Vigan Longaniza

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A sausage is just a sausage. But a chorizo is a kick in the ass. That’s my motto. I live by that, and my new found religion.

Yes, I said religion.

With a respectful nod to Paul Kahan (owner of The Publican in Chicago), I now believe there to be a holy trinity: pork, oysters, and beer. I could live the rest of my life on just those three things if I had to. Albeit a short life, but a happy life nonetheless. When it comes to pork, it plays a major role in my weekly menu.

At some point during the 80’s, America had a massive brain fart and gave pork a bad rap. People stopped eating it and pigs around the country had one big swine party. Then the Pork Council started running commercials telling everyone it was OK to eat pork again. They even called it “The other white meat.” Party’s over, piggies. You’re back on the menu.

As far as I’m concerned, pork in any form is great. But ground up, mixed with spices, then stuffed in hog casings, it becomes something else altogether. It becomes a meal in a tube.

I’ve been enjoying variations of sausage for years. Living where I do, I’m treated to varieties from all over the world. Yes, there are the sausages for everyman: Italian sweet & hot sausage, bratwurst from Germany, bangers from England, boudin noir from France. But chorizo is in a class all by itself.

In Mexico, it’s served in a loose form, held together in a plastic casing. Spanish chorizo has it’s own flavor, dense with smoked paprika and cured for long periods of time. In Portugal and Brazil, Linguiça is king. But in Asia, it’s an entirely different tube of meat.

Longaniza are Philippine chorizos flavored with spices native to the Philippines. They’ve been making Longaniza for a very long time. Every region of the Philippines has their own specialty too. And unlike the chorizo made in Mexico and Spain, Longanizas can sometimes be made using chicken, beef, or fish.

I discovered Vigan Longaniza a couple of years ago at a local Asian market. It’s usually an exciting day for me when I get a chance to shop there, but the day I discovered fresh sausage I almost had a stroke. And listen, as a 6-foot-3 white guy in an Asian store, I stand out enough. The last thing I need to be doing is the moonwalk at the meat counter.

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As I prefer to do with most meat, especially sausages, I grill them. Nothing seems more appropriate to me than few pieces of hickory kissing sizzling sausages with continuous whips of hot flames. Slowly, the sausages begin to ooze their fat, which drips into the hot embers, making even more trouble for itself. Fat on a flame makes for more angry flames.

What makes Vigan Longaniza unique among others is that it’s got a high concentration of garlic, and is quite sour. In Ilocos, a province in the North, they stamp this sausage with it’s own unique flavor by adding Sukang Iloko, a vinegar made from sugar cane juice. It’s widely used in the Philippines, and has a very mellow taste that some say is similar to that of rice vinegar.

I hadn’t realized how rare an opportunity it is for me to get a chance taste this sausage until I did research for this post, as it’s rarely available outside of the city of Vigan. When it is, it’s in small quantities. So to whoever it is who’s making these fresh here in the states, Thank You.

Vigan longaniza are traditionally served with atsara, which are pickled vegetables. I’m a total whore for pickled fresh cucumber slices, so they ended up being the perfect compliment to this tasty snack – a gastronomic gift from my Philippine friends.

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