ears, liver and tongue. The charred meats are chopped into small pieces and tossed in a tangy calamansi or vinegar dressing with minced ginger, red onions and chili peppers. Mashed pig brain is then stirred in to add creaminess. One of my friends who hails from Ilocos often makes a small batch for me when I come visit, always substituting mayonnaise for the pig brain as the latter was hard to find even in Asian stores, or so I thought. On one such occasion, I took one bite of the dinakdakan she plated for me and thought it tasted as good as always but different in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. That and the fact that she was hovering over me while I was eating, I knew something was up. I was already three-fourths through the plate she served me when she nonchalantly said, “Well, I went to Seafood City today and found pig brain in their freezer aisle.” Arrgh! I didn’t know whether I should strangle her for not telling me beforehand or thank her for not telling me beforehand. I guess since I finished my whole serving and gladly took more to go, it was a thank you.
- 2 pounds pork face (snout, ears)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper corns
- 8 ounces pig brain
- ¼ cup cup calamansi juice
- 1 red onion, peeled and diced
- 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and minced
- 3 Thai chili peppers, stemmed and minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a pot over medium heat, combine pork face and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, skimming scum that accumulates on top. Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until meat is tender but not falling apart. With a slotted spoon, remove meat and drain well.
- Add pig brain to pot and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove brain and transfer into a bowl. With a fork, mash until smooth. Set aside.
- Over hot coals, grill pork for about 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until crisp and slightly charred. Allow to cool to touch and dice.
- In a large bowl, combine pork meat, onions, ginger and chili peppers. Add calamansi juice and toss to combine. Add mashed pig brain and stir until well-distributed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.