We think about longanisa a lot. Our first impulse is to form it into patties, fry it and serve it with eggs and mac salad for a Hawaiian style breakfast, or put it on a plate with garlic fried rice and atchara for a Filipino longsilog.

Our most vivid encounter with longanisa was in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, last winter. Our friend Camille led us into 9 Sisters' Longanisa & Bagnet, which we keep referring to as a factory but only is in the loosest sense. Loads of casings were strewn across a low plastic table waiting to be individually stuffed with hand-mixed sausage tangy with vinegar. The balanced flavor of the sausage was surprising given the generous amounts of garlic and spices.  Not a process typical of most "factories." Of course our casual inquiry into the precise ingredients used to consistently produce these famous short links of longanisa was the only question met with guarded silence from an otherwise engaging and friendly sausage assembly line.

 Longanisa stuffing at 9 Sisters in Vigan. Photo: Kiki

Longanisa stuffing at 9 Sisters in Vigan. Photo: Kiki

Longanisa drying in Vigan. Photo: Kiki

After our recent extended trip to Mexico City (extended because of that big blizzard), we've had longaniza on our minds even more. We ate tacos de longaniza, topped in spicy guacamole, papas fritas and onions.

We were thinking about the differences between Mexican longaniza, chorizo and Filipino longanisa and noticed that Filipino longanisa is always formed into small links (like chorizo consistently is in Mexico City) but Mexican longaniza stretches on without interruption. I met a local culinary school grad in el DF and asked, "What's the difference between longaniza and chorizo?" She paused and responded, "I don't think we know."

Making tacos de longaniza in Mexico City. Photo: Kiki

When I found a street food stand offering not just bright red longaniza, but also chorizo verde tacos, an equally unnatural shade of green, I was thrilled. The fact that this place was adjacent to a vendor with a comal full of tlacoyos only made it that much more enticing.

I sat down and quickly received my deli-paper-lined plastic plate with one of each taco.  The Mexico City longaniza was distinct yet familiar with its dense flavor.  Plenty of garlic and spices seasoned the coarsely ground, fatty pork sausage. It tasted even better after a squeeze of lime, as it lacked the strong presence of vinegar that balances the Ilocano variety.  The green chorizo presented brighter flavors coming mostly from the inclusion of fresh chiles, cilantro, raisins and ground nuts.  I was eating on the street in Mexico City, so of course I topped each taco with a bit of salsa, though the chorizo would have been perfect just as it was served.

For our part, we have combined our own longanisa, which draws primarily from Ilocano flavors, with sushi rice, and molded it into musubis, wrapped in toasted nori and topped with pickled green papaya. We've served these on a large scale at the Terroir Symposium in Toronto last spring and in an more intimate setting, for a COOK class last July (Kiki brought out her heart-shaped musubi mold for this one).

The longanisa recipe we have developed is a cumulative result of our various encounters with this sausage in places near and far. 

Kiki prepares longanisa for Terroir in Toronto, with the help of the cooks at Amaya, May 2015.

Our longanisa recipe (for one pound of ground pork):

  • Make annatto oil (2 cups canola oil, 1/3 cup annatto seeds, half a head of garlic, bay leaf, two toasted and seeded dried ancho chiles). Medium heat until garlic starts bubbling. Turn it off and steep for an hour, then strain.
  • Make the paste to marinate the pork in by combining: 

cane vinegar (1.5 tbs or more)

brown sugar (1.5 tbs or more)

annatto oil (1.5 tbs or more)

soy sauce (1 tbs)

1 head garlic, minced

zest of 1 lime

dash of ground black pepper

smoked paprika (1.5 tbs or more)

salt (0.5 tbs)

Marinate pork at least overnight, form into patties, pan fry and serve alongside garlic rice and eggs or wrapped up with sushi rice and furikake for longanisa musubis.


