Dinakdakan is an Ilocano delicacy made with grilled pork parts tossed in a calamansi dressing with onions and chili peppers. It’s delicious enjoyed as an appetizer with your favorite drinks or as a main dish with steamed rice.
I am the first to admit, the combination of pork snout, pork ears, and pig brain all in one dish definitely needs 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 beef cut, and I 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 into trying it the first time.
What is Dinakdakan
Dinakdakan or warek-warek is an Ilocano delicacy made with grilled pork parts such as the face, ears, liver, and tongue. It’s traditionally served as a bar chow or pulutan to go with ice-cold beer but has evolved over the years into a hearty main dish enjoyed with piping-hot steamed rice.
Similar to the Kapampangan sisig, the meat is first simmered in aromatics until tender, charred over hot coals, and cut into bite-sized strips before tossing in tangy calamansi or vinegar dressing with minced ginger, red onions, and chili peppers.
What sets this Ilocano delicacy apart from sisig is the addition of pig brain. It’s simmered until cooked, mashed until smooth, and then stirred in as a final touch to add creaminess.
One of my friends who hails from Ilocos often makes a small batch for me when I come to 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.
If pig brain is unavailable or to make the dish more “kid-friendly”, swap the mashed brain with mayonnaise to add the characteristic creaminess.
How to store
To store, transfer to a container with a lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Check for quality as the dish can go bad quicker than most foods. Cooking the meat twice and chopping it into small pieces can increase the risk for spoilage due to swings in food temperature and possible contamination from handling.
- 2 pounds pork face snout, ears
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper corns
- 1/2 pound pork liver
- 8 ounces pig brain
- 1/4 cup cup calamansi juice
- 1 red onion peeled and sliced thinly
- 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, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, 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 liver to the pot and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until half-done. Remove from pan 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 slice thinly
- Grill liver for about 3 to 5 minutes until nicely charred and fully cooked.
- 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.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”