Dinakdakan is an Ilocano delicacy traditionally made with grilled pork face and liver made rich and creamy by adding pork brains and this version uses mayonnaise instead. Perfect as a main with steamed rice for lunch or dinner or as "pulutan" (booze food).
What is Dinakdakan?
Ilocanos are fondly known for getting the most bang for their bucks. This native specialty dish is proof of that. Dinakdakan is traditionally made from different pork head parts, like the cheeks, nape, and ears, and offals to make sure that nothing that can still be eaten is thrown away. These are boiled then cut to pieces before grilled until crunchy and slightly charred. Mixed with veggies like chilies, ginger, and onion are tossed in with calamansi juice or vinegar. Lastly, mashed pig's brain is mixed to make it creamy and more flavorful. It is not for the faint of heart, but it is certifiably one of the best regional dishes that the north has to offer.
Alternative to pig brains
When I posted the video for this recipe, I took some heat from locals about not using pig's brain as tradition dictates. I did not mind, because this just proves how proud and protective we Filipinos are about our food! I opted to use mayonnaise instead because of a very simple reason- availability. I wanted to make it as authentic as I could, but unfortunately, I was unable to find pig brains in meat shops in our area and I realized that the situation might be the same for a lot of folks, especially those living abroad. Plus, it's a great option for those who want to try it but is not keen on eating brains. And this alternative still gives the dish a creamy consistency reminiscent of the classic.
Dinakdakan VS Sisig
Most people compare Dinakdakan to Sisig, the Kapampangan popular dish also traditionally made with pig's face, plus chicken liver. Aside from the similarity of most ingredients, both dishes are grilled and chopped before serving. However, Sisig meat is chopped more finely and is not creamy due to the lack of pig's brain puree. It is also not common to add mayonnaise to Sisig in Pampanga, although modern variations in other places do and sometimes they use raw egg.
Foxy Tips when making Dinakdakan
- I used vinegar but you can also use calamansi or lime juice to get that tangy flavor.
- You can also grill the liver directly instead of boiling it first. It will be more tender and will add creaminess to the dish.
- If you are up to it to try using pork brains, just use about a cup for this recipe and omit the mayonnaise. Boil it for 5-7 minutes, take it out from the pot and mash.
- Customize it to suit your preference. You can make it spicier by adding more chilies, tangier by adding more vinegar, and creamier by adding more mayonnaise.
- For ease and convenience, we grilled it in a griddle pan but if you likw to enjoy it to its full flavor, use charcoal for grilling.
- 500 grams pork cheeks/jowls
- 500 grams pork ears
- 250 grams pork liver
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon peppercorns
- 3 pcs bay leaves
- 5 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 thumb ginger finely chopped
- 2 large red onions cut thinly into slices
- 1 stalk green onions cut in diagonal slices (at least 1 cup)
- 2-3 pcs Thai chillies finely chopped
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ½ cup mayonnaise or more
- Place the pork cheeks and liver in a pot. Add the peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon salt. Fill the pot with water to cover the pork. Cover the pot then bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until meat is tender. You can remove the liver earlier once cooked.
- Take out the pork cuts from the pot and transfer in a colander to or rack drain. Do not throw away the stock. It can be used for other dishes or turn into a soup to serve with Dinakdakan. Cut the pork cheeks and ears into thinner slabs for faster grilling.
- Place meat and liver into a grilling pan or charcoal grill and then grill until crispy and lightly charred.
- Cut pork meat and liver into small pieces then place in a large mixing bowl. Add ginger, chilies, green onions, and green onions and toss.
- In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with vinegar until no longer lumpy then add this to the pork and toss again until well combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy as appetizer or serve with rice.