Tocino Recipes for the Best Filipino Food (According to Taste Atlas)
The verdict is here, albeit an unexpected and controversial one. Folks at Taste Atlas just released their ranking of worst to best Filipino dishes that has left Filipinos in the comment section scratching their heads. Sisig, adobo, and lechon are rated 4 stars to 4.4 stars (Great). Not bad, this line-up is undeniably A-tier. Do you have a good guess of just what food received a 4.7-star rating in the “Best” category?
Tocino. Read that again.
To be fair, tocino has always been a Filipino breakfast staple for its sweet or peppery taste – depending on the preparation. It’s basically cuts of pork belly that is tenderized, sweetened, and cured in salt and garlic. As BuzzFeed described it, tocino tastes like “candied flesh” and that’s exactly the texture and taste you should expect. It can be made with pork, beef, or chicken – the pork variant being the most popular choice. Tocino is the delicacy of the province of Pampanga. People in that region have a whole industry built on making tocino.
If there was a competition for the best breakfast platter in the world, tocino could be the Philippines’ best bet. Served with fried rice, eggs, and daing na bangus (fried marinated milkfish), you will have everything you would ask for a satisfying and filling first meal of the day.
Now, tocino on its own is not really the best out there deserving of a rating that surpasses that of the gateway drugs to Filipino cuisine -- sisig and adobo. But, there are certainly few ways to reimagine tocino and make it taste more exciting.
As Fried Rice Toppings
Making a hearty Filipino breakfast always include quickly tossing rice into wok and mixing it with something like scrambled egg and tocino. The fastest way to get fried rice on the table is to use tocino bought from the frozen section of Filipino grocery store. If you prefer a healthier tocino, you can actually make your own with several ingredients including pork tenderloin, salt, sugar, and pineapple juice. Preparing a home-made tocino requires spending extra time in the kitchen but it’s all worth it for a nitrate-free, protein-rich breakfast.
Make a Sandwich or Burger
The succulent and sweet tocino can turn into a fantastic filling for steamed or crunchy bread rolls. The delicacy is also a perfect protein alternative to make a homemade burger with lettuce, egg, and your favorite condiments. In fact, several dining establishments in the Philippines also experiment with tocino-filled siopao (Filipino version of Chinese steamed buns called chai siu bao) and cuapao. In Melbourne and Los Angeles, Filipino-owned food trucks have taken over the gourmet food truck scene with their versions of tocino burger.
Neri’s Curbside Cravings in Los Angeles, for example, offers the crowd-favorite Filipino-style burger that swaps the buns with pan de sal (Spanish term for “salt bread”) and uses a patty made with tocino. At Pogiboy in Washington, D.C., the chefs behind the fast-casual concept came up with the To “Chino” burger, a playful take on Filipino-style burger. The paty is made with 50-50 blend of tocino and longganisa, a Filipino sausage with hearty, garlicky and aromatic flavors.
Turn into a Sizzling Dish
Tocino exists to give Filipinos’ the option to go for a quick and convenient breakfast before heading to work or school. But for times that the usual tocino and fried rice combo gets boring, anyone can throw in some condiments to achieve the sisig flavor in tocino. The recipe is simple and only requires mayonnaise, oyster sauce, onion, garlic, and chilies to make a sizzling tocino version of sisig. This sweet and spicy recipe can be served as breakfast, an appetizer, or bar chow for a weeknight with friends and family.