Dinakdakan is a grilled pig's head parts (e.g. ear, nape, face) and offal (e.g. tongue, liver, intestines) blended with pig's brain. It is a very popular dish in Ilocos region. For the Ilocanos, this Dinakdakan dish is an epitome when it comes to "finger food" (pulutan) to accompany beer, liquor, wine, or cocktail drinks. It is a very authentic dish and one hundred percent (100%) Filipino.
The fact that Dinakdakan uses brain as a cream sauce to add flavor to the dish, and uses boiling and grilling to prepare it, would make you wonder how old the recipe is. The Austronesians, in the early period of Philippine history, used simple cooking methods like broiling, boiling, roasting, and grilling to prepare their foods. Austronesian speaking people were believed, based on the study of the evolution of languages, to have come from Yunnan Plateau in China by the use of balangays, a type of wooden watercraft that sails in the sea, or from Taiwan by means of traversing bridges circa 4000–2000 BC. It was believed that the Austronesians pushed the Negritos, earlier migrants, into the mountains when they settle in the region Cagayan valley of Northern Luzon where most of their early tools were excavated. These Austronesians who once migrated in the island of the Philippines was the ancestors of present-day Filipinos. It was not known when was the exact date of origin of Dinakdakan but the method of cooking suggest that it's indeed very old. Even the name of the dish is not a pure Ilocano word. It could be that Dinakdakan was an Austronesian word in origin. It could be that this authentic Filipino recipe was handed to us, from generation to generation, by our early ancestors.
Dinakdakan is indeed a great recipe. Even an international chef like Alexius Padillo would agree (comment #19) to its greatness. Variations of this great recipe comes into play when instead of grilling the pig's head parts and offal, you deep fry it; when instead of using the pig's brain, you use mayonnaise; when instead of using citrus fruit juice or vinegar, you omit it; when instead of not using ginger, you add this herbal root to it. As for me, all these variations are great because it test one's culinary skills, particularly the innovative ways of cooking or trying to develop a recipe in accordance to one's distinct taste and availability of ingredients. For example here in Los Angeles, I would prefer using mayonnaise because it is readily available in the grocery market rather spending a lot of time trying to find the pig's brain. It's alright with me because, personally, I already have tasted the dish using the pig's brain but for others who haven't, they try to use their resourcefulness to find the pig's brain to have a real taste to it.
Here is Los Angeles, this dish is starting to get recognized. In Goldilacks in Eagle Rock Plaza, Dinakdakan was on their menu recently. Island Pacific, a popular Filipino supermarket here in Los Angeles, made a YouTube video on how to make Dinakdakan.
Medium rare dinakdakan
- Pork’s parts of your choice
- ear (preferrred)
- nape or batok in Filipino (preferrred)
- small intestine
- Onion; thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- Calamansi or lemon juice or vinegar
- Pig's brain; boiled
- Mayonnaise (optional)
- In a stockpot, parboil the pork (you can select the parts you like).
- Take out pork from the pot and place it in a colander to drain all the liquid.
- Grill or broil the pork.
- Slice the pork (1” by 1/4” or your desired size), then place it in a large bowl.
- Add the slices of onion and boiled brain. Mix well.
- Balance seasoning with calamansi juice, salt, and pepper according to taste.
- If pork's brain is not enough or not available, you may use mayonnaise as a substitute.