Get to Know Filipino Soul Food at NYC's Maharlika
New York may be a mecca for culturally diverse cuisine, but for those craving truly authentic Filipino fare -- the homemade kind that their lola used to cook -- the offerings are particularly scarce. Fortunately, there’s Maharlika: a haven of Filipino comfort food in the East Village. Maharlika is the sister restaurant of Jeepney -- a Filipino-inspired gastropub just a few blocks north -- but offers a much more immersive experience. This isn’t an interpretation of homestyle Filipino fare; it’s the closest you can get to real Pampang flavors without leaving the country. And there’s one dish that has regulars coming back: sizzling sisig, otherwise known as pig face hash.
Blending Spanish, Malaysian, and Chinese flavors, Filipino food is already Asian soul food at its finest -- but sisig takes it to the next level. Served in a hot, made-to-order skillet, it’s basically a combination of paella, fried rice, and pork hash. No part of the pig goes unused, and Maharlika adheres to the traditional preparation of the dish: the lesser parts -- ears, snout, and belly -- are braised for four hours. While belly is sliced, diced, and deep fried, the snout and ears are carefully crisped on the grill. In the skillet, the meat is sautéed with chicken liver pate, garlic, bird’s eye chilies, vinegar, and fresh calamansi (a small fruit hybrid of a Mandarin orange and lime) juice. Finally, it all gets topped off with a runny fried egg, diced onion, and fresh garlic chives. Consider it the perfect hangover cure, should none of these do the trick for you.
If you’re not already en route to the East Village to try it yourself, watch this week’s edition of The Explorers, in which we sent Lawrence Weibman, aka @nycfoodguy, to Maharlika. In the video above, Lawrence chats with chef Miguel Trinidad about the dish’s Pampang roots and how the whole thing is prepped from start to finish.
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