Pancit Lumpia


Pancit Lumpia

Our take on pancit lumpia for a cooking class at the Free Library. Photo: Neal Santos

Since we started Poi Dog Philly about three years ago, winters have proved themselves to be especially interesting. There was the polar vortex our first winter as food truckers, which we mercifully escaped to run South Philly Meets Kaka'ako, a month-long series of pop up dinners at the now-shuttered Taste in Honolulu. We made it a point to not serve plate lunches or musubis in Hawaii, but rather emphasized the loose American-Mexican-Filipino influences on our menu (we made tacos. There was lumpia). Nowadays "Poi Dog" refers to both mixed-breed dogs and people. There isn't a better term to describe my own background and the vision of our food truck (we also think of it as being globally Hawaiian and rooted in the local food of Hawaii, which has been heavily influenced by the cuisines brought by Filipino, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Okinawa and Korean plantation workers, but that's a bit wordy).

The first phase of preparing bagnet at 9 Sisters in Vigan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

This winter will take us to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Hong Kong, Cebu, Manila, Yangon, Bagan and down the coast of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Last February, we made our way through Bangkok, the Philippines (Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Pampanga and Manila, where we stayed with two of my dearest friends from high school, Christina and Brandon), Macau and ended up in Hong Kong to celebrate Chinese New Year with my Chinese side of the family.


Frying bagnet at 9 Sisters Longanisa & Bagnet in Vigan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

In all those places, we took cooking classes and throughout the Philippines, our friend Camille talked our way into the kitchens of very surprised fishmongers, longanisa-makers and various street vendors peddling empanadas and okoy.

I'm fairly certain these impromptu teachers were thoroughly entertained by mine and Chris' attempts to do what they do and that Camille is capable of smooth-talking her way into any place ever. My lone contribution to our kitchen-barging escapade was Thessie.


Getting a lesson in making Filipino empanadas in Vigan. Photo: Chris Vacca

Thessie lives on the outskirts of Manila and she is best cook in the whole world. She cooked for my family in Hong Kong when I was young (I grew up in New York, Hawaii and Hong Kong and love all these places equally). I hadn't seen her in over a decade. For our visit, she prepared her fantastic pancit-filled lumpia and the creamiest dinuguan any of us had ever tasted.

Thessie's pancit lumpia and dinuguan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

I approximated Thessie's pancit lumpia (at least in concept -- stuffing spring rolls with fried rice noodles) for a Poi Dog x Pelago cooking class at the Free Library last month.

Pancit Lumpia

makes many, many lumpias


  • ½ lb ground pork

For the pork marinade

  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1½ tbs sugar
  • 3 tbs shoyu
  • ½ cup onion, diced small
  • 2 scallions, sliced fine
  • 1 egg

For the pancit

  • cooked vermicelli
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • ¼ small green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • fish sauce to taste
  • shoyu to taste


lumpia wrappers

egg wash (in a blender, put eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt)

canola oil

For the dipping sauce

  • cane vinegar
  • fish sauce
  • thinly sliced Thai chilis

Mix the marinade together and then incorporate the ground pork. Marinate covered, in the refrigerator, overnight.

Follow the instructions on the package of vermicelli (boil in salted water for however many minutes, strain and set aside.

In a wok, heat about two tablespoons of canola oil and fry the marinated ground pork until thoroughly cooked. Set aside. Add more oil to the wok and fry sliced onion, ginger, garlic for about two minutes, then add vermicelli and sliced cabbage. Fry all these for about 3-4 minutes, tossing constantly with either long wooden chopsticks or tongs that won’t harm your wok, then add ground pork and carrot, making sure everything is well-incorporated. Add fish sauce and soy sauce to taste and sprinkle with scallions. Set aside pancit in a large bowl (or just start eating some of it for lunch).

Place a heap of pancit in the middle of a lumpia wrapper (as much as will comfortably fit without bursting the wrapper), brush the edges of the wrapper with egg wash and roll.

Pan fry in a few tablespoons of canola oil until golden brown.

Wrapped lumpias will keep in the fridge up to 24 hours. Pan fry them at your leisure.