Guest Post: Pigar Pigar — Marinated And Stir-fried Beef Sirloin & Liver, with Onions
By Eugene Caccam
There is so much to love about Pangasinan. The place, the history, the scenery, the people. On this coast of Lingayen Gulf, the ancient Malayo-Polynesians found their gold mine – salt – and called their newfound settlement “the place where salt is made,” or as the name lives to this day, “Pang-asinan,” now spelled Pangasinan. Wikipedia says the current pronunciation Pang-gasinan arose because of the Spaniards’ inability (poor them) to pronounce the nasal “nga.”
Thank God, some of its main products keep its beginnings alive: bagoong monamon, bagoong padas, aramang, daing. These are all made with asin, salt.
Now, who doesn’t love Bonuan or Dagupan bangus in its many exciting variants: daing, prito, sigang, paksiw, adobo, tinuno, or kilawen? Confession: I am crazy about the Bituka (innards, the liver especially) ng Bonuan Bangus cooked deep-fried, adobo, paksiw or papaitan. As main dish or pulutan.
But how many of you have tried one of its more adventurous dishes as a graze land, a former encomienda?
You marinate thin slices of very fresh beef sirloin and liver in salt and pepper. It must be fresh because you want to keep the grassland aroma of Bugallon, San Fabian, Rosales or Asingan. And for health reasons, of course. The salt and pepper must be as little as possible, just enough to coax the timid Pangasinan beefiness out of the meat, not to mask or overpower it. You aren’t making bagoong, are you? That you are in the land of salt is no reason to be wasteful or extravagant either.
Let the meat cure for about half an hour, which gives you time to prepare your onion rings. Then stir-fry until medium rare, about three minutes, so it is tender, sweet and succulent. Add the onion rings and stir-fry for another second; you want them wilted just right to add character to the meat but not call attention to themselves.
This dish, which is a cross between grilled beef steak and the Ilokano imbaliktad, is affectionately called by the natives and gourmand alike, PIGAR PIGAR. (Roll the “r”.) I love this alliterative, onomatopoeic, rural, commanding, inviting Pangasinense term for flip-over.
It is the happy blending of East and West cooking, of fine dining formality and street food adventurism, that you must aspire for. It is the only justification for the colorful name.
You may also cook this delicacy the way beer guzzlers on the streets of Dagupan City prefer it. Throw in the unflavored strips into a wok of boiling oil (cooking!); scoop it out into a plastic bag; add salt, pepper, labuyo, onions slices or onion leaves; shake the bag vigorously to completely coat the meat. I tell you, friends who hadn’t remembered you will suddenly be at your table.